CSD Programs Help Save Lives in the ASPCA® Rachel Ray™ $100K Challenge

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The Animal Rescue League of Boston is one of just 50 shelters across the country participating in the ASPCA® Rachel Ray™ $100K Challenge. Through this program the League and other participating shelters help find forever homes for puppies, dogs, kittens and cats, and have the opportunity to earn critical grant money to fund future life-saving efforts. The League’s goal of saving 1,200 lives in 12 weeks is aided by the Center for Shelter Dogs’ research-based initiatives in canine behavior evaluation and enrichment.

The Center’s canine behavior evaluation, Match-Up II Online, is just one of the ways that the League is helping dogs get adopted during the 12 weeks of the Challenge. Each and every dog in their shelters is evaluated using the Match-Up II program. Perhaps most importantly, this is a set-aside time that ensures all dogs are seen as individuals and given the most objective assessment possible. Many shelters may not otherwise have time for this type of interaction with dogs aside from routine care. The evaluation brings out personality from dogs who shelter staff may not otherwise see in the kennel and allows us to identify areas that need work and begin to modify that behavior. For example, if dogs weren’t evaluated, we may never have known that Princess was a shy pup who needed to be in a relaxed home where she would be the only pet. Our trained behavior staff worked with Princess using both our office foster for shy dogs program and our Fear of People Management Tool. Because Princess was evaluated, we knew that about her personality and she recently went home with her fabulous new dad. This type of matching based on personality allows more successful matches and fewer returns so that dogs stay in their new adoptive homes.

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The Center for Shelter Dogs also offers myriad behavior programs that help shelters increase adoptions. This can be as simple as in-kennel enrichment such as bedding, treat buckets, and food-dispensing toys, which all help dogs to be less stressed in the shelter environment, making them more adoptable and reducing unwanted stress behaviors such as jumping, barking, and whining in the kennel during adoption hours. One innovative program we are able to offer at the Animal Rescue League of Boston is dog playgroups. Playgroups help us to assess dogs as they interact with other dogs in a more natural setting, without leashes. They allow dogs to play, de-stress, and use up some of their energy so that they are calmer and more appealing to adopters when in their kennels. We also offer enrichment programs such as “Say Please”, CLASS, and jumpy/mouthy training that teach dogs new behaviors while in the shelter, engaging their minds, using up their energy, and helping them to be less stressed in the shelter. Some of these programs also teach new behaviors to dogs that can transition into their new homes, allowing them to be more successful in their placement.

Pulling together all of these programs – from the Match-Up II Online evaluation to in-kennel enrichment, from office foster to playgroup – we offer a robust Special Adoptions Program at the Animal Rescue League of Boston. The Special Adoptions Program is designed to facilitate the placement of dogs with manageable behavior programs. In this program, special attention is given to finding suitable adopters and special counseling is given to the adopters so that they may safely integrate the dog into the new home. This special counseling also maximizes the likelihood of the dog having a long-lasting relationship with the adopter. Many of the dogs adopted at the Animal Rescue League of Boston in the ASPCA® Rachel Ray™ $100K Challengehave been Special Adoption dogs!

What about you? Do you work or volunteer at one of the shelters participating in the Challenge? What have you found helped increase adoptions at your shelter? How has focusing on behavior helped increase dog adoptions? Leave us a comment below!