By Kelsey Jacobson
MOD Squad, a program led by volunteers working with dogs who exhibit behavioral problems, began in June 2014 locally in Bemidji. The program was able to get off the ground due to a grant Great River Rescue received from the Best Friends Animal Society . The Director of Great River Rescue, Brandon Mustful, did research about the MOD Squad in , Waukesha, WI at the Humane Animal Welfare Society and saw a need in Bemidji, Minnesota that wasn’t being fulfilled.
The founder of MOD Squad and animal behaviorist, Dr. Claudeen Mcauliffe, introduced the first ever MOD Squad in Wisconsin. The MOD Squad was started at the Humane Animal Welfare Society in Waukesha, WI in 2009.
Once a shelter dog arrives, the MOD Squad volunteers first conduct an assessment by the use of questionnaires that are paired with what types of behaviors the canines are exhibiting. Some behavioral ques they look for in the assessments include substantial barking, aggression toward other dogs or humans, and food guarding.
“Some dogs can exhibit a few, but still need to be in the program to smooth out the rough edges,” said Ethan Larson, Coordinator for MOD Squad. He then referred back to how even small amounts of aggression should be corrected toward the future adoption of the dog—making them more adaptable to their environment after they leave the shelter. Yet Larson, who began working for MOD Squad in August of 2014, stressed how there is no time limit for a dog to be involved in the program.
To be a volunteer with MOD Squad you have to go through six months of training, while being shadowed by a mentor. “If we didn’t have the volunteers, we wouldn’t have this program,” Larson said.
The first 18 months, there has been a total of 40 dogs in the program, using the services provided by Great River Rescue. The MOD Squad only applies to shelter dogs who come to the shelter in hopes of finding an owner and a home.
In the future, Larson hopes that the MOD Squad will become more well known, making a difference not only in the life of the adopted dog, but also the owner who decides to bring the dog home with them.