Louisville, Ky., – Kentucky Humane Society (KHS) has announced a new dog training program that matches veterans and active military personnel with at-risk shelter dogs. KHS is partnering with Active Heroes, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing military suicides, on this new initiative.
The Patriot Rehabilitation of Untrained Dogs (PROUD) program will train participants how to provide behavioral rehabilitation to shelter dogs that are considered difficult to adopt because of behavioral issues. These issues may include extreme shyness and fear, lack of manners, overstimulation, hyperactivity or barrier reactivity—meaning they bark, growl or lunge while in a kennel but not when they are out.
KHS spokesperson Andrea Blair and Active Heroes president and founder Troy Yocum made the announcement at KHS’ Waggin’ Trail Walk for the Animals at Louisville Waterfront Park’s Big Four Lawn.
In the PROUD program, KHS trainers will instruct veterans and active military personnel to become dog trainers, or “military handlers.” The military handlers will use positive reinforcement methods to teach the dogs basic obedience, in-home manners and confidence-building exercises to help them succeed in the shelter environment and in their forever homes.
PROUD will allow military handlers to gain new skills, along with the knowledge that they are providing a lifesaving service to dogs in need, according to Justine Saudan, KHS Strategic Programs Director.
“The Patriot Rehabilitation of Untrained Dogs program will allow us to take in, rehabilitate and find homes for at-risk shelter dogs,” said Saudan. “Training shelter dogs in foster homes can help them learn important skills that make them easier to adopt and help ensure the dogs remain in their new homes and are not returned to shelters once they are adopted.”
Active Heroes also thinks the program will be beneficial to military men and women.
“Not only is PROUD a lifesaving program for dogs, but we believe it will also be a lifesaving program for veterans and active military personnel,” said Yocum. “Many military men and women suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder and feelings of isolation post-war or post-trauma. By training dogs, we believe they may learn coping skills to help manage the stress and triggering points that can lead to suicide. By training dogs, we believe they are getting a new mission in their new civilian life, which will help reduce the stress and feelings of isolation. They will also have the satisfaction of knowing they are helping needy shelter dogs.”
After completion of the program, PROUD graduates will be ready for adoption through KHS. Adoptive families will receive behavior information on their dogs and access to in-office behavior counseling, so that they have support while their dogs transition into their new homes.
Patriot Rehabilitation of Untrained Dogs is based on a successful prison-based program that KHS ran for two years called Prisoner Rehabilitation of Untrained Dogs. That program ended in December 2014, and KHS began exploring home-based training options. Active Heroes will assist KHS in the recruitment of military handlers and will provide training space at their Community Center on Old Bardstown Road in Glenmary.
If you are a military veteran or active military personnel and would like to learn how you can participate, visit this page.