Helping Shelter Animals

Helping behaviorally challenged animals is a top priority at the East Bay SPCA. In 2011, we created the Behavior and Training Department which creates specific behavior plans for animals who need a little extra TLC during their stay. The department creates individualized plans to help our shelter animals to overcome behavioral challenges and to provide enrichment during their stay so that they can be adopted into new, loving homes. Our canine program includes a specially trained group of volunteers dedicated to implementing the training plans designed by the behavior department.

We have launched an ambitious program of On-Demand Cat and Dog Classes, focused on providing introductory courses on behavior, as well as specialty classes that are designed to help understand and address specific challenges.

Behavior Modification Program

Our nationally-recognized Behavior Modification program uses trained volunteers and shelter staff to help dogs who may be fearful of people, handling, or their environment; dogs who need extra enrichment to keep their minds busy during their shelter stay; and those who could benefit from learning manners more conducive to living in a human world. Cats similarly benefit from training to help them feel safe in the presence of people, to learn to self-regulate a propensity for over-stimulation, and to learn appropriate play with other cats and humans in order to facilitate the human-animal bond.

Backed in Science

All our training is done utilizing scientifically-based, humane methods. We endeavor to stay up to date on the latest research, constantly expanding our education, and bringing what we learn to the animals in our care. In addition to our work with shelter animals, the Behavior and Training Department manages our state of the art dog training classes. In 2020 we will be launching an ambitious program of monthly seminars and workshops, focused on providing the public with the most up to date information on dog and cat behavior.

Numbers Behind the Lives

In 2019, we worked with 198 dogs and 192 cats, most of which other shelters would not have had the resources to make available for adoption. We are proud to implement the latest advances in the field of behavior science to help the animals in our care, and we are grateful to our community for providing us with the resources to give them chances at new lives.

Future Forward

We are excited to extend our volunteer program to include a similar group of volunteer trainers for our feline population. Our goal is to help even more cats find loving homes and shorten their length of stay.

Success Stories


Georgina, Courageous Canine
Georgina came to the East Bay SPCA as part of a hoarding case. She lived in horrible conditions with a lot of other dogs and was under-socialized and had experience generalized fear. As a result, she was held out of our Adoption Program for one week in order to build her confidence through a lot of praise and rewards whenever she made “brave choices” such as soliciting affection from humans, walking through doorways, etc.

After her Polite Pooch work with dedicated volunteers, she was able to enter the Adoption Program where she found a new home within a few short days!


Issabelle, Polite Pooch
The beginning of Issabelle’s story is a sad one. After her owner passed away, she was surrendered to the East Bay SPCA by a family member who could not care for her.

When she arrived at our shelter, she was anxious. Her anxiety was expressed through her behavior and she was jumping, panting, and whining while in her kennel.

Our behavior team worked to help enrich her stay through training, socialization and mental stimulation games but her anxiety and attention-seeking behaviors were not relieved and it was clear that she needed to be out of the shelter environment to succeed.

Isabelle was placed in a foster-to-adopt program. During this time, she continued her Polite Pooch training and learned house training, loose leash walking, and freshened up her basic skills! She was adopted out of her foster parent’s home and she continues her training today!


Max, Enriched Einstein
Max, a 6 year old purebred Treeing Walker Coonhound, was surrendered to the East Bay SPCA by his owner who no longer had the time or resources to care for him.

Although Max is an older dog with generally good manners, he had some slight behavioral issues that were amplified when put into a shelter environment such as mouthing and jumping.

Hounds are dogs that like having a job, so our Behavior and Training volunteers made sure to keep Max’s nose and legs busy! While at our Adoption Center, he even shed a few pounds! He learned to wear a harness, do tricks, and not “bay” (a deep, prolonged howl,as of a hound on the scent) while indoors.

He was adopted after four months by a family and their beagle who very much appreciated his focus, willingness to learn, and ability to walk on a harness. It was a perfect match!

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