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Walking up to the door, the only thing that can be heard is a cacophony of gentle yips and soft whines.

“They know what time it is,” two staff members look at each other and chuckle. With the soft click of the door opening, a dozen black and brindle puppies rush toward them. It’s impossible not to smile. Tumbling over each other and biting at their littermates’ ears, they scramble to get through the gate.

One by one they’re delicately picked up and lovingly passed down the line of people who will be spending the next hour socializing them. Once each puppy is settled into the arms of a handler, they’re carried across the hall and into an open room.

Some squirm to be freed and others sweetly lick at the handlers’ faces. Even at just a few weeks old, we’re quickly seeing their personalities blossom. And, while the handlers would like to simply play with the puppies for the next hour, there is much to do.

The team arms themselves with a mountain of treats, and gets to work.

To the untrained eye, this looks like puppy playtime. “But, it’s not all fun and games,” says our Enrichment Specialist, Suzanne. “It’s so much more than that. We’ve created a very specific, targeted protocol that will teach them critical cues and behaviors.”

You see, these puppies were born at Animal Friends. Their very sweet – and pregnant – mother, Jazzy, was transferred to us from one of our trusted partner shelters. The staff knew Jazzy and her soon-to-be-born pups needed more than the shelter could provide. So, they turned to Animal Friends.

Just days after arriving, Jazzy gave birth to a litter of 12 (yes, 12!) puppies – and she was a great mom. But, there were simply too many for her to manage on her own. It was clear that Jazzy was overwhelmed. So, we stepped in to assist. And, in true Animal Friends fashion, took it above and beyond what was needed.

At most shelters, puppies are typically placed into foster homes to keep limited kennel space available while also protecting the puppies from possible disease. But in this case, there were far too many puppies for one foster home.

Our Behavior team came up with a specialized, evidence-based approach to puppy socialization that provides puppies with opportunities that expose them to new people, places and things in a carefully managed and positive way.

“By starting this program with the puppies when they were as young as possible we provided them the best chance at a new life. The consistent training and socialization help them grow into happy, confident dogs.” – Canine Behavior Technician, Veronica

The puppies were growing stronger and Jazzy had done all she could for her litter. It was time to separate her from her brood.

Even after Jazzy found a home, we continued to work tirelessly with each pup. Approximately 100 volunteers spent nearly 450 hours doing so. It was inspiring to reflect on the puppies’ progress. By the time they were 8 weeks old, the puppies had met 130 people (it’s recommended that all puppies are introduced to 200 people by the time they’re 6 months old). And, they had countless novel experiences – meeting people in hats and sunglasses, car rides, door bells ringing, de-sensitization of the vacuum cleaner, grooming … the list went on and on.

Ensuring that the entire litter received each lesson took commitment, consistency and dedication. And most importantly, we guaranteed that each pup left every new experience on a positive note – they were given treats, praise, pets and lots of love.

They were well on their way to becoming well-socialized, young members of our community.

“Socialization is often overlooked. So not only do we work with adult dogs with behavior issues and provide training that was never done, but we also turn a critical eye to proper socialization in shelter puppies to lay a solid foundation to become well-adjusted adults.” – Lauren, Director of Admissions & Behavior Services

When they were ready, Metal, Folk, Hip Hop, Reggae, Techno, Blues, Pop, Acoustic, Rock N Roll, Punky and Indie were adopted one by one.

And, when the announcement came over the loud speaker in the building as the last puppy went home …

“It’s a great day at Animal Friends for Disco, who just found her loving home. Congratulations to Disco and her new family!”

… it truly was music to our ears.

And, it’s not just puppies who receive this level of attention.

Our experienced Behavior team of staff and volunteers commits countless hours to each of the 250 dogs, cats and rabbits who fill our kennels every day and need extra socialization, behavior modification and specialized training to prepare them for their new homes.

But without you, this cannot continue.

It’s a big commitment, but we wouldn’t do it any other way. With your support this individualized level of care can continue to be provided to our homeless residents. So, please, donate today so even more animals can be given another chance at a happy life.

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