K9 Head Start -- Putting our best paw forward

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Meeting the needs of the dogs in our care here at the Arizona Animal Welfare League and SPCA requires more than simply food, water, medical attention, exercise, and TLC. We must also attend to their emotional needs -- which is why the K9 Head Start program was created.

The K9 Head Start program pairs up a pet with a person and the two work together to correct behaviors that are seen as undesirable by pet owners, as well as reinforcing and learning desirable behavior and social skills. This training gives the dogs an emotional outlet and some one-on-one time with our staff and volunteers. It also increases their chances of being adopted.

The main goal of the program is to give our pets the tools and skills needed to form lasting and awarding lifetime bonds with their new families and prepare them for a successful adjustment into their new home. K9 Head Start handlers are specially trained volunteers and staff members who work with the dogs on such things as sharing, flirting and handling time alone. In addition, we teach the participating dogs five specific behaviors that they must learn in order to be considered a "graduate." Some of the behaviors including sitting calmly while the leash is attached, automatic " sit" and "down," and entering and settling into a crate voluntarily and unsupervised for at least five minutes.

It's amazing how quickly each dog learns these behaviors! In fact, many of the dogs consistently perform these behaviors with multiple people - even those who are not K9 Head Start handlers.

Come on down to the Adoption Center and meet our K9 Head Start students! If you are interested in becoming a K9 Head Start handler, you'll need to sign up for a volunteer orientation to get started. You can sign up and view our K9 students at the AAWL / SPCA website, .