Combined with quality care, positive training programs for shelter dogs can help increase adoption rates and ensure successful integration into forever homes. Understanding this vital aspect of reducing the homeless canine population, many dog behaviorists and behavior modification organizations are offering their services to shelters across the US.

Behavior issues in dogs can be quite complex, and often require the help of a veterinarian, trainer or behaviorist. But the cost of employing these professionals is too much for most rescue organizations, making a volunteer-based program lifesaving for some animals. As part of this movement, Dr. Claudeen McAuliffe, in conjunction with the Humane Animal Welfare Society (HAWS), created the Mod Squad ™ – a program that pairs behavior professionals with “special-needs” shelter dogs at no cost.

mod squad “All shelters dogs are subject to a behavior assessment by one of our program volunteers to determine what behaviors they are exhibiting and how severe it is,” says Ethan Larson, Grand River Rescue Mod Squad ™ Coordinator – Bemidji, MN. “Then, they make a recommendation about which dog needs the most work. The behavior issues can be wide-ranging, with just a few being: barking, timidness, food guarding, dog-on-dog aggression, and dog-on-person aggression.”

Each dog chosen for the program receives intensive, one-on-one positive training for 20-30 minute sessions. Dogs stay for as little as three days, or as long as six months, depending on the severity of their behaviors. Since the launch of the program in 2009 at HAWS, over 1,000 canine participants have been adopted, signifying a 90% success-rate. Euthanasia rates for Mod Squad ™ program dogs is significantly lower than the rate for the overall shelter population.

So far, the Grand River Rescue squad has volunteered roughly 1285 total hours to helping dogs overcome their behavior issues. They’ve also been largely instrumental in educating shelter staff and adopters on the behaviors of each dog to reduce his chances of regression. “Each volunteer is enthusiastic, hard-working and dedicated.” says Larson. They are the true heroes who help our shelter dogs become more adoptable and find their forever homes.”