The Animal Behaviour program at the Oakville & Milton Humane Society began in August, 2007. The program considers a dog’s welfare and underlying emotions from the moment he sets paw in the front door of the shelter to the moment he walks out.
The dog’s initial emotional needs are met by the choice of kennel and room they are set up in, the way they are handled, the interactions they are offered and the toys and food that can comfort them while they try to settle in. For those who are surrendered, the program begins to work for the dogs before they even come in. This means that the current family has a chance to get information and support to help prevent the need for them to surrender their animal in the first place. Should the family decide that their home is absolutely not suitable, the program coordinator will greet the family and the dog in a way that helps the pet adjust as soon as their paws hit the shelter ground. At this point, the dog is given a chance to meet their soon-to-be main handler, and the grounds on safe and comfortable terms. Along with this first advantage the coordinator then go over the dog’s filled out history sheet with the previous owner(s) to get as much additional information as possible. This is a great aid in setting up the best possible training and rehabilitation program for this particular dog. Once the dog has had the chance to settle in and has so graciously allowed to assess him for his general safety, temperament and state of mind, the coordinator sets up an individual training and behavioural modification plan. Part of this plan involves selecting mentally stimulating toys and games appropriate for the dog in question. These dog-specific plans are designed to best help each dog improve and begin to feel at home – home before HOME. Some dogs are able to start greeting the Oakville public shortly after their assessment while their training program is in motion while others will require a more extensive behaviour modification plan preparing them for the adoption room. Sometimes other means of adoption outside of the adoption room are considered. Once a plan is in motion, the dog is monitored for progress.
All the dog walking volunteers and staff members are carefully trained by the coordinator to understand canine behaviour, body language and obedience training. Once the volunteers and staff have been trained, they are off to walk and assist with the training of the dogs. Some dogs require more experienced handlers. For these dogs, those who are interested and have had a chance to work with the less challenging dogs for a little while are offered further training which is sometimes even dog and case specific.
Once a dog is ready for adoption, the coordinator becomes an ongoing resource for a potential and successful new family. Assistance in understanding behaviour, training tips and problem solving is available via phone or email.
The Animal Behaviour program allows for a higher degree of success in reducing owner surrenders, preparing dogs for adoption and ensuring a long and happy home life.