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Part Two of Four

Welcome to Diana Guerrero's Ark Animals Training & Therapy. This section is dedicated to pets, companion animals, and topics related to their care and training. Pet training, behavior modification, and animal therapy are important steps toward better behavior. This four part pet article discusses how to increase the adoptability of animals in pet rescues, animal shelters, animal control agencies, humane societies, and animal services facilities. Begin at Part One. You should get professional help for pet problems.

Increasing the Adoptability of Shelter Animals

This is Part Two of Four regarding Increasing the Adoptability of Shelter Animals and may be used by sheltering facilities, animal control, and other similar animal housing facilities. We encourage you to implement this programming in exchange for program credit to Diana Guerrero's Ark Animals. Media, publishing, and other such projects will need to note the copyright and contact Ms. Guerrero directly for permissions.


Providing the best care for the animals in your facility compliments the customer service focus. This can be slightly more labor intensive, but if that intensity is increased because it is done to enhance the sheltered animal's life you can consider this a good sign and a better form of customer service in the proactive sense.

Being aware of how much influence each of you has on every animal that comes into our path is awe inspiring. The animals rely on YOU for their every need and for YOUR guidance.

Applying simple strategies on a daily basis establishes consistency. This will result in better behavior without large blocks of time devoted to this specifically. Daily application is necessary.

The biggest thing to remember is to reinforce what you want! Most dogs learn to be obnoxious to get any type of attention. Ignore the bad and praise the good. Reinforce good behavior with attention and occasional treats. Don't forget to remember to TELL the animal what it is they are doing right!

There are six steps to accomplishing success here:

1) Ignore or withdraw from inappropriate or undesirable behavior.
This will decrease the occurrence of the inappropriate behavior.
2) Look for and reward appropriate behavior
This will increase the proper and desired adoptable behavior.
3) Give the animal a replacement or incompatible behavior to perform instead.
This gives the animal an acceptable option instead of the undesired behavior. It teaches the human concept of "right and wrong" in a clear manner.
4) Coach the animal and rely on visual cues rather than verbal commands.
Verbal or physical commands should not be relied on. The animal needs to learn to respond to the environment instead of commands. The long range result is that this makes the behavior occur in the same circumstances no matter what.
5) Wean off of verbal commands.
Sometimes we give verbal commands such as "sit" when we should be using body language and lures with other clues from the environment instead. If you use or have used these, make sure you wean off of them! Otherwise the behavior will only occur with the command! We want the response all the time in the same circumstance without any command.
6) Provide a variety of environmental and other interactive programs.
Proper toys, activity and other interactions with staff or volunteers are critical to providing the most complex and healthy environment for the animals in your care. These are listed in the Necessary Tools section
When things are not going well for an animal you will see signs of discontent and deterioration. These include stereotypic behaviors (pacing, spinning, repetitive movements), self-mutilation (excessive licking, sucking, wearing down of toe nails or teeth), appearance (weight loss, excessive shedding or dulling of coat, odor, fecal or urine stains), deterioration in activity, increase in aggressive or agitation towards other animals or humans. These are symptoms shown by animals who have deteriorated to the extreme. Avoiding this can be done by implementing the strategies outlined above.

Are activity, movement, and day-to-day activities normal?
Is the housing are clean, in good condition, secure, and environmentally enhanced?
Is the animal at a good weight, eating and drinking normally?
Are urine and fecal output normal?
Does the animal have a clean coat, clear eyes, nose, mouth, paws, anogenital area?
Is the animal responding well to the environment, kennel staff, and visitors and new surroundings ?
Is something amiss? Could something else be done to enhance this animals life today? What else could you do?

*The BE AWARE section is my variation on the acronym used by George Stowers to assist in exotic animal assessments. It was so good we decided to use it instead of our old version!

Continue to Part 3

The following program was developed to assist domestic dogs held in a sheltering or kennel facility for long periods of time. In 1998 the American Humane Society began including the program in their Shelter Operations School. In 1999 the program was donated to Animal Behavior & Training Associates, Inc. for their use in assisting animals nationally.

If you are experiencing this behavior problem help is just a phone call away! Hire Animal Expert

About the columnist: Since 1978 Diana L. Guerrero has worked professionally with both wild and domestic animals. Guerrero has been affiliated with, and certified by, a variety of animal programs in the USA and Europe. Based in California, she writes, consults, and speaks. Information on her animal career programs, training courses, and her books {What Animals Can Teach Us about Spirituality (SkyLight Paths, 2003), Blessing of the Animals (Sterling, 2007), Help! My Pet is Driving Me Crazy (Guerrero Ink, 2007), Animal Disaster Preparedness for Pet Owners & Pet Professionals (Guerrero Ink, 2007)} can be found in this web site and in the shop. Questions for Guerrero should be submitted via the blog comments or membership forum.


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