As a volunteer for ACCT in Philadelphia, seeing Positive Reinforcement, Reward-Based training in action with shelter dogs is one of my favorite things. Watching a dog who is likely highly stressed and living in this unnatural environment learn using methods that meet him where he is makes me want to jump for joy. Seeing other volunteers having fun teaching dogs and learning new things themselves is one of the things that makes the heartbreak of being a shelter volunteer worthwhile. In a shelter environment, keeping the dogs engaged and mentally stimulated is so important towards getting them adopted. Positive Reinforcement, Reward-Based training allows volunteers to do this in a way that does not increase dogs’ stress levels and keeps interactions positive and fun.
Amanda is a friend of mine who has grown tremendously in the time she has been volunteering. When the video that she made for her current Pen Pal, Toby, popped up in my Facebook newsfeed, I was so excited. To see a shelter dog learning and wagging his tail while doing it made me grin from ear to ear. I asked Amanda to share a little bit about what volunteering, being a Pen Pal and what using Positive Reinforcement training means to her and this is what she said:
“I’ve been volunteering at ACCT for 10 months now and was taught positive reinforcement training methods when I started volunteering. Being part of the Pen Pal program, using this form of training has come into great use. A lot of the dogs in this program are stressed and showing signs of behavior issues from the stress of a shelter environment. Using positive reinforcement you can see the change in the dogs so quickly. It gives them something to keep their mind off where they are and prepares them for their new home at the same time. In some cases you can see some change in the dog within a few sessions of working with them. These methods work great on not just shelter dogs but every dog as it makes it fun for them. I will only use this method of training for as long as I live as it’s not only fun for the dogs but it can be fun for you too! I’d like to thank everyone who has taught me this method of training. It really makes me want to teach people who don’t understand this method of training. This way everyone could see the success positive training has.
When Toby first came into the shelter, he was an owner surrender because the family didn’t have enough time for him. He was a happy goofy pup that really only knew the command sit and paw, and even then, not well. He was also super snuggly and a total love bug. After a few weeks of still being in the shelter he started to lose it. I was hearing people talk about him leash biting and being really difficult to handle. I then requested to pen pal Toby. The love bug was gone and he was one stressed out dog. After a few days of working on it, Toby stopped the crazy leash biting. It’s still a work in progress but he is so smart and if it wasn’t for positive reinforcement training I have no doubt he would not be where he is now. It’s only been two weeks since Toby and I started working together and he now sits as soon as he is asked and is learning all different commands. The dog I first met is back and still super snuggly and goofy. He really is a charmer, and I owe it all to this method of training.”
Amanda made this wonderful video to help market Toby so that he can find his forever home. By using Positive Reinforcement, Reward-Based training, Amanda is helping Toby use his brain and this goes a long way towards helping dogs maintain their sanity in the chaotic shelter environment.
Do you volunteer or work with a shelter or rescue that uses Positive Reinforcement training with the dogs in their care? Share your stories! Tell us about how you have seen the benefits for the dogs and how you have grown and what you’ve learned.