Volunteer-Driven Behavior Modification Program for Shelter Dogs
HAWS’ Mod Squad is a unique group of volunteers that works with special needs animals housed at our shelters. These volunteers are trained to “mod”-ify behavior using a variety of tools and techniques, including EZ Walk harnesses, Tellington TTouch®, clickers and interactive dog toys. Dogs in this program are in several special needs categories, such as those who don’t thrive in a shelter environment or have been here for an extended period of time; dogs who pass the behavior evaluation, but who are not quite ready for adoption; dogs who do not pass the behavior evaluation, but might with a little help; and dogs in our adoption ward who would benefit from a behavior modification program. Activities also provide a source of environmental enrichment for all kenneled dogs. Just as the Mod Squad’s behavior on the old TV show made good things happen for them, HAWS’ new Mod Squad is supporting positive behavior changes for the dogs in our shelter and ensuring good things happen for them, too!
HAWS’ Mod Squad — Not Just a Rerun!
Accomplishments: Our Mod Squad program has broken out of its shell, so to speak, settling into a rhythmic pace that has resolved many behavior problems and increased the adoption odds for our at-risk canine population. We embrace HAWS’ mission to provide the best possible pet. As of July, 2012, more than 500 dogs have entered our program. Of these, 91 percent have been adopted and, last we checked, were thriving with their new families! We also found that Mod Squad Alumni dogs required less than half as many behavior consults as did non-Mod Squad dogs, during the period July, 2010 to July, 2012.
Going to School: In addition to one-on-one work with our volunteer trainers, Mod Squad dogs attend a Basic Manners class on Monday mornings. Here, they learn to focus on their handlers and ignore distractions. They learn to sit, stay, come, lie down and greet politely. They also have fun and come to look forward to the learning opportunity, as well as an extended time away from their kennels.
Mod Squad on the Road: Recently, we conducted a “roll-out” of our program to two other Wisconsin shelters. They will be piloting Mod Squad programs in their shelters to help us gather data about the effectiveness of our program in different shelter environments.