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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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Dogs and Dying – Do You Know What You Would Do?

April 24, 2011 10 comments

Once in a while a story comes along and just tugs at your heart strings full force. This one brought tears to my eyes.

I recommend reading the whole story because it is touching one (and yes, a sad one too).

Here is a synopsis:

A man is diagnosed with terminal cancer and given only a short time to live. He has two rescue dogs that he promised he would always care for and now he knows he will not be able to fulfill that promise. So he seeks help to find them new homes.

It reminded me that a while back, Amy Burkert (@GoPetFriendly) and I had been talking about the importance of creating a will for your pets and knowing who will take your pets if you were to suddenly pass away. Amy wrote a great piece about her process here.

My question for you is this… If you were diagnosed with cancer today and told you only had a short time to live, what would you do with your pets? Do You Know What You Would Do?

By the Way – Acee and Reesee are still looking for their new home. I hope someone with a big heart will give them one.

When an Animal Shelter Closes

December 3, 2010 40 comments

It seems ironic (or at the very least a sad coincidence) that today on National Adopt a Mutt Day there would be such sad news to report on the adoptable mutts in my very own community.

I had been hearing rumors for days now that the shelter I have volunteered at for the past 8 years was in trouble and would be closing, but I had been hoping and praying it would not true. It was not to be, today the Minnesota Valley Humane Society (MVHS) announced it would be closing it’s doors on December 31, 2010.

To say this is a sad event is an understatement. This one small humane society has been operating on its own since 1981. Despite many people’s mistaken belief, MVHS has never been affiliated with the larger Animal Humane Society (AHS) in Golden Valley, Woodbury, St. Paul, etc. It did not receive money from the the Humane Society of the United States (by the way, MOST Humane Societies DON’T receive money from HSUS). It operated on a tight budget, with a small staff, and had to raise all of it’s money on its own – and it had a high adoption rate (perhaps that’s because it didn’t put a timeline on an animal’s life like other humane societies do or maybe it’s because of the awesome staff and volunteers who promoted the animals and tried to help animals find homes).

It is the only animal shelter servicing the South Metro area and soon it will be gone.

So what is the impact when a shelter closes?

Other shelters and rescue groups end up taking up the slack. Most small shelters and rescue groups operate on a shoestring budget already, so when a shelter closes they not only take on additional animals they had not planned for, they also take on the extra costs associated with it. It can make or break a shelter or rescue group, financially.

Staff and Volunteers feel set adrift. Many volunteers work at animal shelters because they deeply care for the animals, but in many cases, there is also a sense of commaraderie that develops between the staff and volunteers. Friendships are formed. There is a feeling that you are all united in a common cause – saving animals

The animals that remain suffer undue additional stress. Animals that have not been adopted out feel the additional stress from the staff and volunteers, who are stressed out themselves, but their daily routine and lives change too. Suddenly, they are shipped off to some other location, maybe to a place where conditions are worse than where they came from (or more stressful) or they may have a limit on the number of days they can remain before they are euthanized.

The community suffers. Shelters provide a lot of services that the community often does not often recognize – educational programs, veterinary services, dog training, personal support after adoption, spaying and neutering, pet supplies for your newly adopted pet and informational resources. MVHS even offered people a list of apartments and townhomes that allowed pets.

What can you do?

Give money to your local animal shelters and rescue groups. Now. Call your local animal shelter and ask them if they are affiliated with a larger organization or if they operate on their own small budget, and then give. Contact a rescue organization and ask what you can do to help. Most of them need money, but many of them also need foster homes for the animals they already have.

Adopt. Normally I would be encouraging people to not to adopt during the holiday season, but this year I am asking people to adopt the remaining dogs, cats, birds, etc. that remain at MVHS. If you have the space, the time and want to make a difference, please adopt. And, if you are not local and living in MN, please adopt from your own shelter or rescue organizations. So many of the dogs, cats and other animals that end up at a shelter are not there because they were bad or did something to deserve it. In fact, some of the most common reasons animals are surrendered are because: someone lost a job, someone died, a family situation has changed (e.g., divorce) or the family had to move to a smaller location, like an apartment that doesn’t take pets. People that want a purebreed dog or cat often don’t realize that a lot of purebreed dogs and cats end up in shelters every single day (I should know I have two of my own – a Lab and a Sheltie). Many rescues and shelters have purebred dogs and cats, and often rescues are geared towards a particular breed. If that’s what you are looking for, please check with a shelter or rescue group first. Please.

Volunteer. I have had so many people tell me that they could never volunteer at a shelter because it would break their heart. I’m not going to lie, some days your heart does break, but most of the time you feel good knowing you have given a dog or cat a little extra attention and love that day. Every single interaction of love and kindness matters to them. It is one of the most rewarding experiences you can have. And did I mention the friendships you develop? Trust me. It is SO worth it.

It’s never easy when an animal shelter closes, but sometimes it can bring change. I hope you will be a part of that change.

Please Note: If you are coming here to read this because HumaneWatch.org sent you here, please note that this shelter DID NOT close because of anything HSUS did or did not do and I completely disavow their misrepresentation of this fact in order to push their agenda to smear HSUS or any other group that supports caring for animals in a humane way.

Surrender Your Cat Or Dog… By Appointment?

November 7, 2010 24 comments

I was all set to write an update on on Prop B (which passed!), when this link came across my Facebook wall this evening. Given it’s a local story, I decided to give it top billing.

The story is about a new program the Animal Humane Society (AHS) is implementing called Bound for Home to help “reduce the number of cats left homeless because of abandonment and unchecked reproduction.” The new program will include: “improving access to sterilization to reduce litters, working with pet owners to adopt wisely and keep their animals longer” AND requiring pet owners to make an appointment before giving up their animal. Hmmmm… intriguing.

Already the Animal Humane Society has implemented several other changes in the past year:
– A billboard campaign to promote adoption
– Drastically cut the adoption fees for adult cats
– Training for prospective owners to better prepare them for owning a pet
– Help in deciding which pet is best for a prospective owner’s lifestyle
– Stopped accepting after-hours dropoffs of unwanted pets at its five metro locations (this started last Monday)

I admire AHS’s focus on decreasing the number of pets who are surrendered and euthanized in their shelters, but I wonder if they can change human behavior. I am assuming AHS will provide owners with additional resources that (hopefully) will allow them to keep their pet(s), but most people who surrender their pets aren’t doing so as a last minute decision. Often they have thought about it long and hard. So, will making an appointment to surrender their pet change their minds? And, if someone has already made up their mind, will they even want to make an appointment? Or, are they more likely to go to a smaller and more cash-strapped shelter or dump their pet elsewhere?

Perhaps it’s the skeptic in me. Or, maybe it’s my experience volunteering at a shelter. Or, maybe it’s this recent post, that has me asking more questions about AHS’s decision to require owners to make an appointment to surrender a pet. If it is true that the Animal Humane Society has been hiding behind a shroud of secrecy as this post suggests (Please note: I do not agree with everything this blogger says in his post, but simply included it because it shares information on the secrecy involved with some shelters, like AHS.) – “confidentiality contracts” for employees and volunteers and a “secrecy contract” for members of MnPAW, how will we ever know if the program is legitimately a success? How will we know if AHS is seeing an increase in the number of dump-and-runs (where a pet owner dumps their pet outside a shelter or on a dirt road in the country)? Will they report that too? And, if these numbers do increase, what is their plan to address it? I hope they do have a plan to share their results with the public… and not just the positive results, but ALL the results, good and bad. We shall have to wait and see.

In the meantime, I’d love to know if any of you out there have you seen similar policies implemented at your animal shelters or Humane Societies. What results have you seen? What has been the impact? Please share your experience.

A Little Background
In Minnesota, we have several smaller and independent humane societies and then we have the big Animal Humane Society (AHS), which services the seven five-county metro area of the twin cities, excluding St Paul and Minneapolis. AHS was formed when three animal welfare groups merged together in 2007 (Animal Humane Society, Humane Society of Companion Animals and the Greater West Metro Humane Society). It also is a member of the Minnesota Partnership for Animal Welfare (MnPAW), a coalition of eight other animal welfare groups. AHS and MnPAW wield quite a bit of power and influence here in MN, more than the other smaller shelters who operate independently.

Additional Information on AHS and confidentiality and secrecy agreements:
Animal Humane Society Agrees to Stop Illegally Killing Cats – Sometimes

Favorite Video Friday and the Pedigree Adoption Drive

September 17, 2010 2 comments

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Today I am combining two things – Favorite Video Friday and the Pedigree Adoption Drive.

If you read this blog on a regular basis, then you know that I have volunteered at a shelter for many years, and as a result I am a huge fan of animal adoption. With so many cats and dogs sitting in shelters NOW is the time to make a difference.

Pedigree is one of those companies that strives to make a difference in pet adoption. Their commercials are powerful and impactful. They have put their money where their mouth is and have contributed food and support to shelters around the country. And, now they are offering to donate a bag of their new Healthy Longevity Food for Dogs to shelters nationwide simply by folks writing a blog post about the PEDIGREE® Adoption Drive between Sept. 16-19.

So, this week’s video is the video from Pedigree’s Adoption Drive. I hope you watch it, because by doing so you have helped a shelter to help one more dog. Thank you.

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