Training Shelter Dogs for Service and Therapy Work


  • Hannah Buckner
  • Brooke Barnett
  • Tyler Marcrum
  • Sarah Bingham


Are shelter dogs’ reliable candidates for service work, and what is the best way to utilize the dogs selected to be successful in the field of work? In this research project we were able to broaden our data by temperament testing more dogs in the Putnam County Animal Shelter, using three steps of evaluation. We tested behavioral issues such as fear, fear aggression, food aggression, dog aggression, lack of confidence, etc. With the selected few dogs, we were able to pursue training in the areas or diabetic detection, cancer detection, peanut detection, and therapy work. With these selected dogs, the goal was to remove them from a shelter setting as quickly as possible; to increase chances of success with this project, some of the researchers adopted the dogs to further train in the tasks assigned to the dog. For the full duration of the research project, the team continuously evaluated dogs as they cycled into the shelter. The most important attribute of the dogs was confidence and ability to engage with the handler in new environments. Throughout the entire process of evaluations, the dogs were introduced to new environments slowly to decrease the amount of stress and help with developing communication with the handler. The dogs had to pass through four phases of evaluations. For conditioning dogs to odor and scent discrimination we have investigated designing a scent wall to minimize the contact the handler has with the odor source.