Meeting Every Dog Where They Are: In Conversation with Pankaj from LHS' Dog Behavior team

The one thing every shelter dog needs is understanding. LHS Animal Attendant and dog training lead Pankaj Kapoor knows that firsthand. Join us for a conversation about Pankaj’s shelter role and the importance of giving dogs what they need in order to truly thrive. 

What first got you interested in working with dogs?

My animal experiences actually start with a semi-feral cat I adopted long before I worked at LHS. She was a challenge, to say the least, but the more I worked with her, the more I saw her change. I realized that training is always happening, whether you’re aware of it or not. Every interaction you have with an animal teaches them what to expect from you and vice versa. Working with her gave me the confidence that I could apply these same techniques to other animals, and that’s what made me brave enough to jump in with the more difficult dogs.

How do you assess each who that comes into LHS?

Every dog, like every person, is totally unique, and we recognize and account for that in our training. There’s no one-size-fits-all. Each dog has a training program that fits their individual needs, personality, age, and preferences – all with the goal of readying them for adoption and making their lives less stressful and reducing anxiety.

What’s a typical day like at LHS?

When we come in the morning, it’s all about basic needs. We let them out to use the bathroom and while they’re enjoying some outside time, we prepare their breakfast. After that, we make sure their housing units are clean, the shelter is clean and orderly, and then the majority of the day is spent on enrichment – making sure they’re engaged socially, mentally, and physically. This includes walks, playtime, and training – always supplemented with positive reinforcement.

How does collaboration impact the work you do?

One thing that people might not realize is that the shelter is full of stressors for dogs. Some may be stressed by the size of their housing units; others might be stressed by simply existing around so many other dogs. Some of the best collaborative outcomes happen when we work with foster partners who are able to provide dogs with temporary housing that helps them relax and be themselves – away from the shelter. This also provides consistency, which animals love, and a chance to begin to develop that essential relationship with caretakers that will aid their eventual adoption into a loving home. Providing foster opportunities for dogs is one way those who are really interested in helping animals can make a gigantic impact.

Another great way we collaborate to benefit our shelter pets is with other organizations in and around Jersey City. Recently, we had a dog named Raito come in who was very well-mannered, but didn’t exactly have the right looks to make him easy to adopt. To help combat that, we provided him with training to help him develop skills and tricks to complement his personality. A local organization called Sammy’s Hope saw the video we posted of Raito’s progress and took him on, which gave him a new location and new audience, and, happily, he was adopted in a short time. Without that collaboration, he might still be in our shelter.

Teamwork really does make the dream work. Thank you to Pankaj for enlightening us about just how much thought and effort goes into supporting shelter dogs on their way to a new home.