Training for Working Directly with Animals

Assessing Canine Behavior – Recent studies have concluded beyond a doubt that behavior assessments in shelters cannot predict a dog’s future behavior and should never be used as such.  Pass and fail results of conducting “traditional assessments” are not only useless, they present liability risks for the shelter.  However, information gathered on the dog’s behavior from the moment the dog enters the shelter until the time they leave, along with any devoted time that shelter staff and volunteers spend one on one with the dog, can assist shelter staff in providing standards of care that are best tailored to that dog and help provide information to result in the best adoption match possible. Throw out anything your staff may have known about behavior assessments because this new approach will provide a fresh way of thinking with up-to-date terminology.

Prerequisites:  Canine Body Language; Stress Reduction; Safe and Humane Handling

Session Length:  Will vary depending on the capacity/intake of the shelter

Session Requirements:  Meeting room with screen or projecting wall.  Dogs available for assessment

Canine Behavior Modification – The dogs that end up in and spend the longest time in the animal shelter are often the ones with behavioral issues.  Behaviors such as jumping, mouthing, pulling on the leash, appearing fearful, chewing, dog and/or human reactivity will lengthen their time in the shelter, even preventing them from finding a home at all, and sometimes resulting in euthanasia.  Learn how to create a behavior modification program and simple methods for modifying canine behavior in a shelter environment.

Benefits of having a behavior modification program:

  • Decrease length of stay
  • Decrease return rates
  • Increase adoption rates
  • Well behaved happy dogs

Session Includes:

  • How to create and implement a behavior modification program
  • Creating individual modification plans
  • Identify common behavior issues
  • Methods for training
  • How to assess progress

Prerequisites:  Canine Body Language, Stress Reduction, Force Free Training

Session length:  1 hour for presentation followed by hands on training up to 3 hours (time can vary based on size of shelter, number of students, number of dogs that need behavior modification plans)

Session requirements:  Meeting room with screen or projecting wall.  Enclosed space to train dogs.

Canine Body Language – Just like humans, dogs are always communicating through body language.  They communicate when they’re feeling happy, sad, nervous, fearful or angry, using their faces and bodies to convey much of this information.  Dog body language is an elaborate and sophisticated system of nonverbal communication that we can learn to recognize and interpret.  Being able to understand how the dogs in our care are feeling and how to help them feel more comfortable, confident, and safe are essential skills that all shelter staff/volunteer should know.

Benefits of being able to recognize and understand canine body language:

  • Able to communicate with dogs to better recognize their needs
  • Understand the dogs’ personalities better, which helps with stress reduction and future placement
  • Reduces bite incidents
  • It’s fun to be able to communicate with dogs!

Session includes:

  • Reading canine body language
  • Communicating with dogs through our body language
  • Identification of different types of aggression

Session length:  3 hours

Session requirements:  Meeting room with screen or projecting wall and access to dogs while in kennels (if possible); 3 dogs for use during class/presentation

Canine PlaygroupsDogs are social animals and typically enjoy spending time with other dogs.  Playgroups allow dogs to burn energy while learning from each other and building social skills.  Observing canine behavior during playgroups provides the staff and volunteers with valuable information regarding the dogs’ personalities that will help with finding their forever homes.  Learn how to enrich the lives of dogs while saving time and money.

Benefits of dog playgroups:

  • Saves money and staff time
  • Uses less resources and see better results
  • Decreases dog/dog barrier aggression and reactivity
  • A tired dog is a good dog
  • Provides useful information regarding the dogs’ behavior

Session Includes:

  • Review of equipment used for playgroups
  • Review of canine body language and safe handling
  • Canine play styles
  • When to intervene
  • The do’s and don’ts of breaking up dog fights

Prerequisites:  Canine Body Language; Stress Reduction; Force Free Training; Safe and Humane Handling

Session length:  6-8 hours

  • Morning: 2 hours for presentation; 2 hours meeting dogs
  • Afternoon: Playgroups (2-4 hours)
  • Time based on a shelter with a population of approximately 20 dogs

Session requirements:  Meeting room with screen or projecting wall; outdoor fenced yard and/or indoor room that can be closed off.  Size of playgroups will depend on the size of the space available.  Purchase of play group Tool-kit bag containing 3 harness leads, 2 airhorns, 2 high-power whistles, carabiners, dog first aid kit, bright duct tape & vest/apron.  Other equipment to have on hand includes:  2 break/bite sticks, 2 extra slips leads (preferably a thick, strong cotton lead).

Materials Fee:  Toolkit bag $200.00

Force Free TrainingForce free or positive reinforcement training is rewarding the dog for a behavior we want to see again.  Learn why it should be the only type of training used and why we need to be using it on a consistent basis in shelter environments.  You will learn how to build a bond based on trust with the dogs in your care while having fun.  Your adoption numbers will increase and your length of stay will be reduced!

Benefits of force free training:

  • Dogs will learn to build bonds with humans based on trust
  • Provides enrichment and training without the use of pain, force, or fear
  • Having well behaved dogs will increase your adoption rates & decrease return rates

Session includes:

  • Hands on force free basic obedience training class
  • Focus, touch, sit, down, off, stay, stand, come, leave it, and loose leash walking

Prerequisites:  Canine Body Language; Stress Reduction

Session length:  1 hour for classroom presentation, 2-3 hours hands-on

Session requirements  = Meeting room – area large enough to train dogs and keep a safe distance apart – indoor or outdoor (weather permitting);  one dog per every 2-3 handlers; collars/harnesses and leashes or sturdy cotton slip/harness leads, collars must be fitted correctly, flat safe buckle collars (AT NO TIME ARE CHOKE OR PRONG COLLARS ALLOWED) 

Multisensory EnrichmentThe environment in animal shelters can be very stressful for dogs, which causes them to behaviorally deteriorate.  Dogs experiencing stress and anxiety are at an increased risk for behavioral problems, including destructive behavior, trying to escape, excessive jumping and mouthing, attention-seeking behaviors, excessive vocalization and compulsive behaviors. Providing enrichment will help keep the dogs mentally and behaviorally healthy.  Learn several different types of enrichment that are easy to implement.

Benefits to providing enrichment:

  • Reduces stress, fear, and aggression
  • Improves learning and memory
  • Helps provide a better quality of life for the dog while in your care

Session Includes:

  • Five types of enrichment
  • How to incorporate enrichment into your schedule
  • Safe oils and herbs for dogs
  • Easy DIY enrichment

Session length:  1 hour for presentation and 1 hour hands on

Session requirements:  Meeting room with screen or projecting wall.

Safe and Humane Handling An animals experience with the shelter and staff starts the second they are picked up in the field or arrive at the shelter.  How they are handled, not only during intake but throughout their stay is important to the dog’s mental wellbeing and safety of your staff.  Staff will get a good understanding of behavior and how to safely and humanely handle the dogs.


  • Good handling skills prevent injury
  • Reduces stress on the canines
  • Creates a safe and humane environment

Session includes:

  • Low-stress handling techniques
  • Safe and humane use of equipment

Prerequisites:  Canine Body Language; Stress Reduction

Session length:  1 hour for presentation; 1-2 hours hands on (depending on number of students)

Session requirements:  A list of equipment used by shelter (i.e. catch pole, slip leads, harnesses, snappy snares) prior to training and equipment must be available the day of training.  Access to dogs.

Stress ReductionEvery animal experiences stress when coming into a shelter.  The most common symptoms of stress are anxiety and aggression.  To keep the dogs in your care mentally healthy and happy, it is important to recognize when a dog is suffering from stress and anxiety and how to minimize it and prevent it.

Benefits of stress reduction in your shelter:

  • Mentally happy and healthier dogs
  • Reduces bite incidents
  • Reduces behavioral issues

Session includes:

  • The physiology of stress
  • Emotions and stress
  • The treatment and handling of stress

Session length:  1-½ hour for presentation and 1 hour hands on (time can vary depending on size of group being trained and size of facility)

Session requirements:  Meeting room with screen or projecting wall; dogs are required for this session.