EDWARDSVILLE, Ill. — An ambitious program by the young Madison County Humane Society should bring dogs and their owners closer and should promote the adoption of thousands of dogs and cats that otherwise face death at the county pound each year.
"Most dogs want to please their masters," said Sherry Harper, vice president of the society and the person responsible for fund raising. "They enjoy the classes. They're anxious to go. It's kind of like their social life."
At the first session, dogs typically growl at each other because they are strangers. "By the end of the first class," she said, "they're all friends."
The sessions are held to raise money for a new animal adoption program and to bring dogs closer to their owners, she said. "A lot of them can't control their dogs, and we don't want them to dump them. They just want them to have nice manners.
All Sorts Show Up
"All different sorts of people turn out," and the dogs are as varied as their owners, Harper said.
"Usually, it's the owners that mess up, not the dogs," she said. "The majority of the mistakes are the people's."
For example, she said, masters are trained to start on the left foot when the dog is directed to heel; the dog is trained to have its head beside the master's left leg in preparation for walking. If the dog is ordered to stay, masters are supposed to start with the right foot to keep from confusing the dog.
"We've had real good response to our classes. We run them all the same. They just learn basic obedience training on a lead," Harper said.
Harper, 32, demonstrated what dog training can do with her German shepherd, Keshia, putting the dog through a series of maneuvers.
'A Little Rusty'
Keshia was a first-prize winner some time back, even though she did not look like a winner at first, Harper said. "She's probably a little rusty. She was not real bright when I got her. She did real great in the classes."
Money from the training sessions, which cost $35 per dog or two dogs for $60, will be used for the society's dog and cat adoption program at the Madison County Animal Control Shelter.
Last year, more than 3,200 animals were destroyed at the pound, Harper said. "And they found homes for 64 dogs and 20 cats."
Lack of county personnel to encourage adoptions is part of the reason, she said.
"The county won't be doing any adoptions. It'll just be us," Harper said. "We don't think we'll adopt 3,000 out, but we hope it will put a bigger dent in it than they did."