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Helping Homeless Pets Through Better Training

ROCHESTER, NY (WXXI) - Based on the idea that a well-behaved pet is more likely to get adopted and remain in its new home, Lollypop Farm hosted its first-ever behavior and training conference on Thursday for animal welfare professionals across New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Small shelters and rescue groups don't necessarily have the resources to hire behavioral experts.

Rebecca Lohnes, behavior and training manager at the Humane Society of Greater Rochester, said her own experience working with clients at Lollypop Farm inspired her to organize the conference.

"We interact with over a thousand training clients every year," Lohnes said, "so we're definitely helping to prevent some rehoming events, for sure. We often get calls from people who are at the end of their rope; they don't know where to turn next with their pet."

Kenneth Hawkins, one of the conference attendees, is an animal care specialist at a shelter in Waverly, New York.  He said he works with a lot of animals that are aggressive because of neglect or abuse. 

Some are stressed and agitated because they've been surrendered to the shelter.

"You see that deteriorate and get worse and worse," he said, "because they think the people that brought them there are coming back for them."

At a morning session with animal trainer Alexandra Forrente, Hawkins saw some techniques he wants to try.

"I learned a page and a half of things pertaining to your mindset in comparison to the dog's," he said, "and just trying to get him to that mindset versus the mindset he's already in ... you know, trying to bring him out of it."

Lohnes said an animal's behavioral health is just as important as their physical health.

Lollypop Farm hopes to host more training events in the future.

Video by WXXI News photojournalist Max Schulte: