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Pet Training & Behavior Topics

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Welcome to Diana Guerrero's Ark Animals Training & Therapy. This section is dedicated to pets, companion animals, and topics related to their care and training. This article discusses pet relinquishments and animal adoption challenges faced by animal shelters, humane societies, pet rescues, and other animal services.

Getting animals adopted is a challenge in every type of sheltering facility, whether private or not. The longer the animals remain at the facility the more difficult and entrenched some of the behavior challenges become. Potential adopters will often overlook an animal that is not house trained, jumps, barks excessively and has a variety of other quirks.

Preventing the arrival of relinquished or lost animal is the proactive approach which can also appear overwhelming when dealing with the day to day operations and issues you face as shelter staff or volunteers.

Addressing these issues is often not a high priority due to both facility and staff limitations; you already have more than enough to do. Proactive steps at education, and small changes in day to day handling at the kennel can help.

A few little changes in approach, paired with simple strategies, can help minimize and redirect misbehavior while the animals are housed at the facility. Small steps applied consistently, by both staff and volunteers, can make changes for the better without increasing the workload or time involvement.

These "cracks of time" can be used to accomplish simple strategies. Success is gained through efforts applied on a regular basis. Let's look at jumping. A kennel staff member can enter into a kennel and lower their body to greet an animal rather than allowing an animal to jump up and greet them first. Setting the animal and staff up for success is advantageous all the way around. The animal learns that more attention is given if they follow the simple directive of "off." They prefer the praise for that action, and gradually the animal learns that they will receive more attention without jumping and making a fuss.

Staff will also find their job easier without having to struggle against the animal's excitement, and volunteers have less risk of getting knocked over or scratched. Volunteers can reinforce this behavior by crouching low and greeting animals that are not jumping from the outside of the kennels. The behavior is redirected and proper response is rewarded.

Behavior challenges can be addressed through various programming in conjunction with the shelter or as an adjunct program. Care must be taken to acquire experienced and knowledgeable help. In addition, behavioral follow up on adopted animals can be essential to keeping those animals from being relinquished again, and even more importantly, behavioral help can keep the animals from arriving in the first place.

Community outreach in the form of education seminars or media releases informing the public of behavior strategies is important, as are having the resources to direct them to. To find behavioral assistance, there are various professional organizations and individuals who could assist you. The Animal Behavior Society, the Association of Pet Behavior Counselors, and Animal Behavior Consultants of Southern California are just a few of these types of professional groups.

About the columnist: Since 1978 Diana L. Guerrero has worked professionally with both wild and domestic animals. Guerrero has been affiliated with, and certified by, a variety of animal programs in the USA and Europe. Based in California, she writes, consults, and speaks. Information on her animal career programs, training courses, and her books {What Animals Can Teach Us about Spirituality (SkyLight Paths, 2003), Blessing of the Animals (Sterling, 2007), Help! My Pet is Driving Me Crazy (Guerrero Ink, 2007), Animal Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners & Pet Professionals (Guerrero Ink, 2007)} can be found in this web site and in the shop. Questions for Guerrero should be submitted via the blog comments or membership forum.


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