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Synopsis written by M. McKenzie Edited by Brad Griggs Taken from attending Workshop #5 with
Synopsis written by M. McKenzie
Edited by Brad Griggs
Taken from attending Workshop #5 with Aimee Sadler
No Kill Conference, Washington DC, 2012
with Aimee Sadler No Kill Conference, Washington DC, 2012 Saving 98% Of Dogs In Shelters Aimee

Saving 98% Of Dogs In Shelters

Washington DC, 2012 Saving 98% Of Dogs In Shelters Aimee Sadler is the former behaviour and

Aimee Sadler is the former behaviour and training program Director for the Longmont Humane Society, USA. Aimee now is a Consultant and travels the United States assisting shelters to improve their re homing rates and quality of stay for shelter dogs.

Shelter industry standards within the shelter and pound community, have become obstacles for adoption and has lead to hundreds of thousands of needless deaths in animal shelters and pounds. Professional dog training and behavioural consultant, Aimee Sadler states “Before we can expect a sheltered animal to cope and thrive, we need to satisfy them at some level.”

Sadler identifies that within the shelter and pound community, numerous obstacles to successful re homing include, but are not limited to;

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temperament testing

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breed labelling from an unknown origin

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the inability to correctly identify, modify and manage aggression in canines.

Behaviour evaluation of dogs in shelters and pounds was traditionally assessed through temperament testing. These tests were developed with the intention that they would give definite insight into the dogs character, therefore offering a predictive tool for future behaviour. Sadler explained during her presentation that temperament testing should never be done, either by a shelter, pound or by a rescue. They only provide a 'snap shot' of the dogs behaviour. Sadler maintains that these traditional temperament tests are not diagnostic tools, rather they are utilised as a definitive measure by which administrators decide on the life or death of the animal being assessed.

In this presentation, Sadler states that you cannot predict canine behaviour. It should also be noted that there does not exist, anywhere in the world, a scientifically validated, repeatable temperament test that can accurately predict canine behaviour.

Another obstacle for dogs in shelters and pounds was breed labelling from an unknown origin. Dr. Voith Ph.D., DVM, DAVB

from National Canine Research Council, completed the study

A Comparison of Visual and DNA Identification of Breeds of Dogs“. The results provided evidence that there was little correlation between shelter staff guessing a breed of a dog, and the DNA analysis of that dog.

*Voith study links:

Adopted as : German Short-haired Pointer mix at 5 months old

Adopted as: German Short-haired Pointer mix at 5 months old DNA: 25% each; French Bull Dog, Chow Chow, 12.5% each; Great Dane, Gordon Setter, Dalmation, Clumber Spaniel * Exert taken from Dog Breed Identification poster, link below

Dr. Voith's study concludes that visual identification of a dog from an unknown origin is unreliable. Incorrect labelling of a shelter or pound dog obstructs many aspects of re homing and animal welfare;

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it is a false representation of the dog

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many traditional thinkers will behaviourally categorise the dog without considering the dogs individual personality

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it will retard redemption when owners breed guess differs from the shelters breed guess

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it heeds potential adoption if the adopter is not seeking that particular guessed breed or breed mix

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it makes dog statistics unreliable

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it calls to question the validity of Breed Specific Legislation if shelters and pounds are guessing breeds incorrectly, which in some Australian states this incorrect labelling would lead to death for a dog labelled 'pit bull' or 'pit bull mix'.

In No Kill shelters, vicious dogs are euthanased. But in these shelters, it should be noted that, by sheer definition of the term euthanasia, more informed decisions are being made in regards to behavioural evaluations. Commitment to the No Kill paradigm requires that boundaries are being pushed and all options are being explored when it comes to successfully treating, training and managing aggressive dogs. Aimee Sadler explains that aggression can be differentiated into two actions – defensive and offensive. Being either unable, or unwilling to distinguish between these two actions has, for the longest time, formed the justification of shelters killing all dogs labelled as 'aggressive'.

Sadler's telling example about whether the dog would choose to attack or flee if a hole were to appear in the back of its shelter cage, provides a telling insight into the distinctions that Sadler considers so important when dealing with aggressive dogs in a shelter or pound environment.

with aggressive dogs in a shelter or pound environment. Aimee Sadler Sadler maintains that defensive aggression

Aimee Sadler

Sadler maintains that defensive aggression can be part of a legitimate communication by the dog. A dog who barks defensively in the shelter cage as a person approaches may well mean, “I'm scared, who are you?”. An offensive reaction, in contrast, is a problematic reaction from a behavioural modification and management perspective – particularly so in the shelter and pound environment.

Sadler used a great analogy:

shelter and pound environment. Sadler used a great analogy: There are distinct behaviours between defensive and

There are distinct behaviours between defensive and offensive aggression, but unfortunately shelters are killing both.

Sadler discusses the dogs that are euthanised in No Kill shelters are:

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vicious

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offensive aggression

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unpredictable aggression

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uninterrupted drive (when a dog cannot be behaviourally managed with tools to interrupt a negative behaviour)

Sadler insists that even if the dog is deemed vicious it should only be deemed irredeemably so if rehabilitation is truly unachievable. She is vehement that this includes the consideration and skillfull professional application of any tools that may facilitate a satisfactory result. This may include the application of the entire motivational matrix. Sadler has had people say to her “I would rather euthanise a dog than to put a pinch collar on”, and she firmly believes that this sense of self righteousness about blindly sticking to one methodology, is a misguided argument that is causing trainable dogs to be killed. “One size does not fit all”, she neatly says to drive home her point.

Sadler highlights that resource guarding does not fall under any reason to kill. All resource guarding dogs in her care have been adopted and have not returned. Their policy is to alert the adopter, recommend that the dog does not go to a family with children and offer follow up support if the issue becomes exacerbated. Her opinion is supported by significant research from other organisations.

Sadler is keen to share an innovative and progressive solution to manage dogs in general, including defensive aggressive dogs, reactive dogs and catatonic dogs. 'Playgroup' as Sadler calls it, can be used to treat many types of behaviours of dogs that is otherwise considered unreachable within some traditional thinking and behavioural modification paradigms.

It is difficult to imagine the concept of dog playgroups if one has never seen such an exercise performed, especially in a traditional shelter and pound environment. Sadler recognises that risk, liability and safety are routinely the initial reactions from administrators when asked to consider this 'outside the box' solution. Sadler challenges her audience to weigh up the reality of their organisation or facility's role in their community before consideration of the following points:

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Is it OK for a catatonic dog to refuse food and water and face the corner for 24 hours a day?

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Is it OK for a reactive dog to be jumping at the cage constantly, risking injury, exacerbating the stress of himself and other dogs and never to be re homed?

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Is it OK for a dog to be so scared that he wets himself every time you enter the cage?

With these questions Sadler's initial quote becomes all the more relevant in the decision making process - “Before we can expect a sheltered animal to cope and thrive, we need to satisfy them at some level.” It is overwhelmingly clear that Sadler's message implores us as a community to be open minded about playgroups because they solve problems, increase the quality of the animal's stay, and also increase adoptions in the short, medium and long term. In short, Sadler makes a clear and passionate point that these improvements indicate the realisation of a shelter's mission statement, whilst delivering everything that an animal advocate demands.

delivering everything that an animal advocate demands. In definition, Sadler's playgroup program is a group of
delivering everything that an animal advocate demands. In definition, Sadler's playgroup program is a group of

In definition, Sadler's playgroup program is a group of dogs that run and roam free within a large fenced area. During this time, the dogs are monitored, assessed and are socialised. They play, sniff, run and expend energy. The dogs can also be rotated to other yards or back to their cage.

On one occasion at a shelter, Sadler rotated 170 dogs in three days. During this time, the dogs expended energy, socialised with other dogs and experienced new surroundings. This enabled the dogs to settle and relax when people visited the shelter, and these people could experience interactions with the dogs that reflected the dogs individual personalities. It also gave access for staff to clean the dogs cage more effectively and efficiently because the dog was not present.

Playgroups do have an additional advantage of saving money, time and resources. The behavioural management that a dog can benefit from in a playgroup, far outweighs the time and money spent on one-on-one training with a shelter behaviourist. This time spent with a shelter behaviourist may not be effective if the dog is dog reactive to other dogs. Sadler explains that it is not that behaviourists are not needed, their role is crucial in managing some dogs, but not all dogs. Also, the time restraint for one-on-one behavioural management for all trainable dogs is unrealistic.

www.pawproject.com.au

Saving 98% of Dogs in Shelters: page 3

Sadler showed a video of a reactive dog and a catatonic dog, both of which were placed into the playgroup program. A dog presented to the shelter with reactive barking towards other dogs. He was placed into an enclosed area with a muzzle and another friendly dog. After assessment, the muzzle was released and the dog interacted with the other dog in a friendly manner. The next day, he was placed in playgroup with ten other behaviourally managed dogs. The end result this once reactive dog was interacting with multiple dogs on multiple days and was adopted.

The second dog was catatonic, and refused to eat and drink, faced the corner and never engaged in anything. It was difficult to watch this video of a dog that was clearly suffering. Sadler highlights that stress from this dog must be tolerated by our human emotions to enable this dog to learn. On Day 1 the lead was applied, he refused to stand, so Sadler picked him up and he wet himself. He was taken out to the yard and placed on the floor. He wasn't reactive with dogs sniffing him. Day 2 – he stood for the first time by himself. Day 3, he started to walk around and sniffed other dogs and interacted with the handler by taking treats. An amazing transformation and he too was adopted.

Sadler noted that the dogs must change handlers. She suggested that strong bonds must not be made with the dogs, especially reactive and fearful dogs, as you are doing them a disservice. Changing handlers enables the dog to learn that meeting new people is OK.

Playgroup is a behavioural management foundation. Once a dog accomplishes improved behaviour and set goals, the dog can be placed in the advanced training program. A video from Longmont Humane Society showed a group of dogs and handlers playing musical chairs in their advanced training program. Each dog had a handler and was on a lead. Once the music stopped the handler sat on a chair and the dog sat behind a yellow line. The dog was then treated. These advanced shelter dogs were also used to assist in training and relearning for a community pet while earning the shelter money. The shelter charged $75 per session for a shelter dog to assist in the socialisation of a community pet in the same way playgroups work. In addition, the shelter dog enjoyed the time out of the cage and being in a different environment. All of this success stemmed from the use of the playgroup model.

The playgroup program already exists in shelters and has the exceptional ability to save lives and improve the quality of life of animals in the shelter and pound environment. It does come with risk, and since you cannot predict a dogs behaviour, Sadler states that you must have your vet on board with this program.

that you must have your vet on board with this program. One behavioural program does not
that you must have your vet on board with this program. One behavioural program does not

One behavioural program does not fit all types of dogs, but the playgroup program does enable many dogs to seek the behavioural adjustment they need to be re homed in a shorter period of time. It is written in a shelters mission statement that it is their role to function and act as a safe haven for lost and surrendered animals, and to provide resources to enable them to be re homed. By using the playgroup program, a shelter can work within their mission statement, improve the quality of life for dogs in their care and most importantly it will save lives and in turn increase the shelter adoption rates.

Thank you for reading this synopsis of Aimee Sadler's workshop called “Saving 98% Of Shelter Dogs”. Please view the following video's to create and visualise a broader understanding of how the playgroup sessions work.

Watch 'Tug' the dog transform his behaviour by participating in playgroups http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Woj52hT_wpg