Posted on

A New Year of Changes!

Happy New Year!

As many of you are already aware, my fiance and I moved from Luther to just outside of Jefferson this past week to our new acerage. While we still have loads of boxes to unpack (seriously how does Esther have a whole box of toys!) we are still very excited about the possibilities this new place brings us. This move will not affect the areas that Underdog’s Triumph serves and we are excited to share with you our progress through 2018 and our hopes/dreams for 2019!

We learned a lot last year as our first full year of being a non-profit. In 2018 alone, we did over 50 hours of private training with folks in the community helping them with all sorts of issues from fear/reactivity/aggression to basic household manners and puppy classes. We saw great changes being made by all our clients as we helped teach them more effective ways to communicate and train their pets.

Last year we also hosted our first dog bite prevention kids program in partnership with the Boone Area Humane Society. Here we spent an hour with kids of all ages teaching them about dog body language and skills they can use to interact safely with dogs of all shapes and sizes. This program had over 15 kids attend and they all eager shouted out answers and engaged in discussions during our “Would you pet this dog?” section. At the end the feedback from the parents who attended and the shelter staff said they really enjoyed the program (and even admitted to learning a few new things as well!) I know we sure learned a great deal as this was our first public program and our first program teaching kids! 🙂

We sadly lost two awesome board members who had to move away to the much more mild-weather state of Oregon. But we also gained two new board members! A couple, Megan and Oliver Jensen, joined Underdog’s Triumph. Megan has had a lot of experience working with educational programs and has a fearful/reactive dog herself whom she’s been doing a lot of work with. She brings a lot of dog training knowledge to our board and this year wants to start working towards taking on new clients as well! She’ll be shadowing on some our cases to see how she likes it! Oliver who is a co-worker of mine from Workiva (my “real” job) and he is bringing some more technical experience to the board and will be helping manage a great deal of our website and online presence to allow the rest of us to focus on our new mission.

As for our mission, we’ve been doing a lot of soul searching as to how Underdog’s Triumph can best help out the community. There is already a large shelter presence in the area provided by the ARL in Des Moines/Ankeny, the Ames Animal Shelter, and Boone Area Humane Society, so we have put aside our goal of opening a new facility for the time being. Instead we’ve been focusing on the educational part of our mission.

This year we’re going to be focusing on addressing the bountiful amount of outdated and/or incorrect information floating around how to interact with and teach dogs. Outdated methods like choke chains, prongs, and shock collars are making a come-back and people, who don’t know any better or are misinformed, are being told they’re the only option for “tough” dogs. We’ve been working to provide our clients with updated information on dog training methods and teaching them a kinder way to approach and interact with their pets. Using the force-free methods (positive training) we teach, our clients are able to have a better, and stronger relationship with their dog, and get the long lasting changes they want to see without any of the harmful effects that come from force or pain based methods!

The second area we’re going to be focusing on this year is our partnerships with other area shelters. As those who are familiar with the rescue community, shelters and rescues oftentimes struggle just to make ends meet and keep their doors open. “Extras” like educational programs or community outreach are often the first programs on the chopping block as the animals will (and should) always come first. We’re looking to start up two awesome programs. One will be geared towards shelters and rescues in the area (Ames/Boone/Jefferson) to provide a “Force Free Starter Pack” of tools & training to these facilities (please contact us if you are a member of a rescue/shelter in the area who is interested!). The second will be a “Trade Up” program where we seek to remove harmful/pain based tools from the community.

Our intent is to pilot a Force-Free/Positive Training Starter Pack in partnership with a local animal rescue/shelter. We would like to start with a local shelter and then expand to other semi-local shelters in the area. For these packs, we would prepare a semi-customizable set of training tools and enrichment toys to donate to the shelter. Then, we follow up this donation with an in-person educational program to teach shelter staff and volunteers the benefits and impacts of force-free training and how they can apply these new concepts/tools in their shelter work. After the staff/volunteers are trained, we propose a partnership event open to members in the community. This would consist of a similar curriculum except with focus being on the needs of dogs in a home environment vs their needs in rescue/shelter.

The second program, “Trade Up” is designed to help owners currently using aversive tools gain access to force free tools instead at no cost to them. During our training sessions, if a client currently uses prong or choke chain we will offer them a “trade up” to exchange these aversive tools for a brand new front/back clip harness. This helps get aversive tools out of the general population and increases awareness of the safety and effectiveness of non-aversive tools like a harness. We will also provide education on how to use a management tool like a front clip harness to aid in training as well as provide information on the risks associated with using aversive tools. We hope to have some public “exchange” events as well where folks can exchange these tools in person for new more modern ones!

All in all, while we’re in a new location the area we serve and our mission will remain as strong as ever. We look forward to continuing to provide training focused blog posts bi-monthly (1st/3rd Fridays) to our readers, in person private home sessions at low costs and improve our community outreach via the two programs described above. Thank you for joining us in 2018 and we look forward to serving you and the community in 2019!