by Sandra Eckstein
the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
published om07/08/07

Talk to animal shelter personnel and they'll tell you that many animals are turned in because they aren't trained. They chew things up, jump on people, get on the furniture and generally misbehave.
but what if obedience -trained and housebroken dogs were available at a shelter? That's the idea behind a program at PAWS Atlanta, a DeKalb County no-kill animal shelter.
Maryann Liotta, a volunteer at the shelter, came up with the idea after talking to her friend Lennox Gavin, a senior dog trainer at a Petsmart. They put out a call for volunteers willing to give an hour every Tuesday, then chose a dozen dogs that had behavior problems or had just been overlooked at the shelter.

"Some of the dogs had been at Paws for three years or more" Liotta said. The classes finished in January, and by February all the dogs had been adopted. A new class with 16 dogs started in March and finished up in May. Seven of those dogs have found homes, including one with the McGuire family in Decatur.

" He is very calm and obedient and it's really made the transition to having a new dog very easy," Leslie McGuire said of Yodel, the black Labrador mix they adopted a little over two weeks ago.
With two children ages 3 and 6, McGuire was especially happy Yodel came trained and housebroken. And if he gets rambunctious with the children, a quick "sit" or "down" settles him, she said.

"It's been a great perk adopting a already-trained dog" she said "I would think it would really cut down on people returning dogs.
That's the whole idea. said Gavin, who works at the Petsmart at Perimeter Center West.

"Being in a shelter can be rough on a dog. Their behavior starts to deteriorating after 60 days or so of being cooped up" Gavin said.

But with just a few hours a week of training over eight weeks, those same stir-crazy pooches blossomed into obedient friends just waiting for their family to show up, Gavin said

And the volunteers kept coming back every Tuesday, and even come on other days, to work with their assigned dogs.

Kelly Teasley, one of the volunteer trainers, said she'd been looking for a project when she learned of the training program. Last fall she trained Covington, a German shepherd mix that had been at the shelter for three years.

"Once we got her out, she turned out to be one of the best dogs, very sweet and mellow and great with kids" teasley said "She ended up with a family and she's doing very well"

Teasley said the problem often isn't the dog, but what they look like.

"All  the smaller dogs, puppies and unique-looking dogs get adopted," she said " All the generic grown and black dogs just sort of blend into the background. No one sees them. This program gives them a bit of an edge."

Cathy Cameron of Dacula said she was shocked her new Plott hound mix, Reba , wasn't snapped up sooner, but instead the dog spent more than two years waiting for a home.

"She's sweet and loving and really smart" said Cameron, who adopted Reba in May as a companion for her Lab mix, Trooper. "She still knows all her commands and I didn't have one single accident in the house"

Kim Herron feels the same way about Jake, the Doberman she adopted about two months ago.

"He does anything we tell him. He's very well-trained." "My husband never had a dog in the house, especially a big dog. But Jake has completely changed his mind. Now he brags about him everywhere he goes. He tells everyone we've got the got the smartest dog in the world"

for more information on the Paws Atlanta program , go to  or call 77-593-1155

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