Tom Candy, CDBC

Building a relationship with your local rescue can not only be a way of improving the welfare and rehomeability of many dogs but can also help with expanding your client base and business. Time is a hugely important and often stretched resource and therefore the idea of working for free can be daunting and difficult to justify. However, creating a positive working relationship with a local rescue can lead to an increase in referrals, with rescue dogs often requiring extra support in the home.

There are plenty of ways to get involved with rescue, but below are some areas that could be a good place to start.

Learning about the rescue

Learning about a local rescue allows you to get to know the staff, the centre, processes and the types of dog that the centres work with. Understanding the number of dogs, how many they rehome, how many staff they have and the type of problems they see, gives us a foundation for the type of support we may be able to offer. For example, if a centre has a reasonably long length of stay then a couple of sessions on enrichment may make the most difference to their dogs. Similarly, if they get a lot of dogs who pull on the lead and this prevents them being chosen then a session for the staff on loose lead walking may be invaluable, as well as leading to a follow-up appointment when that dog is rehomed.

Building a relationship with a rescue may also give you an idea of facilities that may benefit you, rescues often have outdoor or indoor training venues which they may be willing to let his access in return for helping them out.

Invite kennel dogs to your classes

If you have any classes that are not full, or you can squeeze an extra dog in, then inviting shelter staff to bring one of their dogs can be a great way to donate time without losing it. It allows kennel dogs to work in a challenging environment whilst learning new skills and can be a great story for both the rescue and your website. If you plan to do this, it’s important to highlight the type of dogs that will be appropriate for your class setups. This could also be done for specific classes such as scent work or cognition games, which will also help to up-skill the staff to then pass that training on to other dogs.

Training for staff and volunteers

Lots of rescues have limited ability or resources for staff training, offering to run sessions for staff can be a way to reach the maximum dogs in the minimal time. Body language, normal vs abnormal behaviour and learning theory can be an easy sit-down session to organise. Once the staff and the rescue have a fuller understanding of training and behaviour, you could think about providing more practical training sessions looking at teaching the basics of training and behaviour modification, managing dog-to-dog introductions, and modifying more complex behaviours. Just an hour a month could provide a shelter’s staff and volunteer base with skills to get more dogs into homes or improve the quality of life of dogs who are down on their luck.

Supporting the rescue and the dogs

As well as providing staff training or working with dogs at the centre there are several ways we can support dogs and staff remotely. Offering discount on an initial post rehoming consult or classes may be a good way of gaining interest in your services, whilst also reducing the chances of a return to kennel. You don’t need to restrict this offer to dogs with behaviour issues, either — being able to show new adopters how to help the dog settle in their new environment and teaching some basics can make a big difference to the adopters’ overall comfort and the likelihood that the dog will flourish in their new home.

Providing training plans for general behaviour or specific dogs.

As well as providing staff training or working with dogs at the centre there are several ways we can support dogs and staff remotely. Offering discount on an initial post rehoming consult or classes may be a good way of gaining interest in your services, whilst also reducing the chances of a return to kennel. You don’t need to restrict this offer to dogs with behaviour issues, either — being able to show new adopters how to help the dog settle in their new environment and teaching some basics can make a big difference to the adopters’ overall comfort and the likelihood that the dog will flourish in their new home.

Providing website content

Rescue staff are often rushing about with limited time and lots of rescues don’t have a behaviour team. Producing content for adopters can be a great way to develop a link with a local shelter. Having a specific area of your website where shelter staff can direct people who have adopted dogs from their shelter to content will lead to increased referrals whilst helping dogs settle into their new home. In this area of your site, you could create videos, blogs or handouts on training basics like loose lead walking, toilet training, and providing enrichment. Then the shelter can share these links with adopters, instantly drawing potential clients to your site while also taking the pressure off the shelter staff who would otherwise have to deal with phone calls and emails from new adopters about these topics.

On a similar note, consider sponsoring an adoption pack that can go home with the dogs, or offering to run a pre-adoption talk either in person or as a recorded webinar. Pre-adoption talks aim to provide basic advice regarding settling a dog in, with tips on things like house training, preventing problem barking, meeting dogs on walks etc. Providing this advice before adoption can help to prepare both new and existing owners for welcoming a new dog into their home. It also offers another opportunity to reach out to potential clients, on a larger scale with limited time depending on your arrangement with the centre, particularly if you go down the webinar route.

Using social media whilst helping rescues

Rescues will often have a larger social media reach than your business page, but even a thriving business page will benefit not only from the cute pictures of dogs needing homes but seeing you utilising your skills and knowledge to help rescues. With more and more trainers popping up we need things that can make us stand out. Short videos on social media of work you are doing with rescue dogs can be used on both rescue and personal pages to promote the dogs but also your expertise.

Upskill yourself

Regardless of whether your new to training or already experienced working with rescue dogs is always a great way of honing our practical skills. With rescue dogs we often have to work on the complete basics from the ground up, the lack of background information combined with stressful environments and short times to bond can mean that we constantly need to change and develop our training plans. Recording sessions can allow us to look back and identify any issues with timing, treat delivery and general training skills without having the pressure of a client in front of us. The input for the dogs in rescue will also go a long way in terms of enrichment and rehomeability.

These are just a few examples of different ways you can develop a working relationship with local rescues that feels good and helps your business grow. Small inputs and offers are often accepted with open arms and by working together we can easily create a mutually beneficial relationship for everyone, so have a look for rescues near to you and get in contact!