Improving the lives of shelter pets

by Meredith Dempsey, CPDT-KA, Love Them Train Them

As both a trainer and shelter worker, I am passionate about the welfare of shelter animals. I have learned firsthand that a kennel environment doesn’t allow dogs to express normal behaviors. The inability to express these behaviors is frustrating, so as dogs grow more desperate in their desire to interact with their environment, their expressive behaviors become more exaggerated and they become what’s called “kennel crazy.” 

Because of the demand to meet dogs’ physical needs, shelters often neglect addressing dogs’ emotional and mental needs. However, when a shelter dog’s quality of life can directly affect the likelihood of euthanasia due to poor behavior, it makes sense to be more equitable in how much time, effort, and dollars shelters invest in behavioral health. Kennel craziness can happen quickly. Once present, it is hard to reverse. Shelters need to be proactive, not reactive, by providing dogs with regular enrichment opportunities. 

Shelby Humane offers two enrichment programs to shelter dogs that alleviate kennel stress. The programs are led by me, along with Anthony Rodriguez of Love Them Train Them, LLC.

The first program is WoofPack, an obedience class that teaches dogs that sitting or lying down gets them the attention they crave. These behaviors translate beautifully to the kennel, where former “kennel crazy” dogs offer to sit or lay when they see something they want instead of jumping, barking, or scaring off potential adopters.

The second program is a Nose Work class where dogs are asked to sniff out food in containers. This program caters to shy dogs that need confidence and stressed dogs that need help decompressing. Both classes are taught using positive reinforcement training methods.

If you are interested in helping to enrich the lives of dogs at Shelby Humane, email


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