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Fetch-For-Fosters: A program that proactively helps rescue dogs to get adopted

July 6, 2015 5 comments

Woman Rubbing Noses with PuppyIf you’ve read my blog, then you know that I am a big believer in dog training and helping people to better understand their dogs through dog body language. You probably also know that I am also a huge supporter of animal shelters and animal rescues.

The biggest issue many rescue organizations face is making a dog more adoptable. Training is key to making this happen. How a dog behaves is one of the biggest factors that impacts whether a dog will be adopted. It is a key factor in keeping an adopted dog in their new home.

Today, I would like to introduce you to someone who has a novel new idea that I hope will become a model nationwide. Fetch-for-Fosters is the brainchild of dog trainer Katie Grillaert of Fetch Dog Training and Behavior. It is a new program focused on proactively addressing a dog’s training needs while he is still in the shelter or in a foster home; before he is adopted, and where needed, working with the adopter to ensure his forever home really is his home for life.

Below is my interview with Katie Grillaert.

 

What is Fetch-for-Fosters?

Fetch-for-Fosters is a social entrepreneurship initiative, meaning that we are using business methods to try and solve a social problem.

Our vision is to shape and support a rescue community that both understands and prioritizes the value of training.  I’d really love to see a trend toward proactive dog training, rather than reactive.

Fetch-for-Fosters provides low-cost training and behavior services to rescues and shelters in order to facilitate the adoption of pets; as well as to help them stay in their new home. We prioritize education and promote training techniques that are effective, ethical, and that nurture the human-animal bond.

Our Fetch-for-Fosters staff are talented trainers who have been accepted into a training/behavior internship with Fetch Dog Training and Behavior. The program allows them to see a diverse range of dogs and students as they work toward their own goals. For example, one of our trainers is also a veterinary student with a special interest in shelter medicine and behavior. I mentor the trainers through this entire process, so we maintain a high quality of service for all of our rescues.

The program is new, but if things continue to go well I am excited about the growth goals that I have been brainstorming… but I’ll just have to leave you with that teaser for now.

 

I love the idea of helping a dog to stay in its home. What motivated you to create Fetch for Fosters?

My first dog, Petra, was a rescued Belgian Malinois. She was my shadow. She read my mind. I was heartbroken when I had to euthanize her due to serious behavioral issues due to extremely poor breeding and poor puppyhood socialization. Her sacrifice is what drove me deeper into behavior modification and rescue. Every time I can help another dog, I can honor her a little bit.

I have been fostering and doing volunteer training for a long time now, including through the birth of my business Fetch Dog Training and Behavior. As the business grew, I continued to volunteer, but found myself with limited time for volunteer work. (This saying is so true: “Entrepreneurs: The only people who work 80 hour weeks to avoid working 40 hour weeks.”). I wanted a way to formalize giving back to my community, but also to make it sustainable.

I’m fascinated with the way for-profit companies can provide social benefit. For example, Grameen Danone Foods Ltd. created a fortified yogurt for malnourished children in Bangladesh, improving health outcomes and creating local jobs. They are a sustainable business, but do not return any profits to their shareholders – it is all reinvested in the social business.  (http://socialinnovator.info/ways-supporting-social-innovation/market-economy/social-business-partnerships/partnerships-betweeen/grameen-danone-partnership-b) This is my current answer for my local community, in my area of expertise and passion.

 

How does the program work?

Our service contract is with dogs in foster care – the actual rescue. We will provide email/phone support when the dog is adopted so that we can advise new owners on what work we did with the dog, and how this relates to the settling-in process. In fact, we’d love to disclose this to adopters before they even adopt the dog – that piece is up to the rescue, as we are not involved in the adoption process.

If adopters have questions beyond the scope of work that we already did, or beyond the initial two weeks, we might refer them to our training business or another local trainer. This is for their benefit – there is a real importance to the trainer being able to observe the dog in its new home, form a connection with the dog’s people, and make sure that the trainer is getting the full picture before making a training program. This avoids wasting time and money (at best), or the behaviors worsening.

 

What kinds of issues do you generally see?

Adolescence is a frequent time that people decide to re-home their “annoying” dog, so we see a lot of regular goofy teenage behavior. First-time fosters do quite well with a session or two to help them understand how to communicate with their youngster, and how to develop good behavior.

Separation distress and leash reactivity are both quite common as well, and those are things that we want to address immediately so that they don’t become big and costly – they rarely resolve on their own, and in fact they can get worse quite quickly.

It’s also not uncommon for us to work with fearful dogs, usually puppy mill dogs, to help them conquer their fears, and especially to help their fosters understand how to support them.

We are also able to address any training issue – house training, manners, puppy issues, polite walking, chewing, digging, grooming, barking, and so on.

We can also offer limited services for fear, aggression, and anxiety. Hopefully most dogs in rescue will not have serious fear or aggression, but sometimes these issues pop up when the dog has already been accepted into the rescue. We can help the rescue address management and safety concerns with the foster, and give our professional assessment of the issue. Long-term behavior modification assistance may be available, but this takes a large commitment from the rescue.

 

Do you provide the rescue updates on the dogs you work with?

We will disclose personal information upon request if the legal owner of the dog has given us permission to do so. In general, it is the rescue’s responsibility to follow-up with owners and track the progress of the dogs they have placed.

 

What is the cost, who pays, and what does it cover?

I want this program to be sustainable – helping my community for a long time. If your organization – even your nonprofit – could not function without some key people, then I think you should be putting things in place to make sure those people stay happy and available to you. That’s my goal. Therefore my trainers for Fetch-for-Fosters get reimbursed for their travel and time spent with the dogs. Because they are paid, there will always be space on their schedule for foster dogs. I think this will be fundamental to the program’s success.

We directly invoice rescues for their training sessions. A $45/session for a training issue (this is something I think we should highlight) with my regular Fetch-for-Fosters staff, includes:

  • Approximately, one hour with the trainer.
  • Our summary of the session and homework for the foster family, which is shared with the foster and the rescue.
  • Two weeks of email/phone support with the adopter once the dog is adopted. (We’ll also provide follow-up support to the foster family, but we may ask that we see the dog in-person again if there are many questions, or if they are complex.)

Most rescues will only need these regular training sessions, as that is the category where most adoptable dogs will fall.  However, we do offer behavior consultations for $75/session, and we’ll staff an experience behavior consultant for this. Often behavior consultations need at least one follow-up, if not more.

Our fees allow us to purchase insurance and to pay our professionals for their time. The other overhead costs are supported by Fetch Dog Training and Behavior, which is one major reason why it makes sense for me to operate this as a social initiative of my business, rather than a non-profit – it keeps our costs significantly lower.

Donations for training, submitted directly to the rescue, are tax-deductible. We do accept online donations to our program, but these are not tax-deductible. Online donations may be earmarked for a specific rescue, or may enter our general pool and distributed as a scholarship.

 

Do you only work with foster dogs?

Our work is entirely with dogs in foster or shelter care. We support adopted dogs through their two-week transition to the new home if we have already provided them services during their time in rescue, so that the adopter understands exactly what work we’ve done with the dog and how that may relate to helping their dog settle into his new home.

We do not work with “owned” dogs; we’d refer someone to our business or another local dog trainer. I believe that training is a really important part of owning a dog, and should be planned for just as are veterinary and food expenses. Good trainers spend a lot of time on their education and professional development, and deserve every penny that they make. If they couldn’t get paid for their work, they wouldn’t be able to get really good at their craft – and that would be a loss for everyone, foster or not.

 

How does a rescue organization contact you if they want to be a rescue partner or want you to help one of their dogs?

Any interested rescue can send an email to info@fetchforfosters.org and we’ll provide our program information right away. There is no cost for rescues to become a rescue partner. By becoming a partner, they  are able to schedule our services whenever they need them.

We’re able to do some special services for our partners as well, such as running a group class for their foster dogs. So far, we’re doing this on a case-by-case basis, brainstorming together to address a particular need.

It’s been a lot of fun for me to work with the rescues to see what we can accomplish together, and we are all excited about the potential for growth – which, of course, is how many dogs and families we can positively impact.

You can learn more about Fetch-for-Fosters on their Q & A call this week, on Wednesday, July 8, from 12:00 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. Central time . To join the call, go to their Facebook event page by clicking here

 

Katie GrillaertKatie Grillaert is a professional trainer and behavior consultant specializing in work with fearful and aggressive dogs. She holds two certifications from the Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CBCC-KA, CPDT-KA) and is also a Certified Behavior Adjustment Training Instructor (CBATI). She is pursuing a degree in the Interdisciplinary Master’s Programme in Human-Animal Interactions at the University of Veterinary Medicine, Vienna

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Puppy mill dogs as the Sad Story Dog

March 24, 2015 13 comments

puppy mills 1This past week I read a really great piece that was posted on Facebook by 4Paws University. It was a powerful message and one that seemed to resonate with people (it had over 900 shares, 930+ “Likes,” and so many comments I had to quit counting. You can read the actual posting here:  BONE TO PICK: THE RUSH TO ADOPT THE SAD STORY DOG.)

The post has to do with America’s penchant for the “sad story dog.” You know the dogs I am talking about, the ones that come from a sad situation, get shared in the media, and generate a mass swelling of people who want to adopt the dog and “save” them. It happens time and time again.

You and I have both seen those individual stories of that one dog who was abused and saved, or the dog who ended up in a serious, life-threatening situation and suddenly needed a home. But the most common situation you and I see is the one where there is a mass rush to adopt a dog after it has been rescued during a puppy mill raid.  Stories like these make the local (and sometimes national) news. The pictures and video are usually heart-rending. People follow the story closely. When the dogs are ready to be adopted, there is usually a big media campaign to let people know about them and to encourage them to adopt.

None of this by itself is bad, but what gets missed is that some of the people wanting to “save” the dogs involved in the sad dog story are not always the “right person” for the dog and his/her needs. People who are drawn to a hard-luck story may be motivated by different reasons, and not all of them are motivated by the right reasons.

Oh yeah, that is the spot. #maggie #SheltieWhen foster Maggie and her fellow puppy mill friends were rescued, there was a lot of media attention around the raid and the care of the dogs. The facility that cared for them was flooded with adoption requests. I could not help but wonder the motivations of those who wanted to adopt a puppy mill dog. It wasn’t like this facility didn’t have dogs available for adoption before the raid, or that they ran out of dogs after the raid. So what motivated the people to adopt when they had not done so before? Was it the hard luck story? Did they see themselves as the hero in that story (rushing in to “save” the dog)? Or, did they want a certain breed that was rescued in the raid? Were they already looking for a dog and this just happened to be the right moment? Or, did they just act on impulse and get a dog with a story?

All too often we are motivated by the sad story dog without knowing a lot about what a commitment it is or whether the dog is a good fit for our family or lifestyle. Too many of these dogs are getting swooped up by emotion and being left behind by reality. Some of Maggie’s fellow puppy mill survivors have been re-homed, lost or discarded because the people adopting them did not know what they were getting into. They did not understand that the sad story dog they were getting was one that required work, time, patience and in many cases, another dog, to help them to start to live a normal life.

As adopters, we need to take more time to do our research. It’s great that people are excited and want to help by adopting a sad story dog, but we need to understand our motivations for adopting and recognize if it is a good fit. As rescuers, we need to be more diligent about who adopts a sad story dog. Rescuing a dog from a sad situation is not enough. We need to make sure that where they land is the safe landing we want for them too.

Sad story dogs will continue to come along. We just need to be prepared to ask the questions that will ensure it lands in the right home.

Introducing a new dog into your home when you already have a dog

November 11, 2014 8 comments

The girlsOver the past couple of months, I have had several friends adopt a new dog into their household. Given the fact that each already had a resident dog in their home, it is understandable that each one of them worried about how to introduce the new dog into their home. They also worried about how the new dog would make their current dog feel and whether they would get along.

I remember how nervous I was in bringing each one of my dogs into my home. (I think you would have to be a fool not to be a little nervous and anxious!) Every dog is different and every situation must be managed to ensure success.

When Cupcake first came into my home as a foster, it was a tough go. Not because she wasn’t an awesome and very sweet dog, but because she felt like she had to establish her place as top dog right away. She claimed the couch and snarked at Daisy and Jasper whenever they came close to her. Jasper and Daisy were intimidated by her behavior. Daisy started staying in her kennel to avoid her.I think it was at this point I seriously considered giving her back to the rescue.

But then, I remembered to use the skills and knowledge I had gained from so many other trainers. I took away Cupcake’s couch privileges to eliminate any snarking. Then, I started enticing Daisy back to the couch with treats and rewarding Cupcake with treats as well to show her that staying on the floor was a beneficial spot to be. Soon, the snarking had stopped and Daisy was feeling less stressed. We worked on other things too: waiting for dinner, not stealing other dogs’ food, sharing toys, etc.

Introducing a new dog into your home when you have another dog can be difficult. I’ve been offering my own advice and suggestions when asked (think baby gates, crates and slow introductions), but then I remembered that I had attended a webinar earlier this year put on by the ASPCA. The guest speaker was well-known author and animal behaviorist, Patricia McConnell (PhD, CAAB, Author). The topic? Multi-Dog Households: From First Date to After the Honeymoon (You can find more materials and information here as well).

It was a great seminar and discussion and one that I suspect would be beneficial to many an adoptive parent and/or rescue or shelter. I’ll definitely be sharing it with my friends. You can check out her presentation deck here

So how have you handled introducing a new dog into your home? What worked? What didn’t work?

The PetSmart Charities Report on Homeless Pets is out. Have you read it?

October 23, 2014 3 comments

Woman Watching Television with DogRecently, PetSmart Charities came out with its 2014 U.S. Shelter Pet Report. The news is encouraging on some fronts and not so much on others.

Overwhelmingly, the message is more education is needed. People still underestimate the number of homeless pets that exist in our society and do not know about breed-specific rescue groups.

For those of us involved in rescue, it can be hard to believe, but every day I come across folks who have no idea what a puppy mill is, so how can I expect them to understand the pet population issue?

More work to educate the public is definitely needed.

Here is a brief synopsis of the report. I really do encourage you to take a look at the whole report (it’s a very quick and easy read).

  • Pet ownership is on the rise – 81% of households now have a pet. (This was 63% in 2009.)
  • 46% of people surveyed consider the homeless pet situation to be very important to them. So much so that 10% have donated their time, 30% have donated money or goods, and 14% have provided another form of support. That leaves 55% who have not gotten involved, but that is actually an encouraging number too. This used to be a much higher number.
  • Pet adoption is becoming a more popular option for many people (66%) vs a few years ago (in 2011, it was 58%).
  • No surprises here, but 25% of people still choose to purchase their pets. They like rescue groups and they like getting a pet that is already spayed or neutered, but they still prefer to purchase.
  • Another unsurprising result? Many people don’t prepare for their new pet (impulse buy?). 40% said they did not prepare ahead of time for their pet. Only 25% researched online.
  • Encouraging news – People hold a high opinion of rescues and shelters.
  • Cats appear to be the big losers when it comes to homelessness though. 27% who said they would consider adoption would not get a cat.
  • When it came to why people did not adopt? The top two reasons were the shelter or rescue group did not have the cat or dog they were looking for or they wanted a purebred dog. [Can anyone remember what Ed Sayres said he would be focusing on when he announced he was joining the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC)? Anyone? “I am especially interested in the challenge of breeding pure-bred dogs on a large scale…”]. More awareness is needed to show people the number of breed-specific rescue organizations there are around the country.
  • There is still a stigma against shelter pets and animals from rescue organizations. People assume they are sick or have behavioral issues. More education is needed to help people understand that the majority of pets in shelters and rescue groups ended up there because of divorce, home loss, family change or getting lost from their original family.
  • Shockingly, 85%of people underestimate the number of pets euthanized annually. 
  • The good news is 86% of pets are spayed or neutered. This is the highest number yet.

As I said, there is more work to be done. Now the question is… how?

Dog Adopters: Stop focusing on that picture and focus on the match

March 1, 2014 28 comments

Sad Looking Chocolate LabIn a Suzanne Clothier seminar I attended last year, she shared a video of the first meeting between a man and a dog he wanted to adopt. She asked us to watch the dog’s body language as the man interacted with him.

It was pretty clear throughout the video that the dog was uncomfortable with the man’s interactions with him. The dog wanted more space, the man wanted less. The dog was happy to sit at his feet, the man wanted him to sit right next to him. The dog wasn’t into hugs, the man wanted to snuggle and hug away.

It was evident that the needs of dog and man did not match. They were incompatible. But, as Suzanne shared later, the man was still set on getting the dog. He couldn’t see that they weren’t a match because he had already fallen in love with the dog’s picture. He had already envisioned his life with this dog. It never occurred to him that the dog in the picture might not be a match for him or his lifestyle.

Fortunately, Suzanne and staff were eventually able to convince him not to adopt the dog, but from what she said, not without some serious convincing.

I experienced something similar recently.

Like the situation I mentioned above, the potential adopter (a great candidate!) had fallen in love with the dog she had seen in a picture. In her mind, she had saw them going on walks and visiting friends. She wanted a dog that would cuddle and be silly and play with her.

What she wanted a normal, well-socialized dog.

Man and Dog Lying on FloorUnfortunately, she had fallen in love with a picture of a former puppy mill dog. This was a dog who had never been on a walk on a leash before, who still had to be caught or herded inside the house, a dog that was a huge flight risk and not likely to socialize with strangers very easily. Definitely a mis-match.

It took some convincing, but eventually the adopter was able to see that the life she had envisioned with this dog would not be the life she would get. Changing the image of what she had in her head with a more realistic one allowed her to see that it was not a match. Reluctantly, she made the decision not to adopt that particular dog. A good decision in my opinion. Shortly after this she did find the “right” dog, a dog who was a much better match and I hear that both are very happy together.

I share these stories because I think there is a lesson here for all of us. The lesson is not to stop taking adorable pictures of adoptable dogs. (I am all for taking better pictures of dogs to help get them adopted – the cuter, the better in my book.) It is a reminder that a picture is only the first step. It is a way to get you interested in a dog. It is not, however, a good indication of how the dog will fit into your family or your lifestyle. Understanding the dog’s personality and preferences are just as important as understanding your own.

Yes. Fall in love with that picture, but then spend the time getting to know the dog and find out whether the dog’s personality and preferences really match your own. Is the dog too active for your lifestyle? Or are they not active enough? Does the dog prefer to cuddle with you or not? And, is that okay with you? Does a dog like other dogs or does he prefer to be an only? If adopters and rescuers spent more time asking themselves and their adopters these questions, I think the chances of a good match would increase. After all, isn’t the goal here to save a dog and help a human?

When did you KNOW that your dog was “the one?”

February 27, 2013 38 comments

The first time I saw Jasper, it was here…

Jasmine and Jasper

He was in impound with his sister, waiting to be examined by one of our vet techs before being fostered or put up for adoption. I fell in love with his handsome little face right then (I also fell in love with his sister). I practically begged to foster them…just for a little while. But I should have known then,  he wouldn’t be leaving. He was home the moment he walked through my door.

IMG_7097

Daisy

The first time I saw Daisy, she was cowering in a kennel much like the one Jasper was in. She was terrified as hell and my heart broke when I saw how she cowered and flinched when people came near her. I knew then that I would foster her. I couldn’t stop thinking about her. I worried someone inexperienced would adopt her and place her in a situation where she could be further damaged.

But it wasn’t until two weeks later, when I picked her up after being spayed, that I knew that she was mine. Her vulnerability drew me in and captured my heart. She needed me. She needed someone who understood her. There was no way I would give her up to someone who didn’t understand her needs for space, time and patience. She was home.

Cupcake was different. She had already been living in a foster home and was more than likely going to be adopted soon. Besides, I had already had a talk with myself about how I would not be falling in love with her. Two dogs was more than enough thank you. I couldn’t possibly take on another. I was sure she would be moving on to her forever home soon and then I would foster yet another dog in need of help.

But then, one fateful night, she went missing, and I was distraught. I was a complete wreck. I imagined all sorts of awful things happening to her. I worried she would be killed by a coyote or would starve to death or be hit by a car. It wasn’t until she was found and finally started to recognize me again that I started to have an inkling that she would be staying.  At that very moment when she recognized me and sighed and leaned into me, I knew. There was no way Cupcake would be leaving my home to go to another. She already was home. She had been all along. I think she knew before I did.

I suspect that most everyone has had that moment, the one where  you just KNOW that this dog is “the one.” With each of my dogs it was different. Jasper was love at first sight (he had me at “Hello”). With Daisy it was much more gradual. It started as a strong sense of responsibility towards a dog in need and slowly grew into something much, much more. With Cupcake, it took a traumatic event to make me realize how much I loved her. Like I said, I think she knew she was home before I did.

So what was your moment? When did you KNOW that your dog was “the one?” Was it love at first sight? Or, did it take time to bond? I would love to hear your story.

Cupcake, a.k.a. Cuppers, a.k.a. Cupperdoo

Cupcake, a.k.a. Cuppers, a.k.a. Cupperdoo

It takes a village to save a dog

July 29, 2012 26 comments

Norah – Isn’t she cute?

I’m a little tired tonight, but for a very good reason. I spent the majority of my Sunday picking up and transporting a beautiful Sheltie-mix from Minneapolis to Hinckley, Minnesota. Her name is Norah.

Norah came from a shelter in eastern Ohio where she was listed as a stray. She was facing certain death until a friend made the plea to save her life. I posted her picture on Facebook as did my friend, from there the effort took on a life of its own.

It’s amazing how everything came together to bring Norah and several other dogs to Minnesota. It never would have happened if not for The Way Home Alliance volunteers who did the pulling, vetting, and arranging to get her and other dogs out of the shelter, the numerous volunteers who offered to transport and house them along the way, Midwest Animal Rescue who helped arrange part of Norah’s journey, and Last Hope Collies who offered to help her find a new home. You know, it really does take a village to save a dog.

Despite the long journey (12 legs), Norah managed to be sweet, loveable and affectionate. She even rolled over several times so she could get a belly rub!(My personal thanks to Dawn, Lady’s former foster mom, who helped me so much during the transfer!)

Even though this was my first time, I would consider doing it again. It was a rewarding experience. My thanks to Gail and Estelle, who got the ball rolling, and to Ellen, who gave Norah a safe place to land.

Whoever gets this beautiful girl will be very lucky. She is a wonderful little dog.

Can’t foster a rescue dog? How about offering to transport one to a new home?

Yay! Finally in Minneapolis!

Waiting to be loaded up for the journey to Hinckley, MN.

On my way home I stopped at a gas station for a bathroom break. This is what was on the ground next to my car when I came back out. It was not there when I went inside. A gift from Norah?

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