While Marin Humane is a nice animal shelter, it’s still a shelter. And time spent in even the nicest kennel or cat condo can be stressful for animals. To keep our animal guests as happy and healthy as possible, the Behavior & Training team has expanded our services.

DOGS: The Screen Team gets to know each dog, fits them with the best walking equipment, and ascertains if there are special needs. Those needing extra training or behavior modification are managed by The B-Team, which is made up of staff and volunteers from the Behavior & Training and Animal Care departments who implement behavior modification plans to ensure the best possible outcome.

We now have several special classes for our shelter dogs, like “Shelter Scents” which teaches dogs how to locate various scents. Scenting is a huge part of a dog’s physiology and emotional health and literally, any dog can participate. We also provide basic clicker training classes and even a tricks class.

Shelter dogs also participate in doggie playgroups if they choose or seem to enjoy them. High stress, free-for-all play can create difficult behavior issues in the long run for adopters so only dogs who choose to play do.

Next up on our list of services is a shelter dog “activity park.” Our goal is to create a parkour-type obstacle course where they can interact intellectually and physically with the environment and handler. We’re still seeking funding for the activity features so if you’d like to support this exciting venture, please contact our Development department.

Last, but certainly not least, is our Kennel Enrichment program. Any dog can participate since it happens directly in the dog’s kennel. It can be scent-based, where novel scents are introduced into a dog’s space or auditory, where a volunteer reads books to a dog, or taste-based, where dogs receive flavored “pupsicles” on hot days.

CATS: Our feline residents also benefit from shelter enrichment. Bored kitties frequently act up by scratching or biting, and depressed kitties are more likely to get sick. Keeping them entertained provides a better shelter experience for them—and happy cats get adopted more quickly!

We’re upping our game by providing food puzzles and something called a “Ripple Rug.” Cats love stealthy situations where the hunting environment changes and a Ripple Rug can be reconfigured each day, providing a different environment. Clicker training helps tire the cat’s mind and teaches appropriate behaviors for interacting with people. Many cats are quick learners! As we develop protocols that work, we’ll be expanding our Feline Intervention Team. Changing up toys, hiding them in puzzles, and modifying the environment with different textures helps make shelter life more interesting.