Dogs Out Loud was awarded an enrichment grant from Animal Farm Foundation that we chose to use to support the dogs at our city shelter, Austin Animal Center. After working for several months to coordinate the project with the city, the components were installed at the shelter yesterday afternoon!
The goal was to provide new training, enrichment, and adoption readiness sources that would have the greatest impact on the largest number of people and animals, with a special focus on the medium-large breed shelter dog population. Here’s what we did…
Part One: The Thinking Walk!
The Thinking Walk consists of 10 simple activity stations designed to make training and enrichment easy and accessible to all dogs, volunteers, and staff. It is set-up along the front courtyard loop of Austin Animal Center, a frequently traveled path for canine bathroom breaks and walks. Volunteers and staff can sneak in a little training during a potty break and not only help work the dogs’ minds, but give them skills to make them more adoptable!
You can view and print the full .pdf of the Thinking Walk here (183KB) and check it out in action below!
Shy boy Anthony (kennel 301) was the first dog to help us test out the Thinking Walk. He gave Andy some adorable eye contact.
Strutted his stuff through the pace station…
And showed off his sit!
Next came wiggly Simona (kennel 512), who figured out the tricky task of backwards walking…
Helped Andy lure her down…
Weaved with enthusiasm…
And celebrated her many accomplishments with a treat party!
Great job Anthony, Simona, & Andy!
Part Two: Treat for Calm Stations!
The Treat for Calm station concept not only helps provide easy, in-kennel training and enrichment for dogs, it gets everyone at the shelter in on the act! Everyone from staff to volunteers to customers can help set the same expectations and it provides a very simple way to get people engaged with the dogs in a positive manner. Simply grab a bag of treats from the station and use them to reward the dogs for good in-kennel behavior (four paws or tushy on the floor, quietly).
You can view and print the full .pdf of the Treat for Calm signs here (76KB) and check it out in action below!
Dawn demonstrates the all important treat baggie removal step.
The dogs show off their in-kennel calm and gentle taking of meaty bits…
Grant model and amazing volunteer Andy demonstrates treating for good kennel behavior.
The dogs were quick to catch on and we can’t wait to see the impact these stations have on showing off good kennel behavior for potential adopters!
UPDATE: In January 2016, we took the Treat for Calm project a step further and added TFC buckets to the front of every dog’s kennel. The buckets are filled with yummy treats, and any passerby can reward the dog when he is calm!
Part Three: Puzzle Feeding Toys!
Sturdy puzzle feeding toys provide an excellent outlet for dogs both in homes and at the shelter! It turns something they have to do anyway (eating!) into an opportunity for mental enrichment and is an active enrichment activity they can do independently.
Adorable muffin Sky stopped by to help us unpack with her brand new adopters!
We added 50 additional large Kong & Kong Extremes to supplement AAC’s existing collection.
We also added 80 Atomic Treat Balls to give the pups some variety and provide a sturdy toy for use with kibble and treats.
Big sweetheart Odin (kennel 402) came to help us unpack so he got to test out the very first Atomic Treat Ball!
He also brought one back to his kennel. ;)
Adorable low-rider Spike (kennel 317) thought the treat balls were pretty great.
All in all, it was a fantastic day and we hope you’ll join us in sending a huge thank you to the wonderful people of Animal Farm Foundation for making it possible and helping us bring some great new sources of fun & enrichment to Austin’s shelter dogs! Thank you, AFF!
(And a very special thanks to our amazing volunteers who braved the 100+ degree temperatures yesterday to make this happen! We <3 you!)
Want to set up Treat for Calm stations or a Thinking Walk at your shelter? Feel free to download and print the PDFs attached in this post for use in your own enrichment program. You’re also welcome to view and print the Welcome Sign pdf (146KB) to introduce the Thinking Walk to your volunteers and visitors. All we ask is that the Dogs Out Loud and Animal Farm Foundation logos remain in place. Have fun getting your dogs out and thinking!!!