Monday, October 10, 2011

Heartland Humane Society: Work Behind Increasing Successful Canine Adoptions… Lindsey of Cardstock Equine

A few years ago, Heartland Humane Society of Corvallis, Oregon, took on a new approach to getting to know the dogs they had available for adoption.  They did this through a couple of major steps, and these steps are measures being taken by an increasing number of shelters and rescues alike to improve adoption success.

Like many shelters, they have numerous volunteers that help care for animals by walking and playing with the dogs, socializing them, and generally caring for them.  Short blurbs were written about the dogs on their kennel cards based on what volunteers or technicians noticed about them, but were frequently leaving many questions unanswered by potential adopters.

Tigo at Shelter Prior to Adoption, January 2006

When I met my dog, Tigo, who I adopted from Heartland Humane Society, the technician was able to give me a lot of information about how he had responded under a slew of potentially new experiences. I was curious about how they had come up with so much information when he had only been within their possession a few weeks.  The technician explained the idea of behavioral evaluation to me, but I was still not sure how it was so accurate.

One of several reasons ours was nearly not a success!
Destroyed textbook, March 2006.

While volunteering with them, I was lucky enough to get to experience the process of behavioral evaluation, and also saw just how much information could be gained. Dogs were introduced to other dogs, either from the shelter or staff members’ own dogs, and their behavior was monitored while on leash and in the play-yard.  Within a controlled environment, cats were introduced as a way to judge small animal prey drive. Food, toys, and treats were given and taken away to assess possessiveness and aggression. Loud noises were another tactic used. 

This battery of situations was very carefully documented so that more information about a suitable home could be presented.  It also helped show areas where the dog may need more work to be a well behaved dog, and training tips to either try or avoid based on an individual basis.  This behavioral evaluation is done on every single dog that may be adopted out before they are available for adoption.

Heartland Humane Society is also participating in a training program for volunteers that allow them to work their way up to doing different chores around the shelter. This gives the volunteers more constructive criticism, as well as training so that they can in turn help provide some basic training for dogs so that it is consistent and can be used by new owners. This program encourages good behaviors while also teaching some basic obedience. Owners can continue training with this method once the dog goes home, and also makes the transition go smoother as new people come into the dog’s life.

The third major step in helping improve adoption success was to become an Open Paws shelter.  This is a way of running the shelter so that dogs are encouraged to greet people while in their kennels. Buckets with food and treats are hung on each and every door of available dogs. The public is encouraged to provide treats, by hand, to approved animals through the doors of their runs.  This has helped reduce shelter anxiety, increase confidence in greeting people, and made many dogs seem more approachable to the public.  Open Paws encourages a lot of good behavior with positive reinforcement so that dogs are friendlier, and comfortable with people, which in turn, makes them more adoptable.

All of these steps have been implemented over the course of several years at this shelter.  It is providing better behaved dogs to better informed owners.  These matches are resulting in fewer dogs being returned to the shelter, or being re-homed.

Measures like these are helping shelters across the nation get dogs into forever homes.  Contact your local shelter to find out what they are doing to improve adoption success rates.

Tigo, September 2006 - Still Happily Together!

Submitted by: Lindsey of Cardstock Equine on ArtFire where Lindsey combines her love of all animals, especially horses, with her creative abilities to produce wonderful photo greeting cards and prints. Lindsey is an active member of the Crafting for Animals Guild and is participating in a special promotion this month to raise funds for the Close to Home Animal Rescue group in Ohio/Pennsylvania. The guild is spotlighting this charity during the National Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog Month by donating 10% of all sales when a special coupon code is used which can be found here, along with all other info or click on the box below.



Creative Critters said...

What a wonderful shelter! They obviously care very deeply about the animals under their care and are doing all they can to get these dogs into to the right forever homes. It's nice to see shelters that go above and beyond in order to train the dogs (and people) and in the end they have better adjusted dogs and better informed people. Thank you so much for sharing this! =)

Debra at Sleepy Cat Designs said...

What a good example the Heartland Humane Society is setting. I'm glad to hear other shelters are employing many of the same programs and strategies. That kind of commitment and caring will definitely help more dogs find permanent homes. Thanks for sharing!

El at Tantalizing Stitches said...

What an innovative way to run a shelter. I hope more organizations will hear about this so that they can adapt their shelter for a more homely feel for the homeless pups.