The Shelby County Humane Society has found forever homes for thousands of dogs since it opened in 1977. Thatâ€™s a lot of adoptions, but to help even more dogs go home with loving families, the humane society has initiated a new program: training through the Woof Pack.
The Woof Pack, which was started in February of this year, is a group of volunteers who work with long-termers â€” dogs who have been in the shelter for more than 30 days â€” on a regular basis to teach them basic commands and manners. Volunteer coordinator Pam Slovensky said it started with a simple enrichment trail, built by volunteers, that featured five pieces to practice with: a doorway, a sit and stay platform, a seesaw, a treat game and a small stairway.
Some dogs who are brought into the shelter may have never walked through a threshold or walked down stairs, so she said this exposure, in addition to working commands, can increase the dogâ€™s chances of being adopted.
â€śThe whole point of the Woof Pack is to help get our dogs adopted faster,â€ť Slovensky said. â€śAnd a lot of the time, being able to say they know manners, automatically you see the adopterâ€™s eyes get wide and [they are] interested and engaged.â€ť
The volunteers walk the dogs through the trail in a circuit format and spend time at each piece, building confidence and understanding as to what is expected of them. They also have report cards to update as they work with the dogs.Â
â€śWe want to prepare them [the dogs] as best as we can,â€ť Slovensky said.
Slovensky said the group also helps identify the types of families and homes each dog would be best suited for, which can be particularly helpful for those who might be best suited for a place with plenty of space to run or those who do better with having a â€śjob.â€ť
â€śBecause we have more eyeballs on the dogs, basically, weâ€™re able to just find their better match,â€ť she said.Â
Volunteers also go on group walks together with the dogs so they are socialized and becomes familiar with being in that type of environment.
Progress from the Woof Pack was originally â€śslow going,â€ť Slovensky said, but once kids were out of school and more people heard about the volunteer group, it took off. Now, the Woof Pack has around 30 members ranging in ages from 15 years old to early 60s.
So far, theyâ€™ve had quite a few success stories with their long-term residents, including a dog named Blaze.Â
Blaze, who Slovensky said was a larger dog and barked a lot, spent 120 days at the humane society. She said just by spending time with him, the volunteers were able to help socialize him and realize the types of homes that would best fit his personality. Now, Blaze lives on a farm with other dogs and animals where he is free to run and play.
Eventually, Slovensky said she would like the Woof Pack to become a more regular volunteer group and grow to a larger size. Sheâ€™d also like to see more pieces added to the enrichment trail to help dogsâ€™ brains stay active and become better candidates for adoption.
For more information about the Woof Pack, visit shelbyhumane.org or contact Slovensky at email@example.com.