Managing Dog Rescue Volunteers – Phoenix Dog Training – Dog Trainer – Behaviorist

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Sam Basso
PHOENIX , AZ AREA: (602) 708-4531
OR, if you are out of this area, inquire about a telephone or e-Lesson
Email: [email protected]

It is important to properly recruit, supply, train, motivate, and follow up on new dog rescue volunteers. Here are my suggestions:

1.) Know your organization and manage it well. Rescue is plagued by amateurish management, goofy financial accounting, nonsense procedures and then ultimately destroyed by internally destructive personal battles over, basically, nothing… As in all organizations, one bad apple can destroy the bunch. You want people who are mature, responsible, workers. Not gossips, troublemakers, social climbers, users (people who take advantage other people), or drama queens. That also applies to whomever is running the group. For example, I’ve had a number of rescue groups over the years that have used me in a bad way… not built a relationship with me, but tried to take advantage of my finances, contacts and skills and then when that was done, tossed me aside like a used tissue… Not a great way to build loyalty from your team. If you’re doing that to me, then you’re doing that to others in your organization. If foundation is built on sand, then the entire house will eventually fall. The leadership is the foundation. Be good leaders and set an example of excellence. Many dogs die as a result of rescue organizations failing their primary mission: it’s all about the dogs.

2.) Interview the prospective volunteer. Get to know them and their pets. Do a home visit, just as you would with a new adoptee. Decide which types of dogs will best suit their environment and skill level. Then decide what kind of additional education and resources they will need in order to be successful. It is up to the organization to support the efforts of these volunteers or you’ll lose them. Start out newbies with an easy dog, a no brainer. Then work up to more challenging dogs. After a while, then you can give them multiple dogs and more difficult situations. There is a long learning curve when it comes to properly dealing with rescue dogs, and you are supposed to be the expert at all of this… so, be a good manager and expert and build a good team. It doesn’t happen by chance.

3.) Create a file: Evaluate every new intake (new dog) regarding past history, known health, temperament, and current issues. A basic file should be created for every dog. This information should accompany each new dog placed in a foster home.

4.) Have a list of important contacts. Who are the organizations contact people for different issues? That includes leaders, experts, veterinarians, and such. You can’t just drop a dog off at someone’s house and then expect them to figure it out.

5.) Have a health plan and standard budget for each new dog. You have to assume every new dog has some kind of medical issue. Just the stress of not having a pack and a home will depress a dog’s immune system. Add in injuries, parasites, infections and such and assume that every dog you take in is a potential vector for the spread of diseases into any new home, and at risk of medical meltdown or will get aggressive to defend itself. Educate the organization, the volunteers, and your experts as to a standardized approach for dealing with each dog that comes through your organization. It is unacceptable to just drop off an untested, unknown, filthy, emaciated, sick, parasite laden dog at someone’s front door without a plan for helping that dog out. There should be a quarantine plan for some dogs, too. That should also be formalized, and you should know which volunteers are best equipped to deal with the worst case dogs.

6.) Make compatible foster home placements. The same dog will act differently in different homes. You need to know how to best place dogs. Some of your volunteers will be better set up for one kind of dog than another. You need to know that.

7.) Have a good introduction plan. It is foolish to just drop dogs off at someone’s house without a proper introduction and safety plan for each dog. Strange dogs don’t have a territory or a pack. Resident dogs have a territory and a pack. Strange dogs will feel stressed, cornered and threatened on an unfamiliar territory, surrounded by an unfamiliar pack. Educate everyone as to your introduction methods. Every introduction should be accomplished with patience before the person who drops the dog off leaves the dog with the foster home.

8.) Follow up. Every organization needs a communication plan with a feedback / follow up mechanism. The dog file needs to be continually updated regarding breed, sex, age, health, temperament, training needs, budget, list of people responsible, list of people to be contacted, and emergency procedures. Be there to solve problems instead of laying on guilt trips. If a volunteer is having problems, the dog is in trouble, too.

9.) Training and behavior modification plan. Every dog that enters rescue, typically, has some behavioral problems. Those should be noted, specifically, in the dog’s file. Then specific homework should be implemented to ensure that this dog is adoptable.

10.) Adoption plan. Foster homes tend to fill up fast and then they have to turn perfectly good dogs away. Foster homes also experience a great deal of stress housing all these dogs. It isn’t uncommon for foster volunteers to experience family strife, financial hardship, fatigue, feelings of not being appreciated or listened to, and so forth. The successful, financially sound, rapid turnover of dogs is essential. But, it is also important to keep your foster volunteers, experts, and paid professionals all happy and working together. Every dog should have a plan for adoption.

11.) New home follow up. Most dogs take between 2 to 3 months to settle into a new home. Most dogs turn out fine. But some don’t. It should be clear that if things aren’t working out, who the new family should contact, and support should be provided to minimize returns. Many dog problems can be solved through proper supervision, containment, training and behavior modification. It is especially important not to burn bridges with new owners. If one dog doesn’t work out, that doesn’t mean they might not take a different dog. It isn’t uncommon for rescue organizations to make new dog owners feel guilty for having problems, instead of helping them solve problems and making sure they have the right dog for their homes.

I have been doing rescue volunteer work for over 15 years. I’ve worked with small and large organizations. I’ve seen the good, bad and ugly. I’m available for free consultations.