Animal Behavior College Graduate Uses Dog Trainer Skills to Help Shelter Dogs

October 31, 2018

Press release: Animal Behavior College

Rhonda York is a renaissance woman. The professional singer, former college-level vocal performance instructor and ordained minister has always had a deep affection for animals, especially dogs. She’s volunteered countless hours at shelters in Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas, training dogs to increase their chances for adoption. However, she realized that to develop her skills and establish credibility, she needed to obtain professional dog trainer certification. She enrolled in Animal Behavior College’s (ABC) Dog Obedience Program (DOP).

Rhonda graduated in May 2018 and is a certified Animal Behavior College Dog Trainer (ABCDT).

“I’ve always been interested in dog training and have read several books on the subject, but there was only so much I could learn on my own,” Rhonda said. “I knew I had to have training to acquire the knowledge base to work with dogs and their owners to be a more effective trainer.”

October is Adopt a Dog and Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, and as the month concludes, each volunteer’s commitment to helping dogs find forever homes never ends. Rhonda is one of myriad volunteers who have given hundreds of hours and continue to work tirelessly to care for the approximately 3.3 million dogs that enter U.S. shelters every year (according to the ASPCA). These volunteers do everything from cleaning kennels to training dogs. Some do not have dog training experience necessary to address some of the behavioral challenges that often get in the way of adoption. But Rhonda and other certified professional dog trainer volunteers fill the gap by teaching training techniques to volunteers or by training the shelter dogs themselves.

“Bigger dogs can be intimidating and some breeds are more challenging to handle,” Rhonda said. “Professional dog trainers are knowledgeable, experienced and have a familiarity that enables us to zero in on a dog’s particular challenge and offer a solution that addresses it directly. This knowledge is invaluable and beneficial, especially when correcting behaviors that hinder a shelter dog from being placed in a new home.”

Last summer, Rhonda’s husband’s job relocated them to Leavenworth, Kansas. While volunteering at the Leavenworth County Humane Society, she learned about the organization’s plan to create a new dog trainer program for inmates at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. The inmates would teach obedience and socialization skills to canines provided by the Humane Society. Once training concludes, the dogs would be available for adoption. The program, which Rhonda is co-creating with the Humane Society, is still in the planning stage and is expected to launch sometime next year.

In addition to her volunteer work at the Humane Society, Rhonda opened a dog training business, Dog Training with Rhonda York, where she also offers grief counseling for pet owners who’ve lost their beloved pets. Earlier this month, she began volunteer training for the Human Animal Bond Program Fort Leavenworth, a nonprofit service organization. This organization of volunteers conducts animal-assisted activities in schools, nursing homes and healthcare facilities. The program’s purpose is to advocate the unique relationship people have with animals and how this mutually beneficial relationship influences the health and well-being of both.

“I love dogs. They are truly wonderful creations and I thank God for introducing them to us,” Rhonda laughed. “To do this [train dogs and volunteer], you must love dogs, love people and have the desire to help them.”

Dog obedience training is one of the most important aspects of training all dogs, especially shelter dogs. Through ABC’s Students Saving Lives Program (SSL), students enrolled in DOP are required to provide training to homeless canine companions before they are adopted. SSL volunteers provide more than 10 hours of training to local shelters, humane societies, or rescue organizations for the purpose of addressing behavioral and socialization concerns, giving them a better opportunity of finding a loving home.

This year marks the 20th Anniversary of DOP. Since ABC’s inception in 1998, the number of U.S. households owning dogs has increased from 39 percent to 60.2 percent, which equates to 89.7 million dogs, according to the 2017-2018 American Pet Products Association National Owners Survey. ABC’s online dog trainer course teaches positive-reinforcement training techniques and covers a range of relevant topics, including learning theories, basic dog obedience cues, effective problem-solving, business building and pet first aid and CPR. Participants receive invaluable information that equips them to start a dog training business, work for an established company, or pursue other professional canine-related passions. As of September 30, 2018, ABC has graduated and certified more than 15,300 students from its dog trainer program.

For more information, call 800-795-3294 or visit ABC’s website.

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