The dog program at ADHS focuses on both the physical health and the emotional wellbeing of the animals in our care. Although we are a shelter run by volunteers, that doesn’t mean that policy and procedure are missing. In addition to standard physical intake tests to ensure the animal is healthy, each dog completes a temperament test within their first week of arrival and repeat it if they are still in our care after six weeks. The results of the temperament test dictate the levels of enrichment and training the animal receives during their stay at the shelter.
The dog team is comprised of over 50 volunteers with new people joining the team every month. Together, they attend the shelter twice a day in shift teams. Every day. Statutory holidays. Rain. Sleet. Snow. Shine. They are there caring for the animals.
Each shift team has four people; a Shuffler/Feeder, two Walkers and a Trainer. Our goal is to have each of these four people remove the individual dogs from their indoor kennels for 20 to 30 minutes per shift. Potentially, each dog would receive up to 2 hours of one on one handling time out of their kennel each shift (twice a day they are out for ~2 hours; a total of ~4 hours per dog per day).
The dogs are walked around our 49 acre rural property in all weather. The equipment we use during these walks are martingale collars, 6’ leashes and 30’ long line leashes. The exception to the walks in all weather is when the thermostat reaches -30C or +30C. Then, the walks are shortened to about 5 minutes per dog and the volunteers find indoor activities to entertain.
We have a 10’X52’ mobile trailer that has heat/lights that we use to play with the dogs, train them and handle them. Sometimes during the evening shifts, the volunteers will use the trailer to exercise the dogs rather than walk them outside as can be difficult to remain safe whilst walking dogs after dark in a rural environment. This is more common in the wintertime when the sun goes down so early.
Each dog receives off leash, outside time twice a day. During that time, the dog is allowed to wander around one of our fenced outside kennels. The two kennels are 30’X30’ and 30’X10’. Half of the time (10-20 minutes) spent outside is alone to defecate and urinate in peace, and the other half (10-20 minutes) is spent with a handler doing various things such as fetch or brushing depending what the dog prefers.
The trainers on each shift attend the shelter to work with the dogs in the goal of making these dogs more adoptable. Each trainer works on different elements to the dogs’ behavior so that they are not doing the same exercises every shift.
Some of the things we work on are: obedience training (sit, down, stay, wait, leave it), sit without being asked for every meal, manners (no jumping, no mouthing, focus, watch me), food aggression, inter-dog aggression, over-stimulation/touching issues, instinctually driven issues without direction (herding objects, biting at peoples’ feet, chasing wild animals, guarding).