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Professional Dog Training May Help Reduce the Homeless Dog Population

puppy, puppies, puppy eyes

I received an email recently from a representative of the Animal Behavior College (ABC), headquartered in Santa Clarita, California, that stated the following…

“Across America, an estimated 6 to 8 million cats and dogs enter shelters each year and approximately 2.7 million of them are euthanized, even though they are considered healthy and adoptable, according to the Humane Society of the United States (May 2013). There has to be a way to help these animals find their forever home.”

Is dog training the answer?

We adopted our littermates as puppies.  We haven’t adopted an older puppy or adult dog so we haven’t had the experience of turning away from a dog who didn’t seem to be trainable.  But I have seen high energy dogs at adoption events that scare away potential families, because they’re afraid of ‘a project’ and aren’t aware that the dog hasn’t had a walk that day or may be stressed by the venue.

Our dogs are ‘a project…’

Whenever I see a dog that looks like ‘a project,’ I think of our littermates when we wake them in the morning.

  • Sydney is trying to wiggle between my legs for her hug and if I don’t allow her too, she’ll start jumping on me.
  • Rodrigo is spinning in circles, barking at me, he does a jump or two, and then he pushes his sister out of the way for his hug.

All the while, I’m trying to usher them outside for a potty break before we head in for breakfast.  That type of energy reads as a project to people who don’t know our dogs; it’s just happy excitement to us.  It’s a thought that I hope to keep with me when I’m judging our future dogs who will come to us at all ages.

Students Saving Lives…

“One company with a national reach in the pet industry is working to make a difference. The “Students Saving Lives” program at Animal Behavior College (ABC), headquartered in Santa Clarita, Calif., is part of the school’s international campaign to improve shelter dog rehabilitation and adoption. All students in the ABC certified dog trainer instructor program are asked to volunteer at least 10 hours of training time to a local shelter, humane society or rescue organization.

Since launching the program in 2004, more than 7,800 ABC students all across North America have donated more than 93,000 hours to animal shelters and rescue facilities, saving numerous pets from becoming death-row dogs and cats.”

I’ve heard good and bad things about Animal Behavioral College; I considered looking into online courses when I started this blog.  I don’t know what happened with complaints, but I do love this idea of donating dog training to shelters and rescues to help dogs have a better shot at finding their forever home.

Would your dog be seen as ‘a project’ when they’re at home with their family?


  1. I think highly active breeds are “projects” their entire lives. Of course, family relationships of any kind take work to grow and develop. Dogs in the household shouldn’t be any different. I do think it’s important for us to give time to help socialize and train animals in shelters for the very reasons you gave. Some potential adopters may not even realize they love dogs…until they meet the right dog :)

    • So true, Patti

  2. What a great project at the Animal Behavior College! A very worthy cause to donate to! I truly believe more programs like this would enable more adult dogs to be adopted from shelters. The #1 reason for owner turn ins at shelters is behavioral (although they often tell the staff “allergies, moving”.) We adopted two large breed dogs (at the same time – nightmare ensued) from our local shelter. If I could write eloquently, our story would make “Marley & Me” look like an amateur bad dog story. Both came with separation anxiety issues, chewing, escaping, running, barking. Having owned four of the world’s best dogs in the past, I was not prepared to have to “train” and “rehab” TWO dogs at the same time, as they destroyed numerous things around our house, backyard, and escaped from their pen / kennel. Our Aussie DESTROYED two large dog airline kennel cabs (the kind meant to hold 100# dogs. It’s been a lot of work to train them, calm them, and contain them for their safety. They aren’t “bad dogs”, they just needed to “learn” how to be a good dog, and they aim to please! There were a few moments in the first week when I truly considered taking them back. But them I told my husband, if WE can’t help these dogs, maybe no one can, and they seemed doomed to death. It’s hard to believe they’ve been with us 5 & 1/2 years now, and I’d never give them up!

    • One person told me to always set up our dogs to succeed; if they fail, then look at what I could have done better. I’ve never gone wrong with this little tip. Rodrigo went through a period when he destroyed dog beds – he was bored. We spent so much money on dog beds. Yikes!

  3. I’m not very familiar with this college, but I do agree most rescue dogs could benefit from any amount of training they can get. I’m excited to donate some time this year to walking and helping shelter dogs with some basic training.

    There are moments when my own dog Ace would be seen as quite hyper and “a project.” Mostly when he’s riled up over certain people visiting or crashing through the apartment after his toys. Usually, though, he’s pretty lazy and one of the easiest dogs I know.

    • That’s our Sydney. I think she’s the perfect dog for a first time dog owner. Because of her, I had more patience with Rodrigo. They are both so special. Best projects ever.

  4. Hmmm, this is a post that will have me thinking for a few days.

    Because while training can make any dog easier to live with, it can’t change their personality. I think reasonable expectations are at least as important as training for keeping dogs in homes.

    Honey is definitely not a “project” dog. She’s sweet and mostly well behaved. But my dad who only likes dogs who sit quietly at his feet and wait for him to pet them finds her too high energy and a little intimidating.

    You love Sydney and Rodrigo. So even if a stranger thought their morning greeting was a bit much, you accept them for the unique personalities they are.

    I wonder if more people knew what ordinary dog behavior was and had realistic expectations, we’d see a lot fewer dogs in shelters.

    That said, our local shelter spends a lot of time training dogs while they’re waiting for their forever homes. And not everyone who wants a dog is an expert on dog behavior. So at least they’re getting a good start.

    • I love the idea of getting the dogs out and socialized and, I hope, having a period of fun with a trainer. And I really love more people donating their time and expertise to rescue :) Makes me want to study dog training.

  5. Great information. Thanks for sharing. Just for additional info. Training would be easy to handle if you already established your role as a leader. Based on experience as a trainer, everything goes absolutely smooooooth afterwards. 😀
    You can visit here: see yah! 😀

  6. I love this idea. The training group I work with supports one shelter with training and we were just asked to work with another. I think it’s a really important effort and I hope more shelters pull in trainers to make pets more adoptable!

    • It’s definitely a start and I bet it can be fun for the dogs.

  7. Thank you! Also checkout this great dog training web.

  8. I love this program…such à great idea. At the shelter I’m affiliated with there are MANY volunteers that their only job is “dog walker”, the property has a great set up for it and they are going all day long. I am working on helping with funding for enrichment programs for some of the longer term residents…funds to train the volunteers to bring the dogs in for nose games, basic obedience etc. the more training and socialization and interaction/activity at the shelter the better. With that said, depending on why they are at the shelter, they bring their experiences with them.
    Christine inher comment referenced that the most common reason for dogs being turned in is behavioral even though they may say otherwise. We experience the same thing at our shelter…sadly enough.
    For some dogs, one obedience class is enough, and their demeanor is such that , while they may not exhibit perfect behavior all the time…their behavior isn’t “over the line”….but for a lot of dogs it is a lifetime of training, practicing and it takes time.
    Pets being turned in at the shelter…my it because there are too many animals..yes…is it because, while their intentions may be good, some people are irresponsible about pet ownership ….yes…is it becomes sometimes people are faced with making a really tough decision…yes
    In my opinion one thing that may help is education…humane education does make a difference I believe.

    • Well said, Kathryn

  9. ABC is where I went to school to get my dog obedience trainer certification. I really loved the program (definitely recommend it), especially the externship portion where they pair you with a mentor trainer who has an established business running group and private classes, but the Students Saving Lives Shelter Practicum is by far the most emotional part of the coursework.

    I think that the success of that program or anything like it depends so much on the rescue/shelter itself–the actual venue/location/grounds, the staff/existing volunteers, the sheer numbers of potential adopters that come through. The environment I was in for this program was a bit chaotic.

    To add to that, the shelter was already working with a different trainer–a trainer who did not follow R+ methods (which ABC does) and who wrote me off during our first meeting, so any work I was doing with the dogs was essentially erased by the other trainer anyway. It was a bit frustrating and sad for me, to be honest.

    So shelters that are on board with this type of thing in a much more involved and positive way would greatly benefit. I really don’t think the shelter I worked at found any benefit whatsoever. :-(

  10. Yes I think training would help get dogs get adopted faster.But I have two dogs that I adopted from a shelter which I trained myself with a dog training video .

  11. Yes, I agree with dog training but, I think this doesn’t need to have someone “professional” to do this. Dogs are very intelligent animals so, training them by your own would be best. It won’t cost you anything plus, you’ve got to see all of his progress. Visit –> for more info. They have over 250 training videos which are entirely useful in dog training and helps you resolve other doggy issues as well. Cheers :)!


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