It’s 5:30 on an October afternoon in Baltimore. Normally the air would fill with buzzing, chirping sounds of insects. Not today.
What I hear instead is a good bit of barking and the pleadings of owners, urging their dogs to sit and be quiet. It’s not working.
They’ve come to the right place, a parking lot next to BARCS (the Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter). Each person here adopted their dog from BARCS, and this is part of the adoption package — a free course in obedience training. They call it BARCS University.
It sounds cute, but the purpose is very serious. BARCS doesn’t want these owners ever to bring their dogs back to the shelter. A good way to prevent surrender is to help make pups obedient companions.
BARCS Training and Enrichment Manager Matthew Fazzino explains, “We’re really just trying to make sure our dogs succeed in their new homes…We don’t want them back for reasons that are fixable.”
This class meets one night a week for six weeks. At each class, human and canine students tackle a new skill: loose leash walking, sit/stay, place, come and down/stay. The final class reviews all of the behaviors and sends graduates on their way with a BARCS University bandana in lieu of a diploma.
Of course, classwork is just a start. The real results came with lots of repetition, i.e., practice at home.
Says student Hana Machover, “I think a lot of people with dog training don’t realize you have to be really consistent …it’s so, so important.”
Those who do the work get great results.
At the fifth class, Andrea Metz marveled at the transformation in her dog, Poppy.
“I got her at three months and (she) had no training. She was out of control…She is a totally different dog because of everything they do here.”
Anyone who has ever paid for dog training knows how costly it can be. Having this available for free is a huge benefit to adopting from BARCS.
And while this is a relatively new program, it’s open to anyone who has ever adopted from the shelter.
This is yet another way that modern-day animal shelters like BARCS continue to find new and creative ways to help their animals and ensure successful adoptions.
BARCS University isn’t an accredited school or an Ivy League institution. But for adopted dogs, it’s awesome. This education strengthens the bond between owners and pets and helps keep them together for a lifetime.
As Matthew Fazzino sees the dramatic results accomplished in just a few weeks, he chuckles and says with irony, “You know, they grow up so fast!”
Thank you to Deborah Stone Hess for writing this blog post and volunteering to help BARCS create a series of videos and blog posts to help better explain our programs.