April 30. 2019

Audience: Executive Leadership, Foster Caregivers, Public, Shelter/Rescue Staff & Volunteers, Veterinary Team

Organization: Denver Animal Protection (DAP)
Investigator(s): Alice Nightengale
Grant Amount: $13,200
Project Type: Phase 1
Project Status: Research Complete

Project Summary

Denver Animal Protection (DAP) evaluated a post-adoption program which offered free training services and supplies to adopters of dogs with manageable behavioral challenges. Fifty-two dogs and puppies were enrolled in the program and subsequently adopted. By the conclusion of the study, 32 adopters (61.5%) had utilized the post-adoption training services. Adopters who had utilized the training support were less likely to return their dogs (3, 9.4%) than were adopters who did not (5, 25%). None of the 52 dogs were euthanized for behavioral reasons.


This project aimed to reduce euthanasia of dogs with manageable behavior challenges by providing free behavioral training and supplies after adoption, and to reduce the burden on transfer partners that might also take these dogs.


Enrolled in the study were adopters of dogs with manageable behavioral concerns, such as: body handling sensitivities, separation anxiety, food guarding, fearful behavior, mouthiness, destructive chewing, on-leash reactivity toward other dogs, or dogs with low-level impulse control issues. Adopters went through DAP's standard adoption process, as well as a counseling session with a behavior coordinator. After adoption, an appointment was scheduled with a trainer. Based on the initial training session and specific needs of each individual dog, the trainer and adopter co-determined the duration and frequency of the dog's training plan. Training included one or more group classes and/or private sessions. Most adult dogs received private one-on-one sessions to tackle specific issues; many received multiple private sessions. Most puppies received group puppy classes geared towards socialization, and a few of the adult dogs received group classes.


  • 52 unique dogs (28 adults and 24 puppies) with manageable behavioral challenges were enrolled in the program and adopted out. Six dogs were returned (11.5%), with 5 of those being re-adopted and 1 being transferred to another agency.
  • 32 adopters (61.5%) and their dogs followed through with post-adoption training. Two of these dogs were returned, and 1 was surrendered at another agency (9.4% return rate).
  • 20 adopters (38.5%) didn't utilize the program's training resources. Some adopters reported that dogs didn't display challenging behaviors or the behaviors weren't bothersome; others didn't respond to follow-up attempts. Four of these dogs were returned (20%). An additional dog came back to the shelter as a stray (total 25% 'return'). The dog was not reclaimed by its owner, and the dog was transferred to another organization.
  • None of the 52 dogs enrolled in the program were euthanized for behavioral reasons.
  • In comparison to the previous year, canine euthanasia decreased by 117 dogs, while transfers out fell by 244 dogs. The training support program was not primarily responsible for this shift.


Adopters of dogs with manageable behavioral challenges who utilized post-adoption training support were less likely to return their dogs (9.4%) than were adopters who did not use training support (25%). Of the 20 adopters (38.5%) who didn't utilize post-adoption training resources, some of the dogs didn't display any challenging or bothersome behaviors once in a home, serving as a reminder that behavior exhibited in a shelter doesn't always translate to behavior exhibited in a home.