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A Tale of Two Shelters

February 2nd, 2013

I was recently sent a short video by the Florence Dedman Animal Shelter in Fort Benton, Montana. A year ago they completely switched to my method of dog handling. They had me teach all personnel that had contact with incoming and existing dogs. Their goal was, and is, to create calm dogs with social skills for those people wishing to adopt. The shelter and staff learned how to handle dogs correctly, offer continuity of handling amongst their dogs, volunteers, and staff, and then offer continuing education to the adopting owners in order to maintain good dogs and build healthy, loving relationships from which the dogs derive life-long psychological, emotional, and physical benefits. Not to mention the adopting owners then have great dogs.

The Dedman Shelter has done a fantastic job. The Board is supportive of this method and eager to show people how well it works for both dogs and prospective owners. The only complaint was the staff (in the very beginning), and especially any new workers, frequently foundnd themselves checking dogs, both inside and out, as it was, and is, so quiet and calm they have to make certain the dogs are still there. The dogs, themselves, adapt within only a couple of days to being calm. Within about a week (sometimes within a day) the dogs are with the program and becoming dependable in their behaviors and trust-worthy in their responses.

Fighting is almost non-existent and, if it occurs at all, is instigated by new entries. Walks are much more controlled and pulling has disappeared with most of the dogs (new dogs are still learning). The dogs, once behaviors are in place, receive much more positive emotional interaction with the shelter people, and prospective adopters, on a daily basis.

In the Dedman Animal Shelter video, the first two dogs seen have been there over a month. The heeler, Rosie, has been there a little over two weeks. The three other dogs, one can be seen in the background of the yellow lab shot and came in with a sibling and both were totally out-of-control, have been in the shelter just under, or about, two weeks. Yet, with unknown people in the kennel area, all are calm and quiet. No jumping on kennel doors, no barking, they sit when a person approaches, kennel doors can be left open on many dogs to facilitate work. The improvements are vast and varied, both inside and when outside.

The second shelter is the Great Falls Animal Shelter. They proscribe to the current attitudes and method used across the U.S. in how they deal with dogs in-shelter; everyone interacts differently with the dogs, affection replaces behavioral rules in hopes of effecting a change in the dog(s), the shelter is noisy and stressful. (You should read the physical and psychological problems associated with noise on animals, it’s ugly.)

I first visited the GFAS at 10 a.m. on a weekday and discovered you can only view dogs from noon onwards. I returned a second time on MLK day, only to discover the shelter was closed as it was a holiday. The third time I went there was a note on the door stating no viewing would be allowed until after 2 p.m. (I have a video of this in which a woman, who came to look at dogs states it’s too bad, she wanted a dog. I would suggest the GF Shelter heed the Note below). This last time I finally was able to enter the viewing area.

NOTE TO GREAT FALLS SHELTER: be open on the days and times stated and public holidays when people are off work so they can view dogs if you want them adopted.

I videoed using my phone which I clipped to the front of my shirt. It is rather a bouncy clip, please forgive me. I did NOT video the dogs as the GF Shelter is fairly snarky towards me and I didn’t want to create another “issue”. I simply wanted you to HEAR the difference as I know you know what dogs standing up with paws against kennel doors, barking, look like.

As one person who saw both these videos prior to this post stated, “I’d get my dog from the Dedman. Look, they’re happy, well-behaved, I could actually get a dog without a lot of problems and, since the shelter teaches this to adopters, know how keep him that way. Not to mention going into their shelter wouldn’t be a pain in the a*& ‘cuz of the noise.”

I asked, because I wanted to know if this would help him decide which type of shelter he wished to support through donations and when it came time to get a dog. Would he choose the shelter that actually works to create good dogs, or the shelter that simply houses dogs? Again, his choice was unequivocally the Dedman Shelter. I also know that so many “trainers” will try to “scream” that the dogs show “fear”and asked if that’s what he saw in the video. His reply was, no. That he knew that most dogs with a camera focused on them close-up were rather put-off by it. I asked if he thought the “commands” were harsh. Again he said, no. That no one was hurting the dogs, touching the dogs, or physically punishing the dogs. The dogs were simply being told to sit down and verbally corrected if they didn’t and if that was considered bad, then every trainer was bad. (I have to love sensible people.) And by the way, he was a “positive method” trainer for a corporate pet store.

Here, then, are videos of two diametrically opposed shelters and how their approaches, knowledge, implementation of that knowledge, and dedication to the true welfare of the dogs is playing out:

The Florence Dedman Animal Shelter:

The Great Falls Animal Shelter

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  1. From Molly, February 2, 2013:

    I can’t finish the GF Shelter video. The sound/chaos of the dogs breaks my heart.
    Good for the dogs at Dedman that their people care enough about them to get it right.
    Rosie reminds me a bit of Mojo. He likes to try to challenge the status quo from time to time. :)

  2. From Nanci, February 2, 2013:

    My pack of 4 dogs were sleeping at my feet when I played the 2 videos. No reaction at the first video but 39 seconds into the 2nd, they were all on their feet and anxious. Bella howled, Chico whined and the other 2 circled and were clearly upset. Wow, I hope the other shelter “gets it” as those pups are pretty unhappy!

  3. From Susan Overfield, February 2, 2013:

    Mojo would NEVER do that. He is sweet, compliant, never independent. Who are you trying to kid, Molly? (Go, Mojo, GO!)

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