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Berkeley Humane’s Job Continues After Adoption

Berkeley Humane finds loving homes for over 1,000 dogs and cats each year, but adoptions are only the beginning of our work. We also strive to keep those pets with their new families. So what happens after a pet is adopted?

Questions typically arise from adopters experiencing surprises when welcoming a pet into a new home. Because of the temporary nature of shelter life and foster homes, it isn’t always possible to learn everything about an individual animal. This makes it difficult to get a clear prediction of how a pet might adapt to his or her new home life. Every home is a little different, and your pet’s response to a new environment is a complex combination of previous experiences and genetic predispositions. While many dogs and cats go happily into their new homes and quickly settle into their new environment, there is often an adjustment period.

Adjusting to a new home can be a bumpy process. Time, property damage, and frustration are often the laments of struggling pet adopters. This is where Berkeley Humane continues to serve the community through our post-adoption support services. From our suite of dog training courses to our behavior advice hotline, we connect adopters with the right resources at a minimum cost to help them keep their new companion in their home.

Berkeley Humane’s trained post-adoption support team helps educate pet owners and provides insight and techniques for overcoming behavioral challenges. Establishing a pet-home balance is much like any other relationship. It takes time—adopters really can’t be sure how smoothly it will go until they’ve lived with the pet for a while. Post-adoption behavioral challenges can often arise from separation distress and manifest in a variety of ways. Adopters may also observe excessive barking, pulling, or lunging toward other dogs and other animals while on leash, which are common signs of reactivity. Or perhaps it’s a sweet dog that suddenly starts nipping at children or fighting with the resident dog (or cat). Fortunately, many of these behaviors can be treated and resolved through consistent training and positive reinforcement.

Berkeley Humane’s post-adoption support starts with a “first aid” call or email. Information is provided on typical behaviors and includes simple modification routines that can be implemented immediately for safety and prevention. Following the first aid call, the adopter is interviewed to define the pet’s triggers to determine the root cause(s) for the behavior. If the behavior doesn’t begin to resolve quickly, additional options include private consultations, referral to veterinary behaviorists, or even in-home trainers. Very often, attending a basic training class at Berkeley Humane and faithfully practicing the “homework” is enough to resolve most behavioral issues.

Berkeley Humane’s post adoption support service has answered almost 200 emails and phone calls this year from adopters in need, including many calls related to adoptions that did not originate at Berkeley Humane. The Berkeley Humane advice line is open to all. Dogs and cats both have spectacular abilities to adapt to new situations, but sometimes that transition can be confusing and frustrating.

Advice line council can shed insight into housetraining via confinement systems and regular elimination schedules, developing human-dog trusting relationships, interacting with other dogs, training through positive reinforcement, and behavioral modification through which we figure out ways to gently prevent the unwanted behavior from happening and reward the one you want with a generosity that would make a billionaire blush.

Our advice line is accessible at under Programs & Services or by calling our training line at 510-845-7735, ext. 215.

Nancy Frensley, CPDT, CAP2, CNWI, CGC Evaluator, is the senior behavior and training manager at Berkeley Humane ( where she supervises and trains its staff of trainers. She is a certified professional dog trainer with over 30 years’ experience in training and behavior counseling. She has evaluated well over 1,000 dogs during shelter intakes as well as for clients and teaches a variety of classes including basic to advanced obedience, sport training (specializing in scent work of all kinds) and has been an active competitor in agility, tracking, obedience and scent work.

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