You've heard the old adage about teaching an old dog new tricks. Turns out, it can be done after all! But it's not as easy as issuing commands and handing out treats. Walking, handling and training a dog takes patience and skill, and being well-equipped to handle dogs with confidence in any situation is something that comes with time and training.
Luckily for the dogs at PAWS, we have an advanced training program that teaches our volunteers to become experts in canine care.
The ATV/DBV—Advanced Training Volunteers and Dog Behavior Volunteers—program builds on our basic Good Dog Program (developed by a certified animal behaviorist for PAWS and required for all dog volunteers) to include clicker training, education about dog-to-dog interaction, and how to mitigate "undesirable" behaviors.
"Some dogs who come to PAWS can be very fearful, or easily excited—behaviors that we don’t expect a level-one volunteer to be able to handle," says Molly Reagan Axt, PAWS Programs Manager. "Having volunteers who can support these dogs, and work with them one-on-one, is a huge benefit."
One such volunteer is Kerri Bridges, who spends the majority of her ATV shift using clicker training with the dogs to reinforce good behaviors, minimize undesirable ones, and teach them commands such as "sit," "stay" and "watch."
"The ATV/DBV program is great for the dogs because it reduces their stress, and makes them better candidates for adoption," says Kerri. "The clicker training engages their minds and makes the shelter experience more enjoyable!"
But that's not the only fun part of the job. ATV volunteers also have clearance to take the dogs for off-site trips! Kerri recently took PAWS dog Stewey, pictured right, for an all-day hike to Heather Lake.
"Stewey was a star when meeting other dogs and hikers on the trail, and they loved him," says Kerri. "He liked the water at the lake, and I think that if I didn't have him on leash, he would have jumped right in!"
The ATV/DBV program is about building trust and learning new skills, providing the volunteers with a rich, rewarding experience and giving the dogs a leg up on finding their forever home.
Interested in becoming a PAWS volunteer? Visit paws.org