Launched an office foster program to help dogs who are deteriorating get out of their kennels and expose them to novel people and environments. The program allows staff working in the shelter to “foster” a dog for the day in their office. This provides dogs with more time outside of the kennel while also letting staff gather a more comprehensive behavior assessment of the dogs.
Donya Satriale, Director of Behavior for Charleston Animal Society, explains in this Q&A how they did it and how you can implement this fun, lifesaving program at your organization.
ASPCApro: What is the goal of the Office Dog Program?
Satriale: The goal is to have the dogs out of their kennel for as much time as possible. During this time out, they get appropriate exposure to new people, sounds, and environments. This gives staff a more accurate picture of how each dog will be once it settles into a home.
ASPCApro: What did you consider before launching the Office Dog Program?
Satriale: There were a few considerations that needed to happen before launching. First and foremost is the behavior the dog is displaying:
Are they fearful?
High energy, jumpy and/or mouthy?
Second would be setting the goal of the time outside of the kennel:
Is it for socialization for fearful dogs, or is it geared more towards addressing kennel presentation due to reactivity or high energy?
And lastly, the staff pairing is taken into consideration:
Does this person have an office in a quieter section of the building?
Do they have a rotating door of people coming through?
Do they have other dogs that frequent their office?
ASPCApro: What makes the Office Dog Program special?
Satriale: The program provides dogs with much-needed decompression time. Even if they cannot fully leave the building for regular fostering or CAS’s Paws Around Town program, they can get out of their kennels and try new experiences. This is a great opportunity for dogs to display their true behavior.
ASPCApro: How are the animals selected?
Satriale: We keep running lists of our dogs who are at risk of deterioration, deteriorating, or are fearful and need slow socialization. We then make appropriate pairings with staff members.
ASPCApro: What changes have you seen as a result?
Satriale: We have gathered a plethora of information since launching this program. Dogs are more settled when returning to their kennels after an office foster day. We figure out what toys and treats they love and what “quirks” they have. For example, one of our office fosters thought jumping on the desk (yes, all four paws) and looking at the window was the best pastime. We continuously see that the dogs we place in office foster are less reactive or high energy when returning to their kennel. We’ve also observed that spending the day in the office builds a fearful dog's confidence much quicker than if they remain in the kennel.
ASPCApro: What advice would you give to other organizations wanting to try a similar program?
Satriale: Give it a go! Start by identifying a few staff members willing to welcome a dog to their office even if it is just for a few hours. It does not need to be completely organized and perfect when you begin. Over time you’ll see what works best for your organization. Not only will this benefit the dogs, but staff also enjoy having companions in their office for the day.