Pets and their owners practice different activities to improve pet behavior. Photos by Leila Dycus

Pets and their owners practice different activities to improve pet behavior. Photos by Leila Dycus

 

A trainer at the Humane Society teaches a puppy how to sit.

A trainer at the Humane Society teaches a puppy how to sit.

By Leila Dycus, Staff Writer

Leila Dycus Staff Writer he Morgan County Humane Society’s newest edition is working to keep dogs out of shelters and in their homes.

“We truly want to support, through education, ways that people can help themselves and their dog,” said Linda Lethbridge.

Lethbridge began volunteering at another area rescue a year ago when she came across the Morgan County Humane Society. After volunteering at the HSMC, the director Belinda Bell offered for Linda to attend a dog-training seminar with an organization called Sit Happens in Athens.

“I think it was like the perfect storm,” said Linda Lethbridge. “The humane society, Tina’s program, and me being very interested in supporting that kind of training here at the rescue and now we’ve got it started.” Recently, Linda accepted a part time staff position at HSMC training dogs and their humans.

As a trainer, Linda works with the animals at the society and provides training classes for people and their dogs in the community. Lethbridge is currently an apprentice through Sit Happens. Sit Happens is a dog training group in Georgia where lead trainers work with animals at different Pet Supply Plus locations. Linda was coached by Tina Spring in Athens.

“One of Tina’s goals is always paying forward, and the way that she does that is she brings the next generation of trainers on board,” said Lethbridge. With the experience Linda has gained she is able to work with different dogs in the center. According to Belinda, Linda comes in three to four times a week and works with the dogs. She also spends time working with other staff members to teach them how to better work with the animals.

The goal of Linda’s work with the dogs, and the staff, is to make the dogs more adoptable and most importantly keep them in their homes. Belinda went on to describe a lesson she had heard Linda teaching during a training session. “We’re not trying to train the perfect pet, we’re just want to make them so that we can live together. “ “People turn animals in for things that can be fixed and they don’t need to die in shelters,” said Belinda Bell.

“That’s our goal, to keep animals homed. Once they leave here they stay home, they don’t come back for behavioral issues.” Imagine having to choose which animals will be brought back to the humane society. Belinda Bell and other staff members spend much of their time traveling to different pounds in the area. It is their job to choose which animals will be most adoptable and bring them back to the center. One of the most prevalent reasons that animals end up in pounds is because of behavior issues.

This concept inspired Linda Lethbridge and Belinda Bell to create training classes for animals in the community. The latest endeavor for the HSMC is the establishment of training classes. According to Lethbridge the training classes will bring education to the community. This education keeps animals out of shelters and in their homes.

Training classes are open to the public, not only to families who have adopted through the Morgan County Humane Society. Training classes take place in the portico of the center. Classes are broken down into two types of courses. The first of the two classes is a puppy class, designed to work with dogs four months and under.

According to Linda, the puppy class gives owners the tools to start their puppies correctly. If a puppy is started correctly people can put lifetime lessons in place in a matter of a few weeks. The second class the center is now offering is a foundations class.

According to Linda, the foundation class trains the trainers. This means that she trains the owners to train their own dogs. This allows owners to work with their current dogs and dogs down the road. The foundation class is said to handle many behaviors and be very active and full. Information about the classes can be found on the HSMC Facebook page and website.

Since the program is new, they are still working on getting a consistent schedule of classes. Weather also plays a role in when the classes are held. Currently, a foundation class is going on and after it finishes, the training will break until February, when the weather is more contusive.

The Morgan County Humane Society has worked very hard to price the classes so that the public can enjoy them. The training classes and work that Linda does with dogs that are in the center or have been adopted out allows people to handle behaviors that their dogs do that they do not like. According to Linda the HSMC does so much in taking care of the animals health and their wellbeing.

Linda’s work takes that care to the next level so that new owners will get the best pet possible. According to Belinda, training classes and working with the animals in the center are only two pieces of what Linda does for the humane society.

Many times people come into the center looking to adopt a dog and Linda is able to help match owners with dogs. This also allows Linda to teach the staff how to better match animals with owners. “The staff is learning leaps and bounds,” said Bell. “It’s a really great partnership that we’re very fortunate to have.”