Shelter Programming & Organizational Ideas

Volunteer Program Ideas

Goal: To standardize handling practices and give volunteers the skills and opportunities they need to feel successful & engaged, while also efficiently targeting dog needs.


Each team should have a shift calendar and communication group to centralize & effectively coordinate efforts. In addition to the training opportunities, each volunteer team should offer their own mentor sessions. Not every shelter will need all of these teams. Use those that work best for your program!

Power Walkers: This is the AM/PM potty break team focused on making sure each walkable dog in the shelter gets two bathroom breaks a day.

Shelter Buddies: Volunteers & staff who enjoy walking dogs with a friend. This team is focused on providing walks, enrichment, & marketing to dogs housed in paired kennels.

Behavior & Enrichment Team: The in-shelter behavior crew focused on providing training, enrichment, and marketing to dogs identified as needing intervention and extra support.

Welcome Wagon: Marketing team comprised of photography & writing volunteers focused on making sure each dog gets quality photos & bio information shortly after arriving at the shelter. Be sure long-stays get fresh photo/bio updates as appropriate.

Little Paws: Volunteer team focusing on walks, enrichment, & special support for the small breed dogs.


Volunteer Orientation: Shelter layout, operations, communication, & intro to programming.

Dog Handling Basics: Introductory dog handling training after which volunteers may walk all novice skill rated dogs once approved (volunteers may be asked to repeat class/handling portion or attend mentor session(s) with Power Walker/Shelter Buddies members if needed prior to approval).

Dog Handling Advanced: Advanced dog handling training after which volunteers may walk higher skill rated dogs once approved (volunteers may be asked to repeat class/handling portion or attend mentor session(s) with Behavior Team members if needed prior to approval).


DOL Offers the Following Workshops to Our Local Shelter:

  • Building Confidence & Trust: Working with Shy & Fearful Dogs
  • Whoa Doggie! Boundaries & Social Skills for Adolescents & Young Adults
  • Leash Gremlins Need Love Too! Help for Reactive Dogs

DOL Offers the Following Group Dog Training Classes to Our Local Shelter:

  • Shelter Skills & Games Class (building skills through enrichment & fun!
  • TTouch Class (body awareness, self-calming, & communication skills)
  • DOL Group Class (foundation skills, behavior intervention & modification, CGC track)

Strategic Housing Ideas

Goal: Strategic use & marketing concepts to maximize adoption turnover, shelter experience, & effective care.

Each unique kennel area should have corresponding signage to draw adopters in and make it clear right away where they are and where else they can explore.

Shelter Buddies!

Who? Paired dog kennels with emphasis on pairing easier to handle dogs with softer personalities + shy dogs who’d benefit from a buddy to boost their confidence. Avoid pairing dogs likely to negatively impact one another’s behavior/adoption chances and who will be difficult for customers & volunteers to safely manage in a shared kennel (these dogs should get their social opportunities with other dogs via play dates).

Why? To use paired kennels in a way that maximizes both space and adoption turnover.

Supporting Programs? Shelter Buddies, Power Walkers

Life is Suite!

Who? Adoptable dogs in need of specialized behavior support. These are larger, specially designed single housing suite style kennels. We also recommend using suite kennels if available to house senior dogs.

Why? The suite kennel layout naturally minimizes many in-shelter behavior issues (kennel stress, barrier frustration, fence fighting) and provides a space much more conducive to successful in-shelter behavior modification, safe handling, and showcasing adoptable behavior of more challenging dogs. We want to move these dogs through the system into adoptive and/or foster homes quickly and efficiently and avoid behavior program dogs becoming excessive long-stays. If possible, providing these dogs with adoption incentives like training scholarships can help boost adoptions even further.

Supporting Programs? Behavior & Enrichment Team, Power Walkers

Rockstars in Waiting!

Who? Longest-stay dogs in the shelter.

Why? Make use of priority housing to show off long-stays. Grouping them together by length of stay will help adopters looking for a dog who “needs” them know exactly where to go. Consider allowing staff & volunteers to sponsor adoption fees for these dogs to help provide further incentives to adopters.

Supporting Programs? Behavior & Enrichment Team, Power Walkers

New Faces!

Who? The newest available adoptables.

Why? Get to know your new dogs & entice adopters to check out the new faces at the same time. This allows your Welcome Wagon team to work efficiently while behavior staff & volunteers get a sense of new dogs who may need more support before anyone has the chance to slip through the cracks.

Supporting Programs? Welcome Wagon, Power Walkers

Lost & Found!

Who? Unavailable dogs (primarily stray hold)

Why? Concentrate unavailable/lost dogs in one place for ease of customer & volunteer needs.

Supporting Programs? Power Walkers

Daily Dog Care

Goal: To create a daily routine and practices that ensure a high standard of care & quality of life for all shelter dogs.

Each kennel row has a Care Cart to move food + enrichment items efficiently through the row as staff works. All duties may be supplemented by volunteers as well! Animal Care/Kennel Tech shifts run 7am-3pm & 2pm-10pm.

AM Care Shift: 7am-11am

  • Step 1: Animal Care takes dog(s) to play pen while Kennel Tech cleans kennel & puts out fresh bedding as needed & breakfast (puzzle feeding whenever indicated), working their way through their assigned row.
  • Step 2: Teams pass out enrichment toys prior to shelter open & scoop any poo that happened during AM care shift at this time.

Midday Duties: 11am-6pm

  • KTs do laundry, dishes, & prepare the next day’s Care Carts + clean and organize kennel buildings.
  • ACs work enrichment protocols with dogs including individual sessions, dog playdates, music, scent misting, & gate games. ACs also serve as matchmakers & assist customers directly in the kennel rows.

PM Care Shift: 6pm-10pm

  • ACs take dogs out for evening walks (paired dogs should get separate walks rather than pen time) while KTs tidy any soiled kennels, ensure all dogs have clean bedding & toys and put out dinner.

Outside Training Recommendations

Dr. Sophia Yin’s Low-Stress Handling Protocols — for veterinary & intake staff

Jessica Dolce’s Compassion Fatigue Education — for all staff & volunteers

HeARTs Speak Perfect Exposure Project — for marketing team