Thursday, August 30, 2018

Going Back to School is for the Dogs

Train the Bay logoBy Nancy Frensley, CPDT-KA, CAP2, CGC Evaluator, and AKC Scent Work JudgeBerkeley Humane’s Manager of Behavior and Training

This is the time of year when families all across the Bay Area embrace going back to school, and it’s a good time to remember your canine companions as well. Berkeley Humane’s professional trainers would like to remind the Bay Area community that your four-legged friends, young and old, can equally benefit from going back to school! Puppies ready to start training school for the first time or senior dogs looking to learn new tricks – we have engaging canine courses designed to fit you and your pet.

That’s why Berkeley Humane is so excited to announce our new Train the Bay website at:

Train the Bay is the pet behavior and training program of Berkeley Humane. It offers appropriate socialization and training, which helps you and your dog understand how to behave in each situation you encounter.

Benefits of Continued Training

photo of a rescue dog sitting politely
Keeping dogs in school has several benefits. It can help resolve behavior challenges as well as educate you about dog behavior. It will also help steer you toward your goals. Training provides both mental and physical exercise for your dog. 

Training is all about you and your dog moving together as a team. It is a time to bond and engage with one another, making your dog part of your team.

Going to school with your dog has many social benefits, too. Some students even pair up with compatible classmates for play or training sessions outside of class.

Times Have Changed

We no longer look upon training as simply teaching a dog to produce a behavior on cue. We now do it in a way that creates enjoyable and productive interactions between humans and canines. Train the Bay is based on scientifically-proven positive reinforcement — using food, toys, and fun.

What’s Best for Your Dog?

For the dog that is already trained for everyday activities, we recommend enrolling in one of our tricks or canine good citizen classes. In the event your honor student has already passed the canine good citizen (CGC), we offer both of the advanced CGC certifications.
Interested in exploring dog sports? We offer both rally and scent work classes. Your dog will love coming to scent work classes, because sniffing is what they do naturally -- in a less formal way.

In the event you are beginning with a new dog in your life or want to refresh previous training, Train the Bay offers a variety of classes that teach the basic skills, including special sessions for small dogs and young puppies.

We also offer seminars and workshops on pertinent topics. This October, we are offering pet first aid and CPR. Seminars on dog behavior problems, such as reactivity and aggression, are offered regularly.

Find Out More

Now has never been a better time to go back to school…with your dog!

All of our services and classes are located at If you have questions or need help determining the right class for you and your dog, please email us at

cute rescue dog looking up

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

California Fire Rescue

Crates ready for animals with smoke-filled skies in Shasta County.
Donate to help Berkeley Humane's Rescue efforts.

Emergency Rescue Update 

From Jeffrey Zerwekh, Executive Director

Uncontrolled fire causes fear – there is the heat, acrid smell, falling ash, irritation to the eyes along with smoke so heavy that every breath takes effort. This is what we experienced as we began to remove dogs from their kennels yesterday in Shasta County. It was a lot for us, and we could see it was also impacting the dogs. Stress levels were high. We really were not sure if they would even come willingly.

These are large dogs, used to living among forested trails and wide-open yards. Some of them have been in the shelter for more than six months and although they have been provided wonderful care by the local shelter, we were concerned that moving them into a transport vehicle might be too much for them. Might they lash out or try to break free? How hard was this going to be?

Then something amazing happened. As each one was led across the parking lot and into our Mobile Adoption Center (MAC), they practically loaded themselves into their transportation kennels. They willingly climbed the stairs into the vehicle with almost no encouragement and quickly settled into their designated space.

We gave each a few head scratches and whispered, “It’s soon going to be a lot better.” It was a promise that we repeated for them, as much as for us. There was little doubt that the stress of the day was starting to catch up with us.

We were asked to take 10 large dogs, which is the exact number of kennels we can fit in the MAC, so it was going to be a full ride. Just as we were preparing to leave we were asked to take just one more – a puppy. The puppy who had been returned from a foster family who now needed to focus on their own possible evacuation. The puppy was quickly loaded into a travel kennel that was placed between the two front seats. Now the MAC was not only full, it was complete.

We still did not know how all of the dogs would handle the four-hour drive back to Berkeley. But they were quiet, except for a lot of heavy panting that seemed to diminish the farther we traveled away from the smoke that they had been breathing for more than a week. We noticed we also began to breathe deeper – and we had only been in that environment for one day.

Despite the late hour, we arrived back at Berkeley Humane to some fanfare. There was a receiving line of volunteers waiting to help unload and welcome our new guests. Each animal’s name was announced as they emerged from the MAC as if we were exiting a maternity ward calling out the names of first-born children to family and friends. The dogs seemed to love the hoopla and as each one entered their kennels, they found that the volunteers and staff had been hard at work preparing for their arrival. Each dog had a soft bed waiting for them complete with blankets, toys, treats a big bowl of food, and cool refreshing water. We tucked each one in and said goodnight.

Today is a new beginning, out of harm’s way. We began this morning with medical checkups and introduced them to the sights and smells of our West Berkeley neighborhood. Today has been a good day.

Your financial support is still urgently needed.

While the Carr Fire is still raging out of control and is one of the most devastating disasters in California’s history, at least these dogs are with us now. 
But we suspect there will be more to come, and we will be ready and continue to respond.

Follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram for more rescue updates. 

Thursday, July 5, 2018

300 Days and Counting

Photo of Kaye looking at the camera with text that reads: 300 Days

300 Days and Counting

photo of Kaye with text that reads: This cute girl still needs a home #adoptmeKaye is celebrating her 300th day with Berkeley Humane this week, and although we’re big fans of anniversaries, this isn’t cause for celebration – unless a party will bring Kaye an adopter!

Kaye is the last of 150 animals to find a home here in the Bay Area that were all evacuated in advance of Hurricane Irma from a shelter in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.

Why has it taken so long to find a new home for this sweet, 30-pound girl? Because her story did not start in Florida. Kaye began her life on the streets of Puerto Rico, was rescued, and sent to the Humane Society of Broward County (HSBC) in Ft. Lauderdale.

Then in September 2017, Hurricane Irma threatened Ft. Lauderdale. With less than 24 hours to plan, HSBC's entire shelter population was put onto a plane and flown to California. Once safely landed, the dogs and cats were greeted by a collation of animal welfare agencies, including Tony LaRussa's Animal Rescue Foundation, East Bay SPCA, and Berkeley Humane. The animals were quickly divided between the three partners. Once back at Berkeley Humane, we discovered that our new arrivals included three very shy dogs originally from the streets of Puerto Rico. We named them Holly, Kendra, and Kaye.

At Berkeley Humane, all of our animals come to us from larger public facilities that are often overcrowded or under-resourced. It is not uncommon for these animals to need individualized behavior plans to help them acclimate to their new environments. However, Holly, Kendra, and Kaye were different in that they had never actually bonded with people and didn't have a clue how to be a typical family pet. 

Berkeley Humane's patient and loving team of volunteers and staff worked hard over the months to come to slowly bring out their individual personalities. Holly and Kendra were eventually adopted, but as of today, Kaye has not found her perfect match. The right family for Kaye will recognize her sweet personality, but will also give her the time she needs to build her confidence in a loving and patient environment. 

“Kaye should not be forced or rushed into new situations – she will decide when she’s ready. She’ll need time to adjust to a home at her own pace,” explains Jesse Schumaker, Berkeley Humane's Animal Care Specialist. “She’d love a home where she can have dog friends. Her personality really blossoms when she is around other dogs who are confident and can show her the way.”

The good news is that Kaye does like people. She can just take a little while to warm up to someone, but she is playful and food motivated. Very food motivated! 

“Kaye does bond very strongly with people, especially people who feed her. She loves deli meat,” laughs Michelle Jewell, Berkeley Humane's Veterinary/Adoption Specialist. “With food and lots of patience, her adopter will soon have a 30-pound shadow following them all around their home.” 

Kaye's one-year anniversary is coming up quickly and if ever there was a dog that deserves to be out of a shelter and into a loving home, it's our girl Kaye.  The volunteers and staff at Berkeley Humane are appealing to our community to help find Kaye, who has traveled over 4,000 miles, find a happy ending to her story.

Please share
You can help by sharing this blog post or sharing Kaye’s video to help find her perfect match.

Think Kaye might be the one for you? 
Our staff can provide guidance and adoption advice for her love and care. “The things that the Berkeley Humane staff emphasized about adopting a traumatized animal were really helpful, even despite our previous experiences with other shelter animals,” says Erik, adopter of Holly (another dog from Puerto Rico who was rescued with Kaye). “They will prepared you for the extra time and effort that is necessary to Kaye’s adjustment.”

Contact us
Berkeley Humane

2700 Ninth Street, Berkeley, CA 94710

Monday, July 2, 2018

Keeping Pets Safe During 4th of July

Are you as excited as we are about July 4th festivities?!  

We’re getting ready for fun in the sun, BBQ’ing with friends, and some much-needed downtime snuggling with our pets. However, with all of the people coming and going and the loud noises of fireworks and firecrackers, this is a time of year when many pets go missing after escaping from their homes. This Independence Day, be sure to factor your pet into your plans. 

Here’s how to help your animals avoid the stress of this holiday:

    Photo credit: Brooke Jacobs
  • Keep your pets indoors to avoid fireworks or firecracker displays. Animals spooked by fireworks may startle and want to bolt. Close the doors and windows, and turn on some soothing music to help distract them from the noise outside.
  • Be sure your pet is wearing ID tags and is microchipped so they can be promptly returned to you in case of an unexpected escape.Remember to make sure your pet's microchip is registered and up-to-date with your current contact information.
  • Crowds and loud noises can be really overwhelming for animals, and fireworks can be downright terrifying, so never bring your pet to a fireworks display.
  • Do not leave pets unattended outside during the days leading up to, during, and immediately following July 4th. If you normally leave your pet(s) outside or in a backyard, bring them inside to a space that is quieter. It’s possible for pets outside to panic and run away or hurt themselves while trying to hide or escape.
    a scruffy terrier mix is wearing a stars and stripes bandanna.
  • Alcoholic drinks and human food need to be kept out of your companion’s reach. Same goes for citronella candles/oils, glow-sticks, matches, and lighter fluid — these can be lethal when pets comes into contact with them.
  • Keep your pets on their normal diet. (No hot dogs or ice cream, no matter how cute and well-behaved those little munchkins are!)
  • Don’t leave animals in the car. A matter of minutes in a car on a warm summer day is enough to cause serious health effects — including death. 

If despite your best efforts, if your pet does go missing, don’t panic. Call neighbors, get friends together to help you search, and post signs immediately. Check area garages, sheds, under cars and decks, and around shrubbery, because your pet might be seeking areas to hide. Call or visit your local public shelter or animal control facility (in Berkeley, call Berkeley Animal Care Services at (510) 981-6600) to check for your missing pet and file a lost pet report.

Do you have additional tips for keeping your pets calm during fireworks? Share them in the comments!

Have a fun, safe 4th of July!

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

“Dominance” in Dog Training and Behavior, Explained

Guest post by Nancy Frensley, CPDT-KA, CAP2, CNWI, CGC Evaluator, Senior Behavior and Training Manager, Berkeley Humane

Dog trainers sometimes still talk about a dog being dominant or dominating. This terminology has affected how people behave toward their dogs and is thankfully, falling out of use. The term is common among biologists who primarily study species in wild settings. It has a use and a precise definition in that context. It describes how a specific species or sub species controls resources in a domain and it can describe population dynamics.

People sometimes excuse their dogs' rude behavior toward other dogs by saying, “He’s alpha.” And some famous trainers have recommended ways to get dogs to change their behavior by “dominating them in physical ways. These are moves that all too often get used for every behavior an owner doesn’t like such as not coming quickly enough or barking at another dog.

Dog trainers, many of whom had been military dog handlers during World War II, were quick to pick up early theories about the dog/human relationship, which were loosely based on observations of captive wild wolves and how they behaved toward each other. This led observers to the believe that “dominance” was a personality trait.

It was thought, at the time, that if we just mirrored a wolf pack with our own dogs, We could solve all behavior and training problems. Dog owners were instructed to go to the mat with their dogs and always win, no matter how exhausting it might be, and people dutifully did so, pinning mystified and frightened dogs to the ground until they gave up (or bit the owners)

Using these theories put both trainers and pet owners into conflict with the dogs they loved. The whole misguided movement resulted in the widespread use of abusive training techniques which have rapidly been replaced with dog friendly training through positive reinforcement and games. These are much more palatable to both the dogs and the people involved and gets better results in the long run.

There is a very easy way to view dominance when referring to companion dogs and their people. Dominance, in biology, is the control of and access to resources. We humans control most of our dogs’ resources and control access to just about everything our dogs want. We determine when and where the dog eliminates, what resting surfaces he can use, when and what he eats and how he greets strangers. That makes us, by default, the dominant species.

We can decide how we use this status and don’t have to do anything extra to prove that we are, indeed, the dominant species in this relationship. We can choose to be kind, to train in a dog friendly way and be gentle & compassionate while setting the boundaries needed for our dogs to live with us in a human society.

And have you noticed, nobody talks about dominating cats?

Berkeley Humane's training philosophy and testimonials are on our website, as is a list of upcoming dog training classes.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Share Your Happy Stories!

Calling all happy adopters!

"Happy adoption stories? They are definitely talking about us."

This very blog's raison d'ĂȘtre is to showcase the joyful adoptions that happen weekly at Berkeley Humane. Our Going Home series lets adopters share, in their own voices, their perspectives on how pet adoption changed their life. We hear from adopters days, months, sometimes years after adding a cat or dog to their household, which gives us a broad look at the lifelong importance of sharing life with a loved pet. 

Lily and Frankie: snuggle partners for life.

We just can't get enough of these post-adoption stories. So we're asking you for yours — and offering a free photoshoot in the bargain!

Head to our Happy Stories page and share your Berkeley Humane adoption story. Your story could inspire others to adopt pets in need of homes. And you might win a professional #LookingFurLove photoshoot!

Photoshoot winners!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Intake is a community process

Ever wonder how our pets find their way to adoption through Berkeley Humane?

In a sense, Berkeley Humane’s adoptable animals are a special, curated selection of animals that we believe would be a great fit in the right home. We focus our attention on relieving overcrowding at other shelters in Alameda and Contra Costa counties. Each week Berkeley Humane staff collaborates with these shelters in a process called “intake” to identify adoptable pets as well as injured animals who might thrive under our excellent medical care.

    1. Intake step one is to visit a partner shelter
    There, we discuss how Berkeley Humane can help them with potential overcrowding and whether any of their animals would be a good fit for us. Occasionally a Berkeley Humane veterinarian offers expert medical advice to help us determine which animals might benefit from our excellent on-site vet care — for instance, our new radiograph helps us diagnose injuries that other shelters might not be equipped to discover.

    2. Step two is the all-important evaluation process
    Every animal at Berkeley Humane has passed a behavioral assessment to gauge traits like friendliness to humans, tolerance for being handled, tendency toward overstimulation, general health, and, for dogs, their sociability with other dogs.

    3. Step three is transferring the animals to Berkeley Humane.
      A great deal of community service and partnership drives our intake process. One of our closest partners is Berkeley Animals Care Services (BACS), located just a mile away from our shelter. Adult animals, whether surrendered or stray, must be held for a while at a public shelter like BACS. After the mandated hold period, Berkeley Humane steps in to help. An exception is made for litters under six months old. Few shelters have the resources and the community support to provide round-the-clock care to underage kittens, for example, so it can benefit the kittens to come directly to Berkeley Humane.

      “BACS and the animals it brings in are a huge priority,” says Berkeley Humane Pet Program Manager Carly Skonnord. “We both mutually benefit.”

      On a sunny day in late March, Carly drove to BACS in a roomy van with plenty of space to transport multiple pet carriers. Her goal was to bring back two young cats, including a three-month old kitten with undiagnosed dental/cranial issues. Berkeley Humane’s veterinary staff guessed that an infection from a broken jaw might be the culprit. That might be the best case scenario, as kitten bones are still growing at three months and the jaw might heal itself.

      “It could be anything at this point and we don’t yet know what our treatment options are,” said Carly. “There’s only so much you can safely do with a kitten’s mandible. But our new radiograph machine gives us the best shot at helping her.”

      Carly Skonnord, Pet Program Manager, holding Tippi

      This injured kitten (who would get the moniker Tippi later that afternoon) is a perfect example of the community service that Berkeley Humane provides.

      “When it comes down to it, we have the technology and resources to give the kitten her best shot,” explained Carly. “It’s our moral responsibility. With an injury this uncertain, bringing her to Berkeley Humane is best for BACS, best for the kitten, and best for the community.”

      As Carly carried the kittens through the halls of BACS, staff paused to talk to her. Most expressed joy that Tippi would receive diligent medical attention and get a great shot at a loving home. All of them said goodbye to the kittens. However briefly they may have worked with these animals, they knew and cared about them.

      “Staff at BACS is so great to work with,” said Carly. “They are so compassionate and professional.”

      Tippi expressing herself as she settles into Berkeley
      Humane after transferring from BACS
       Back at Berkeley Humane, the newly-named Tippi and Chuck settled into new homes. They explored their fresh towels, new toys, and clean litter box. Later that day X-rays would confirm Tippi’s broken jaw (not that this stopped the extroverted kitten from meowing for attention from all the vets in the room). Surgery would remove a necrotized bone fragment.

      “We wanted her to spend an additional week or two in foster care before putting her up for adoption to make sure she was healing well, and she did great!” said Carly. “She wasn’t in as much pain, which allowed her to eat more freely. She put on a lot of weight, which she needed desperately. Now she’s nice and plump, and is very playful and cuddly. Basically, she now gets to be a normal, healthy kitten!”

      Tippi was deemed ready for adoption — and she went home almost immediately. Read more about Tippi’s successful journey to adoption in this East Bay Times story.

      Tippi fully recovered and preparing to go home with her adopter

      In the month Tippi spent in Berkeley Humane’s care, she was a perfect illustration of how Berkeley Humane collaborates with the community, provides expert medical care when necessary, and helps pets and adopters find each other.

      Every week Berkeley Humane helps pets find homes. Some, like Tippi, first receive medical care. Help us help animals! Consider donating today so that we can help more adoptable animals like Tippi overcome injuries and go up for adoption.