Dog’s Eye View: Shelter dogs and foster families |

Dog’s Eye View: Shelter dogs and foster families

Laura Tyler/For the Steamboat Today

Early in the month of May, I worked with a committee of wonderful, dedicated people who share the same passion for helping shelter dogs.

Our committee succeeded in bringing one of the brightest most outspoken advocates for the humane care and training of shelter dogs here to the Yampa Valley.

More than 80 people attended Sue Sternberg's Train To Adopt workshop. They came from as far away as Cheyenne, Wyoming, to our own Colorado Front Range to our neighbors to the south in the Vail Valley, Grand Junction, north to Rifle, Meeker and Rangely and our own communities of Steamboat Springs and Craig.

We hosted this daylong, hands-on workshop at the Center of Craig historical site.

Two of the most important points for the day were to always consider the quality of life for the animal first, whether the dog is residing in the shelter or in foster care.

The second point was to help the animal in our care to develop the skills needed to cope and thrive in a new household. The hands-on training and the demonstrations that Sternberg provided were educational, inspirational and applauded by our participants. Sternberg developed a standardized set of training exercises, which can be taught as soon as the dog enters the "shelter" system.

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The regional interest in this workshop and training grew throughout the months we prepared for this training day. We actually thought we'd plan to get 40 participants. That 40 turned into 80-plus by the day of our event. We made new connections and began networking with other people in the industry.

Several of the groups brought along a shelter dog in their program and we all had a chance to not only watch Sternberg's masterful work, but we also had the opportunity to work with these amazing dogs.

The training we began to learn at this event will follow each shelter dog through transport and foster. We now can train the dogs using the same simple techniques. We can standardize that training so that as the dog moves through the shelter/rescue system, he will recognize that training with each person handling him.

The training we start the moment he enters the shelter will continue through his journey to find a new home.

If you've ever considered opening your home to foster a dog, this program will help establish some training and guidelines for helping that dog move toward successful adoption. Foster families can practice these techniques with their own dogs.

Yes, it's important that we love and care for them. It's equally important that we recognize why they were relinquished and help them gain the skills they need.

We all love dogs and want to provide the best for them. The take-home message here is what they need versus our own emotional fulfillment.

They need a quality of life provided throughout their journey to find a new home. Our animal shelters were not intended for long-term confinement. Our shelter staff/volunteers and foster families need additional skills, too. We also need that support from others working toward the same goal; a permanent, safe, happy home for each of the animals in our care.

Laura Tyler is a certified professional dog trainer with 25-plus years of experience and has earned associate certification through the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She owns Total Teamwork Training LLC here in Northwest Colorado. Visit

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