Best Practices: Volunteer Training

This post is part one of our series on training volunteers. It is written by Vicky Mayzn of Adopt a Rescued Friend (AARF) and Kari Workman of Golden Retriever Freedom Rescue.

How does your rescue train volunteers? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Vicky’s Take:

One of the things to consider when running a foster based rescue is making sure your volunteers are happy and have the support and knowledge to make fostering easy for them. Once your volunteers become stressed or overwhelmed, they will quit or start working with another rescue. You cannot get everything done without your volunteers. They are the backbone that allows you to continue to rescue.

We have a sanctuary and rehabilitation organization that we work with. She gladly helps all of our fosters with any behavior issues they are having. She teaches them how to work with the issues or the dog can go to her location for rehabilitation.

We do not “require” our fosters to train their dogs but we do remind them that the better behaved and social the dog is, the quicker they will be adopted. And you also cut down on the number of returns.

We always make sure that our volunteers know we truly appreciate them and everything they do, even something as simple as a Thank You note from one of the rescues they worked with makes a big impact.

When a volunteer wants to take a class, we do everything we can to accommodate knowing that we are just investing in our current and future rescues.

Kari’s Take:

Our adopters are provided with a packet of information on training and dog behavior. If the foster parents feel training is absolutly necessary, they’ll make sure the new family is aware of this. Sometimes our families do their own training and sometimes they take classes from various places. We can always offer suggestions on where to go.

We’ve had one foster home training. We covered a lot of topics including: transporting your dog, volunteer enrichment programs, animal training obligations, home study and adoption process, selecting the right forever home for your foster dog, medical evaluations on foster dogs when foster home first bring the foster home, and training on puppy mill dogs for foster homes.

Our organization does not perform any formal training for adoption.  We do encourage new adopters to contact the foster homes regarding questions about the dog.  We also provide a large packet of information that includes tips, suggestions, etc for new owners.  There are many suggested reading literature in the folder as well.  We also have a follow up person responsible for contacting the forever homes to get an update.

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3 Responses to Best Practices: Volunteer Training

  1. Vicky Mazyn says:

    Did I misunderstand the question? I wrote on volunteer training. I can write something up for adopter training, if you need.

  2. Kyla Duffy says:

    Your response is fine, although we’d love to hear about you how do adopter training, too. That would be a good topic to include in the manual. If you further read Kari’s post, she talks about both adopter training and volunteer training.

  3. Shereen says:

    I enjoyed both of these posts. MHWR does not yet have a formal volunteer training program. We do not mandate that a foster home provide training, however, knowing this breed, if the foster home wants a cohesive home, they will want to train their foster. It’s a big part of why we love this breed anyway – the challenge of staying one step ahead. We have a manual we email to new volunteers and our Volunteer Coordinator spends a great deal of time talking with them, however, we have not yet put a more formal training in place. It is something we’re working on though. Since Weim’s are not a good choice for first-time dog owners, most of our foster homes are Weim-Savvy and we have a yahoo group where we can all ask each other questions & solicit advice. In most cases, newer fosters can address the behavior issues this way. If not, we have a trainer who donates his time to our rescue. He has spent many hours going to foster homes to work with a more challenging dog and to date each one has successfully been adopted. He has even offered group training to us, most recently, he did two sessions on crate-training and leash-walking tips, which were well-attended so he is going to offer future sessions on other topics for us as well. I admit we struggle with making the time to develop the training for our volunteers because we, like most other rescues, are so overwhelmed with the actual intake, fostering and placement of dogs. The good news is that as our volunteer base grows we are finding volunteers to dedicate their time to volunteer training. I feel it is very much needed, even for experienced dog owners and fosters.

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