By Maria Zarate
As a veteran shelter professional, I’ve always sought outside the box to find effective and efficient methods to help residents skill build. Here are three “go to” methods we use regularly in the shelter environment and I hope you find them helpful too.
Pillow Case Feeds
What to do with all those donated pillow cases? Don’t toss them, use them instead to feed the residents who eat quickly or who enjoy a good game of “find it”. Pillow case feedings make meal times fun and help slow down fast eaters. They can also be incredible tools to use with residents who struggle with food bowl guarding as well as with dogs who are noise sensitive. In addition, they help dogs save staff time with bowl upkeep.
Another neat practice is using Kong wobblers for feeding time. I find that placing the wobbler in a bowl with a little kibble in the bowl is a great way to initiate the “find it” game. Kong wobblers can be scary to a fearful dog and confusing to a stressed dog to use and a mistake handlers sometimes make is to overfill it. To avoid this, the mix of some kibble in the bowl and some in the wobbler is a great combination. Another tip: add a little wet food to mix.
Go Find It – Save Lives
Anyone who does kenneling work can attest that stress brings out the worst in some of the resident dogs. One negative behavior that can arise is lunging forward towards a handler’s feet or legs. Even allowing residents to practice this behavior can have detrimental effects. We train staff to always use treats with residents that fall into this category. Know your dogs and what motivates them on the food spectrum. Once you have that information, start to deliver a few pieces in front of them first, then slowly start throwing them behind the dog to encourage him to go back. Teaching dogs to go backwards is more desirable for cases like these. Exit calmly while facing them and throw enough reinforcement to keep them busy in the game.
*This post is an entry in our Phoenix 2020 Writers’ Competition. All winning, runner up and selected entries are being published here on the BARKS Blog and in upcoming issues of BARKS from the Guild. For a fully immersive educational experience in animal sheltering and rescue, join us at the Pet Professional Guild Annual Summit in Phoenix, Arizona on September 17-21, 2021.*
About the Author
Maria Zarate CPDT KA KPA CTP CBCC (in progress) is the Enrichment Lead and Kennel Manager at Camp Papillon in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania where she and her staff dedicate their effort to improving the quality of life of shelter residents.