One of the major challenges of an animal shelter is preventing animals from being returned because of behavioral problems.

The most frequent reason for a return is that the adopted pet is hyperactive and causes too much stress within the home of the new owner.

Through the work of Ann Kinney, our staff dog trainer and her more than 30 volunteers in the Phideaux University program, we are making great strides in adopting out dogs and puppies who have learned to be attentive and have basic social skills. Kinney and her “academic advisers” spend a great deal of time with their “students” using quieting techniques that they then teach to the prospective new owner. The transition to the new home then becomes so much easier and pleasant for both the adoption family and the pet itself.

The next step in our effort to insure that once a dog is adopted that it stays adopted is to do our best to match the right pet to the right owner. Sometimes this is quite a long process. Other times it is a natural match that everyone knows will be a success from the start.

I have watched while Kinney and a volunteer whose “student” is being greeted by a potential adopter spend time with that person talking about the likes and dislikes, needs and hopes for the relationship with the animal.

They will spend time in the education and training room, walking the grounds of the facility and going to the dog park to observe behaviors. We want everyone involved to be happy, so there is never any pressure put on the person seeking to adopt to take a dog we aren’t sure has the potential to be a real match.

Most of the animals who come to the shelter are very trainable and want to please. They just need a good home and a chance to fit in.

Maybe you will be lucky and the pet that you adopted even knows a couple tricks. Remember “Lady,” the shelter dog that we adopted to Universal Studios? She was a scruffy, hyperactive mutt who just needed some attention. She became a star.

After you do adopt an SPCA Phideaux University shelter dog, you may want to continue its training and become certified in a pet therapy registration program, agility training or even become a certified rescue dog team. The bond that you develop with your new companion is made even stronger when you enjoy doing these things together.

Whether its hunting, walking, tracking, helping other people or just playing in the pool at the dog park while you talk to your friends, a happily obedient dog makes life a little bit better. Our goal is to find that perfect match for you, while saving the life of a pet who has been cast into the shelter system for whatever reason.

Come visit us at the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare to volunteer, adopt or just enjoy the facility and dog park. And don’t forget, we also operate a first rate boarding facility, the Wag Inn on Wire at our former adoption center at the Wire Road location, where we have plenty of fresh air, exercise, security and personal attention.

Barbara Nelson is the President/CEO of the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare.