Monday, August 1, 2011

Shelter dogs shine in class

Blue is so handsome when he sits
More and more shelters are starting to have behavior and training departments, including classes, pre-adoption counseling, and post-adoption support for adopters.

But one of the best things about these programs is that the dogs still in the shelter also get to reap the benefits.

The Washington Humane Society has an incredible program where they have volunteers take shelter dogs through all their classes so the dogs can learn basic manners, tricks, and confidence-building skills, and get a break from being in the shelter. 

Meet Mercy at
Mercy is a shy, medium-sized, five-year-old, shepherd/pit/maybe other stuff mix with a beautiful brown coat with subtle brindle markings like marble coffeecake. 

Mercy is the kind of dog who can benefit in such important ways from positive training, although all dogs benefit in their own ways. 

She's gone through a few classes, so she's gotten the chance to work with several volunteers as well as the wonderful staff at WHS. 

Each time she works with someone new, learning new skills or practicing ones she knows and getting rewarded for them, she comes a bit more out of her shell. 

Who knows what she went through before, but now she's learning that humans are good things, to be trusted, and that she has the power to make them emit hot dogs and jerky snacks.

Just by lifting her paw!

I spent much of class just sitting and holding her as she sat in my lap. I was stroking her to calm her down when a new dog entered class and she backed up and sat on me--who was I to object?

The dogs at WHS have it pretty good overall--each one gets 5 walks per day by staff and volunteers, so life could be a lot worse! Still, the mental stimulation, exercise, socialization, and opportunity for affection and fun that they receive during class helps these dogs so much. 

So wonderful to see a shelter that is so dedicated to rehabilitating its residents through positive training!


  1. This is so awesome. I really wish our local shelter would get on board with in-house training before and after adoption. It gives me something to work on with them.

    Thanks for the awesome, inspiring post!

  2. It's so great Washington Humane Society is able to provide this program. It sucks to live in a shelter. But the dogs there sound like they have ended up in the right place.

    Our shelter only has so many resources and volunteers but I do know many of the dogs have attended similar classes on a less regular basis. I'd love to help out in such a way. Maybe I should ask about starting something like this here. Thanks for the inspiration!

  3. What a great idea. Doing some positive reinforcement training must help counteract the stressful environment of being in the shelter (even if the shelter is very nice like the WHS seems to be).


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