Animal Behavior College grad uses dog trainer skills to help shelter dogs
Press Release: College of Animal Behavior
Rhonda York is a renaissance woman. The professional singer, former college vocal performance instructor and ordained minister has always had a deep affection for animals, especially dogs. She has volunteered countless hours at shelters in Colorado, Nebraska and Kansas, training dogs to increase their chances of adoption. However, she realized that in order to develop her skills and establish her credibility, she needed to get a professional dog trainer certification. She enrolled in the Animal Behavior College (ABC) Dog Obedience Program (DOP).
Rhonda graduated in May 2018 and is a Certified Animal Behavior College (ABCDT) Dog Trainer.
“I’ve always been interested in dog training and read several books on the subject, but couldn’t learn much on my own,” Rhonda said. “I knew I had to go through training to gain the knowledge base needed to work with dogs and their owners in order to be a more effective trainer.”
October is Adopt-A-Dog Month and Adopt-A-Shelter Dog Month, and at the end of the month, every volunteer’s commitment to helping dogs find forever homes never ends. Rhonda is one of the myriads of volunteers who have donated hundreds of hours and continue to work tirelessly to care for the approximately 3.3 million dogs that enter US shelters each year (according to the ASPCA). These volunteers do everything from cleaning the kennels to training the dogs. Some don’t have the necessary dog training experience to handle some of the behavioral challenges that often get in the way of adoption. But Rhonda and other certified professional dog trainers fill the void by teaching volunteers training techniques or by training the shelter dogs themselves.
“Big dogs can be intimidating and some breeds are harder to manage,” Rhonda said. “Professional dog trainers are knowledgeable, experienced and have a familiarity that allows us to focus on a dog’s particular challenge and offer a solution that directly addresses it. This knowledge is invaluable and beneficial, especially when it’s about correcting behaviors that prevent a shelter dog from being placed in a new home.
Last summer, Rhonda’s husband’s job moved them to Leavenworth, Kansas. While volunteering at the Leavenworth County Humane Society, she heard about the organization’s plan to create a new dog-training program for inmates at Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. Inmates taught obedience and socialization skills to dogs provided by the Humane Society. Once the training is complete, the dogs would be available for adoption. The program, which Rhonda is co-creating with the Humane Society, is still in the planning stages and is expected to launch next year.
In addition to her volunteer work at the Humane Society, Rhonda opened a dog training business, Dog training with Rhonda York, where she also offers bereavement counseling for pet owners who have lost their beloved pet. Earlier this month, she began volunteer training for the Human Animal Bond Program Fort Leavenworth, a nonprofit service organization. This volunteer organization conducts animal-assisted activities in schools, nursing homes and healthcare facilities. The goal of the program is to promote the unique relationship people have with animals and how this mutually beneficial relationship influences the health and well-being of both.
“I love dogs. They are truly wonderful creations and I thank God for presenting them to us,” Rhonda laughed. “To do that [train dogs and volunteer]you have to love dogs, love people and have the desire to help them.
Dog obedience training is one of the most important aspects of training all dogs, especially shelter dogs. Under ABC’s Students Saving Lives (SSL) program, students enrolled in DOP are required to provide training to homeless canine companions before they are adopted. SSL volunteers provide over 10 hours of training to local shelters, humane societies or relief organizations with the goal of addressing behavioral and socialization issues, giving them a better chance of finding a loving home.
This year marks the 20th anniversary of DOP. Since ABC’s founding in 1998, the number of U.S. households with dogs has grown from 39% to 60.2%, which equates to 89.7 million dogs, according to the ABC’s National Ownership Survey. American Pet Products Association for 2017-2018. ABC’s online dog training course teaches positive reinforcement training techniques and covers a range of relevant topics including learning theories, basic dog obedience cues, effective problem solving , entrepreneurship and pet first aid and CPR. Participants receive invaluable information that enables them to start a dog training business, work for an established company, or pursue other professional dog-related passions. As of September 30, 2018, ABC has graduated and certified over 15,300 students from its dog training program.
For more information, call 800-795-3294 or visit ABC website.