Often times in shelters, dogs are brought into a loud scary place where everything is unfamiliar to them and then they are placed in a cage. They may get a walk a day if they are lucky and very little dog interactions. Aimee Sadler, Executive Director of behavior and training at Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation, is changing the whole shelter experience for homeless dogs.
Aimee Sadler grew up with a lot of dogs since her mother rescued strays. She had as many as 17 at one time, so she was always very comfortable with a pack of dogs. Aimee became a private dog trainer. In 1998, she started training homeless dogs in shelters.
“When I began training the shelter dogs, it was obvious to me letting them play together first would allow me to be more efficient and effective in the manners and obedience training since they were better prepared for the lessons when they had been afforded the opportunity to expend their energy first. It was instantly apparent that utilizing play groups in shelters improved the quality of life for most of them immeasurably,” says Sadler.
Aimee has even rehabilitated aggressive dogs that come into the shelter by having them interact with a balanced pack of dogs. Aimee also believes that dogs are far better teachers than humans could ever be. During play groups, she tries to intervene as little as possible and let the dogs work it out and learn to communicate. If she feels that the dogs are at a stand still and need some help, she will step in.
Aimee Sadler presents her Playing For Life seminars in shelters across the United States where she discusses how play groups can benefit dogs socially and behaviorally. Afterwards, a play group demo is done so staff and volunteers can learn how to effectively manage a play group.
Aimee’s training program has been fully implemented at the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation and Longmont Humane Society with great success. Before this training program took place, the live release rate at these shelters were in the mid 70s. Now they are above 95%. She has also went to over 35 shelters to teach them how to run play groups.
Customized internships are available for volunteers and staff of shelters at the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation in Southampton, New York.