We are in the process of overhauling our K9 Volunteer Program and looking for advice/suggestions.
We have a long term K9 Coordinator who is moving next month, and she ran Orientation, trainings, organized handlers for events ect...
While the current process worked for a long time, we have grown and it has become less structured. It is no longer working and we have had several incidents, which never should have happened.
There has been less attention to dog handling skill sets, training is inconsistent, vols have gotten too relaxed and it seems to have become more about hanging out. There has been zero taught about dog body language.
We have a current vol who is a positive reinforcement dog trainer, and she is is very structured and dedicated. She has agreed to take over Orientation and restart our CGC K9 training class and help current vols brush up on skill sets.
We want to start a Mentor Program so current long term vols can help training new volunteers. We hope this will help energize and create more teamwork and add value to our long terms who have become kind of stagnant.
We also want to have Volunteer Levels, for experience. Beginners, Intermediate, Mentor(Top Level)
Our dogs are colored coded on a fluid scale as behavior changes.
Has anyone gone through this much Volunteer Program reorganization and do you have hints and suggestions for getting our current volunteers engaged in the new process?
They have had little oversight for quite awhile, so I fear we may have some resistance from some. We cant afford to loose dedicated vols.
We are in a time crunch as the current Vol Coordinator moved up her moving date to next month, instead of January.
Thank you for any and all advice.
What is going to be key here is to focus your entire program about safety first and foremost. This is what is going to need to be accepted regardless of what has happened in the past. I came into our program with very little structure but with someone who was dedicated to safety and training like you have, and we have been able to create a very safe & enriching program for our animals. Color coding is a great start! I would recommend starting every volunteer at the same level and working from there with their skill sets. I have attached the overview of what we do for volunteers and the expectation we set for every volunteer, which is that they must go through the safety courses first, then ALL of the appropriate training before they are working with dogs on their own. We allow volunteers to decide if they want to simply socialize with dogs, walk dogs, do advanced behavior training, and/or take dogs to events & outings. Each of which require another layer of training. You may have some resistance from long term volunteers, and I know you said you can't afford to lose dedicated volunteers, however if those volunteers aren't willing to adhere to procedures that are there to keep them safe, your dogs safe, the public safe and future volunteers safe, then they might not be the right fit for your organization. Any preventable incident that happens gives you something to learn from and it's not worth having another one if a volunteer doesn't feel like following procedures that are meant to protect them and your animals. Set the expectations up front, implement your new procedures and hold everyone accountable. It will fall into place. Feel free to reach out with any questions! Tiffany@fkspca.org.
Thank you so much for the great info!
I will take you up on the offer and shoot you an email!
We've been doing a lot of restructuring lately. If you'd like to email me, I can talk to you about it more and connect you with our Volunteer Coordinator. :) firstname.lastname@example.org
Wonderful! I would love to hear how your restructuring has been going. Thank you. I will be shooting you an email!
I basically overhauled our whole volunteer program within the past year - it's a lot of work, but really exciting to see the changes start happening :)
We implemented a Mentorship Program, structured onboarding, and are now working on a Dog Walking Program (much like your color coding program). If you ever want to chat, feel free to shoot me an email! Alyssa.Willett@kcmo.org
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