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Awesome Enrichment Programs at Animal Shelters and Rescues

by Dennis ODonnell on April 29, 2020

“Shelter stress,” as it’s often called, is a real and serious condition facing dogs stuck in shelters while they await adoption. Other dogs experience boredom and other types of distress in the shelter environment, all of which can lead to removal from the adoption floor – a situation shelters want to avoid at all costs.

Thankfully, shelters have come a long way in many parts of the country.

Many animal shelters offer enrichment programs to keep the dogs in their care stimulated and happy while they wait for their forever family.

For instance, at Handsome Dan’s Rescue, volunteers are matched with a dog in crisis. What types of dogs benefit the most from this program? According to the website, “Some of the most common problems for dogs in our Enrichment Program include leash and/or dog reactivity, poor impulse control, jumping up on people, or dogs who have simply given up.” This program, which is in place in more than 20 shelters, pairs those dogs with a volunteer who spends hours training and socializing with the pup–treating the dog as lovingly as if he were their own, until a family is found for the pup.

Other programs, like the one at Anderson Animal Shelter, integrates enrichment into the dogs’ daily lives with interventions like soothing music, puzzle feeders, playgroups and synthetic calming pheromones.

At the SPCA Serving Erie County, they take an integrative approach. According to their enrichment page, “Temporary canine residents at the SPCA are part of a Five-Star Rating Enrichment Program based on a set of minimum mental health guidelines, taking a revolutionary approach to animal sheltering. Fun, friendly training methods and management techniques are incorporated into our dogs’ daily routines, stimulating their minds and imitating a home life more than a shelter life.”

Dogs who are happier, calmer, and stimulated experience less stress in the shelter environment, which makes them more adoptable–the ultimate goal!

To learn more, check out Best Friends Animal Society’s resource, Enrichment for Dogs in Shelters or Stubby Dog’s profile of the development of an enrichment program at Casa Del Toro.

(image credit: Anderson Animal Shelter)

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