Last year, more than 5,300 pets were turned over to Memphis Animal Services by owners who could no longer care for them.
Although some people surrender their pets for reasons beyond their control, the majority of dogs turned over to the shelter exhibit behavior issues that can be resolved through training.
"It can be as simple as housetraining, where the dog is peeing in the house, to more serious issues, like showing aggressive behavior toward other dogs," said dog trainer Anne Marie Easton. "These owners have gotten to their last straw because they don't know how to deal with these behaviors at home."
Owner surrenders contribute to the shelter's high euthanasia rate, so in an effort to cut that number back, Memphis Animal Services will hold its first free dog training class on Saturday, January 14th, at 11 a.m.
The class, led by Easton, will cover canine behavior basics, such as chewing on furniture, excessive barking, hyperactivity, housetraining incidents, and aggression. But leave the dogs at home. Instead of training the dogs in class, Easton will teach people how to train their dogs at home.
"People may wonder why they can't bring their dogs, but it's an hour-long class. A dog, especially one that has come from the shelter and hasn't had any training, may have a hard time sitting still for an hour. They see other dogs and want to play," said Easton, who runs a dog training school called Pawsitive Companionship. "That takes away from the owners' ability to pay attention to what they're learning."
The class is open to all dog owners. And you really can teach an old dog new tricks, according to Easton. She said the basic training techniques she'll cover could be taught to dogs of any age. However, older dogs that have never been trained may take more patience.
"If you have a puppy, you can mold it. When you have an adult dog with a history of repeating a behavior over and over again, it may take a bit longer to switch that dog's thinking," Easton said.
The class will be interactive, so pet owners can discuss training methods that might not be working, and Easton can teach better alternatives.
"Someone may say, 'I used to put my dog's nose in a puddle of urine when he peed in the house.' But there's a more effective way, and I'll tell you how," Easton said.
Unlike the old animal shelter on Tchulahoma, the new Memphis Animal Services facility at 2350 Appling City Cove has a training room designed for community classes. The dog training class accommodates 25 people, and registration is required. To register, contact the shelter's volunteer coordinator, Tracy Dunlap, at 636-1416.
Dates for future classes will be based on the level of participation and interest expressed by local dog owners.