Volunteering with shelter dogs is one of my favorite things to do. I love the exercise, interacting with the public, and of course, the dogs. As I’ve worked with these dogs, I’ve realized that if only people got to know what wonderful dogs they are, they’d fall in love and invite them into their homes.
I know that not everyone is in the position to commit to a dog, especially in a college town like Gainesville, Fl. That doesn’t mean that you can’t give a great dog a good home for a while until he finds his forever home or you move on. You can also volunteer by taking a dog out for a day or play with pups at Alachua County Animal Services (ACAS).
Why Was Coral Dogs Created?
Dogs in foster homes or with pictures and video from outings are more likely to get adopted. Why is that? Perhaps because people are more likely to believe that these dogs are ready to live in a home. My goal is to increase awareness of the foster program, decrease stigma around shelter dogs, and get more dogs into foster homes and out with volunteers by showing that individual dogs are well-behaved in homes and in public.
Short Term Goals
- Increase adoption, as well as awareness and participation in the ACAS foster program, through marketing, socialization, and basic training
- Help individual dogs to “stand out” with targeted marketing
- Increase adoption and foster potential through regular training, exercise, and socialization
- Increase outreach to interest groups for volunteering at ACAS
Long Term Goals
- Reduce stigma around shelter dogs, especially bully breeds, in Alachua County and nationwide
- Create a program that can be easily replicated in shelters nationwide
- Move more shelter dogs into foster homes nationwide
How is Coral Dogs Different than Volunteering with ACAS?
I am a volunteer with Alachua County Animal Services and follow their volunteer guidelines. In no way do I have any additional access to ACAS dogs than any other volunteer. My program separates itself from typical volunteer involvement in the following ways:
- Consistent relationship building, training, and socialization. Because I take these dogs out regularly, I get to know them better and can develop more consistent training, making dogs more adoptable.
- Targeted marketing. Regular social posts and deliberate outreach on behalf of a specific dog may be more likely to get attention than sporadic posts about various dogs.
- Progress reports. As I work with dogs, I gauge their progress so that I can make meaningful statements about their current training level and ongoing progress.
How it Works
How Dogs are Chosen
A dog is suggested by ACAS staff and I take him out for a day outing. If I think the dog is a good match for the program, I take him out six to eight hours a week or more until fostered or adopted. Generally, there are two dogs in the program at a time.
I train using positive, relational methods. I am not a certified trainer and do not work on significant behavioral modification. I use simple, positive methods to help well-adjusted dogs develop self-control and basic training skills.
I use whatever motivates the dog at the moment, whether it is treats, toys, affection, or freedom. I never punish or reprimand. If I want to change a dog’s behavior, I will use a verbal marker like “Eh” or “Nuh uh” and stop the unwanted behavior by taking the dog out of the situation or preventing her from performing the undesired behavior.
I believe that active bonding and relationship building are the foundation of a positive relationship with any dog.
- Sit, stay, down
- Fetch or another interactive game
- Walk well on a leash
- Greet people and dogs calmly
- House and crate training
- Drop/give food and toys
I only use positive training tools like the gentle leader and body harness. All dogs always wear a harness, a martingale collar with ACAS tags, and an Adopt Me vest. Whatever kind of training tool I am using, the leash is also attached to the martingale collar and harness in case the training tool fails.
Behavior is regularly assessed using a numerical scale. This allows for accurate data keeping and progress reports. This is a simple, continuously developing scale. It is based on what I have found relevant to keep track of a dog’s progress. These assessments will not be made public, but they will help to inform my statements about an individual dog’s current state and ongoing improvement.
Marketing and Outreach
Each dog has her own Facebook and Instagram account, where I report progress and post pictures and videos. Everything is shared with ACAS so they can use information and media as needed for their own marketing efforts. I also tag pictures and videos of my dogs when I see them in other ACAS events. Each dog has a profile and extensive progress reports on this site.
I try to matchmake with potential adopters who contact me or who I find out about on social groups, pet finder sites, etc. At the same time, I can advertise ACAS so even if people don’t adopt a dog in my program, they’ll adopt from ACAS.
Dogs go places where potential adopters might be found and I hand out flyers/business cards about my program, the ACAS foster program, and ACAS in general.
I reach out to special interest groups like student groups, veteran groups, etc. to increase volunteering and fostering with ACAS.
Coral’s Dogs is NOT
- A not for profit organization. I do not take donations and am not tax deductible. Please direct your donations directly to ACAS.
- Affiliated with a certified trainer. I provide only socialization and basic training, not significant behavioral modification with problem behaviors. Neither do I offer private training.
- A private rescue. Dogs that I work with remain 100% the property of ACAS at all times. My involvement is entirely through their volunteer and foster program. Adoptions, foster applications, and meetups will be conducted through ACAS.
I am a freelance writer. I am compensated by my clients for articles that I write about my experiences with dogs, as well as for photos and videos that I produce, and sometimes for my time. Products are also donated by my clients for use with ACAS dogs in my program.
How are the dogs who participate in the program chosen?
Dogs are suggested by ACAS staff. I take the dog for a day outing to decide if she is a good match for me and my program.
How do you know that dogs are dog and/or cat-friendly?
ACAS staff tests dogs for dog and/or cat-friendliness. Dog and cat friendliness is reassessed throughout training.
How do you know that dogs are good with kids?
Children of families who are considering adopting a dog often interact with dogs at ACAS. Parents in the public can choose for their children to participate with dogs when the dogs are on outings.
The dog and child are carefully monitored by staff or volunteers and the child’s parent or caregiver. The public is always told that the dog is an ACAS dog. The dog wears an ACAS vest and I wear a volunteer T-shirt on outings.
What makes dogs in the Coral Dogs program different than other dogs at ACAS?
Nothing, except that I have been taking these dogs out regularly for socialization and training, and focus marketing on these dogs for adoption. All adoption procedures, meetings, etc. should be directed through ACAS.
Please Foster, Volunteer, Adopt, or Donate to Your Local Animal Services. Joel and Dogs Like Him Need You!
I’m more than happy to talk about my experience with Alachua County Animal Services and volunteering and fostering in general. Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions at all. You can also message me or follow me on Facebook or Instagram. You can also follow ACAS on Facebook.