MOHAWK – As a no-kill animal shelter, those at the Herkimer County Humane Society must do everything in their power to see every dog and cat adopted – a task that isn’t always easy with energetic, aggressive and ill-mannered canines.
Thanks to some out-of-the-box thinking, by board member Jill McKenzie and Board President Dana Guidera, such high-strung dogs have a better chance of finding their “forever” home.
The Herkimer County Humane Society has partnered with Canine Sports Unlimited in Whitesboro to put selected dogs through obedience training.
“The idea was based on our long-term dogs,” McKenzie said. “Sometimes we’re keeping dogs for multiple years. At the time, our longest resident dog had been here for two and half years. The longer a dog is in a kennel, the less adoptable they sometimes become. I kept thinking, ‘How can we help them?’”
Having worked with Canine Sports Unlimited before, McKenzie approached them with her idea. The trainers readily agreed. Shelter employees chauffer dogs to the training facility for obedience sessions on Tuesdays, and pulling classes on Saturdays, McKenzie said.
And it has worked. Since starting the program, named “Diamond in the Ruff,” in mid-January, 14 dogs have received training and six of those have been successfully adopted with another handful in the process of being adopted.
“It hasn’t been that long, but it’s really taken off,” McKenzie said. “And that is in large part because of our staff. Sure Dana and I had the idea and set it up, but they’re the ones who actually carry it out, you know, driving the dogs back and forth and working with them.”
The shelter currently has five dogs enrolled in obedience training, where they learn to focus on their handler, obey commands and walk on a leash, she said, all things that make them more adoptable. A few of the especially high-strung canines also participate in pulling classes, where they burn off energy with a purpose.
“Shelter dogs are often in the 1- to 2-year range,” McKenzie explained. “They’re not cute puppies anymore, but not mature and mellowed yet either. They’re like teenagers and can be very active and have behavior issues. If they didn’t get a great start as far as training, they can be really hard to adopt out.”
“The dogs love it,” she continued. “They’re happy. They’re proud of themselves. And it tires them out mentally and physically. It’s not a quick fix, but with proper handling, it works. So when they go to a home, they are successful there.”