In April 2019 the Summit County Animal Control and Shelter rolled out “T-Time”, a new behavior modification program geared towards dogs who are displaying behaviors that tend to lead a dog to stay at the shelter longer than average.
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: August 26, 2019
Contact: Erin Opsahl
SUMMIT COUNTY ANIMAL CONTROL AND SHELTER ROLLS OUT NEW BEHAVIOR MODFICATION PROGRAM FOR DOGS
SUMMIT COUNTY, CO – In April 2019 the Summit County Animal Control and Shelter rolled out “T-Time”, a new behavior modification program geared towards dogs who are displaying behaviors that tend to lead a dog to stay at the shelter longer than average. Such behaviors are referred to as target behaviors and include fearfulness, high energy, and reactivity whether that be to other dogs, bikes, cars, etc.
Summit County is fortunate to have a community of citizens that love to adopt dogs. The average length of stay for a dog at the shelter is approximately two weeks whether or not they are perfectly well-mannered. Occasionally dogs who would benefit from a more structured one-on-one approach for addressing their behavioral tendencies are received.
Chance, a five-year-old Boxer mix is one of those dogs. He was transferred in from another shelter in Colorado in early April after he had sat there unnoticed for about a year. While not aggressive, Chance’s excitement and lack of impulse control when interacting with people often led him to become rather mouthy. Sleeves, shoelaces, leashes, or anything within reach would become a chew toy. After seeing other dogs’ less-than-ideal behaviors become more pronounced the longer they spent at the shelter, it was decided to design a behavior modification program to learn more about possible triggers and techniques to curb unwanted behaviors.
Chance arrived at the Animal Shelter at the perfect time to be the first official dog in the T-Time Program. After connecting with a few different resources regarding dog-training techniques, a plan was developed to address each individual behavior. Chance’s plan fell under the ‘high energy’ category and shelter staff began experimenting with different techniques to increase his impulse control. Ten minutes a day were dedicated to addressing his jumping and mouthing behaviors. Staff notes were kept to keep track of his progress. Staff were amazed at how well he responded to the attention he was given.
Volunteers were tasked with writing down any observations they noticed while out dog walking to document changes in behavior patterns. After several weeks of documenting different strategies, a clear change in Chance’s behavior began to emerge, which was backed up by several volunteers who also noted positive changes in him. While not a perfectly mannered boy, his tendency to resort to his rowdy ways continued to decline. Harnessing became far less of a game of tug-of-war, he began taking treats much more gently, he stopped consistently pulling on the leash while being walked, he began to sit and wait at doorways and started to learn to wait until given the cue, “free” before indulging in his meals. He even became one of our go-to-dogs to send to county events like the Breckenridge Farmer’s Market, the Frisco 4th of July Parade, and the LAPS K9 4K Event.
Despite this impressive progress, Chance still experienced anxiety when left in his kennel alone each night. Although he was not a nervous chewer, he would profusely pace and drool throughout the night. This proved to be too hard for him to overcome and each morning shelter staff needed to begin the process of helping him relax. It was soon realized that Chance would behave much calmer throughout the day when he was able to sit behind the shelter front desk with staff and be close to people. However, this was not enough for him to overcome the stress of being alone overnight.
Chance has recently been given a new opportunity for increased behavior modification by being placed in a foster home. This continuation of T-Time in a home environment rather than the shelter environment is anticipated to decrease stress and provide additional support for overcoming a lack of impulse control. Shelter staff are hopeful to continue to see an even calmer, more adjusted dog once he has had a chance to leave the shelter setting that has unfortunately become his norm for so long.
The T-Time Program has continued at the shelter with one new dog participating to help decrease his reactivity to bikes and other dogs. Only one or two dogs will be enrolled in the program at any given time. This will allow shelter technicians the ability to set aside sufficient time in their already busy day to implement different techniques in a one-on-one setting. This program has had a monumental impact on Chance and the shelter is hopeful that with the increase in devoted volunteer hours even more dogs will be able to receive this much needed behavior modification assistance. It continues to be very rewarding to see how even a small amount of time dedicated to animals can truly change the course of their life.
Chance is available for adoption at The Summit County Animal Shelter. Call 970-668-3230 to meet him!