It’s a grand idea: keep dogs out of shelters by educating and supporting their humans.
Debra Ekman, founder of Your Dog’s Friend, realized the urgent need for this after spending time in the rescue world. It became clear to her that many times dogs were being adopted that did not fit the owner’s lifestyle, then because there was not a reliable place for owners to turn to when there were issues, they were returned.
Beginning in 2006 with free workshops and advice, this small mostly volunteer non-profit now offers a wide variety of free and paid services for everyone ranging from shelters and rescues to veterinarians and the public, as well as a wealth of important resources for everyone. According to Debra, the most utilized workshop is the Reactive Dog Class and others dealing with aggression on some level. This is due to many factors, such as dogs not being exposed in positive ways to other dogs, humans and environments as in the past. A new and exciting offering is the Foster Dog Alliance which focuses on making foster dogs the best they can be so that they become more adoptable.
When asked what the biggest challenge has been in making a difference for dogs and their people, Debra states: “It has been overcoming old-school training and behavior theories that can harm dogs, especially if people see dominance, punishment-based training on TV, or if their vet refers them to a trainer who uses their methods.” On the other hand: “The biggest reward has been the feedback from people who appreciate what they have been able to learn through our programs, and especially those who let you know that they couldn’t have kept their dog without you.”
As Debra wisely says: “The easiest way to train a dog is to set him up for success.” Over 3500 people have taken this to heart so far, and countless dogs are still with their owners as a result, thanks to Your Dog’s Friend.
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