Petfinder.com Foundation training program helps shelter dogs get adopted

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A Train to Adopt trainer works with a dog at a shelter in Charlotte, NC.

The Petfinder.com Foundation’s new Train to Adopt program provides shelter dogs with behavioral training to increase their chances of being adopted.

Developed in partnership with The Animal Rescue Site and renowned dog-behavior expert Sue Sternberg, Train to Adopt kicked off on Feb. 1 and will run through 2011 at these four shelters:

Thanks to grants totaling $176,000 awarded the organizations, all four hired a highly qualified trainer to implement the Train to Adopt program.


The four trainers were required to collect pre-program data on their respective shelters, including: duration of barking periods; instances of pacing, spinning and rebounding off kennel walls; adoption rates; return rates; frequency of diarrhea and dog adoption fees.

Train to Adopt is based on the idea that kennel life is stressful and unnatural for a dog, and can result in abnormal behavior. If any of the above behaviors are witnessed, it is a quality-of-life emergency and needs to be addressed immediately.

The minimum requirements to ward off these behaviors are 20 minutes of human touch daily, two minutes of daily reward-based training and play time with a human or other dogs three times a week.

“Calming a shelter dog is one of the most important things that you can do,” says Sternberg. “Teach these dogs how to learn and instantly they will connect with a person, which equates to adoption.”

The four Train to Adopt shelters are committed to the behavioral, emotional and mental health of the dogs in their care from the time of intake, and are working to provide good quality of life and training and behavioral help to enhance their chances for adoption, lower their length of stay and decrease their chances of return.

Through Train to Adopt, shelter dogs learn manners that make them more attractive to the public. Additionally, the trainers encourage cooperation between rescue groups and shelters by sharing training and behavior knowledge.

In January, all four Train to Adopt trainers traveled to Grand Junction, CO, to train with Sternberg. Petfinder.com Foundation development director Vicki Fragasso, joined the two-day event. “I witnessed Sue calm a very anxious dog down within minutes,” she says. “When the dog entered the room, she was hyper and looking around at everyone anxiously. Within minutes of the training, she performed a sit and remained calm and focused. Thanks to the Petfinder.com Foundation’s Train to Adopt grant program, these four trainers will have the ability to train their shelter’s dogs all year long to connect to and impress a potential human adopter! The impact will be significant.”

Sternberg believes toys and proper bedding are huge factors in improving the quality of life for dogs and puppies in kennels. That is why we are thankful to Kuranda and KONG, who have partnered with us to donate beds and toys for this program.

Donate to the Train to Adopt program or the Petfinder.com Foundation


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