Helping Shelter Dogs

Helping behaviorally challenged dogs is a top priority at the East Bay SPCA. In 2011, we created a behavior modification program where volunteers help our shelter dogs to overcome certain behavioral issues so that they can be adopted into new, loving homes.

In 2018, East Bay SPCA found homes for nearly 3,500 dogs, puppies, cats, and kittens. These animals are transferred from local municipal shelters, surrendered by their owners, or come in as strays. Of the cats and dogs we adopted out in 2018, 40% were dogs and puppies. Of those, about 18% needed some form of behavior modification. These are dogs and puppies that other shelters do not have the resources to help; the good news is, we can.

Our nationally-recognized Behavior Modification program uses trained volunteers and shelter staff to help dogs who are placed into one of three categories:

Courageous Canine
Polite Pooch
Enriched Einstein

Volunteers are trained on a behavior modification plan that will help each dog. Polite Pooches, for instance, are asked to wait before going through doors and encouraged to keep “four on the floor” and not jump. Enriched Einsteins need extra mental stimulation and a lot of outdoor time. Volunteers help Courageous Canines by rewarding these shy pups whenever they make a brave choice, like greeting a person or soliciting affection.

Results. In 2018, we worked with more than 240 dogs, many of which required behavior modification work before they could be reassessed for adoption would likely have been humanely euthanized were it not for our program. We are proud to use our resources, time and love to support those dogs who need a little extra TLC. Read full article in Humane Society for the United States “Animal Sheltering” magazine.

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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