Since KC Pet Project was founded in 2012, we have always sought to be a progressive, lifesaving organization. One that is at the forefront of our industry. We have always lived by our motto, “Solutions, Not Excuses” – finding new ways to save more lives for eight years out of a former construction storage building before finally moving into our new home at the Kansas City Campus for Animal Care in 2020. It is because of you, our supporters, our volunteers, and our staff, that have supported us for 10 years and helped us save more than 89,500 pets in our first decade of operating the Kansas City, Missouri animal shelter. With more than 15,500 pets coming into our shelter in 2023, there is a need, more than ever, for additional resources and to advance our programs to meet the growing needs of pets, keep our community safe, and save more lives.
The level of lifesaving we are able to achieve can be attributed to having one of the most progressive Dog Behavior and Enrichment programs in the country. The team is led by our Director of Canine Operations, who guides conversations with shelters, national organizations, and individuals from around the country regarding behavior programs, training protocols and policies, and where our industry is heading in the future. Our Behavior and Enrichment team members at KC Pet Project have expertise in dog training and handling and strive to cultivate relationships with dogs in our shelter, enriching their lives while they’re at the shelter, and preparing them for the next phase of their life in a new home.
Our Dog Behavior and Enrichment Program utilizes an individualized approach to lifesaving. We have four main pillars of our program: Dog Walking, Playgroups, Enrichment, and Behavior Support. Every dog that arrives at our shelter has an individualized plan that can include playgroups, behavior modification, teaching basic obedience skills they can use in their new home, and other activities built from our observations of the dog while in our care, along with any notes we have from a previous home, foster home, etc. The shelter can be a high stress environment for a dog, so clear communication is key in building relationships and trust with our dogs – many of which have never lived in an indoor environment or around people or other animals before coming into our care.
We take a balanced approach to our training program, and we use a variety of training tools to bridge communication from person to dog. This not only increases our dogs’ knowledge, adoptability, and training that they take into a new home, but it keeps our team members, volunteers, and the public safe. For example, our foundational training plan includes martingale collars on every dog, and we may assign other equipment as the need presents itself. In addition, both staff and volunteers wear treat pouches and use clickers to practice doorway patience and teach leash manners.
Our Dog Walking Program categorizes dogs and their ease of walkability based on observed behavior and notes from previous owners. Our staff and volunteers are trained at each level on how to work with the dogs to increase their knowledge and skills for their new homes.
Our Enrichment Program consists of providing mental stimulation and treats for each dog in our care. In-kennel enrichment can include feeding dogs from puzzle feeders and providing other engaging options during the day such as Kongs and Nylabones. Our enrichment program also includes 2-3 walks outside per day while working on basic handling techniques and skills, such as sitting or waiting at the door. We are always exploring and adding new enrichment opportunities for the dogs in our care.
Our Canine Playgroup Program is one of the most robust in the country and is modeled after the Dogs Playing for Life program. Playgroups happen every day at our shelter, with an average of 150 dogs participating daily. Playgroups are how we assess the way dogs interact with each other and learn what their playstyle is to better match them with adoptive families. Other benefits of this program include the increase in exercise the dogs receive, the benefit of dogs being around other dogs, and the time outside a stressful environment that helps increase/establish a positive relationship with them.
Our Behavior Support Team provides assistance with both adoption follow-up behavior-related questions and concerns and
KC Pet Project saved 93% of all the pets that came to our shelter in 2023. We believe that our progressive approach to training, behavior, and enrichment has helped us save those lives. We currently have the most experienced canine behavior team in our history at KC Pet Project – staff who care about successful outcomes for every dog that comes to our shelter, and we are incredibly proud of the work they do to save the lives of dogs in our community.
For a list of behavior resources, including our partnership with Good Pup, click here.