Trainers with dogsOur current heat wave has appropriately coincided with National Dog Day, Aug. 26. The sultry days of late summer have been called the Dog Days since Roman times. The warmer-than-your-furry-friend weather was associated with the prominence of Sirius, the Dog Star and the brightest feature in the constellation Canis Major, or Greater Dog.

We’re quite Sirius when we say that Shedd’s trio of talented canines—all adopted from Chicago-area shelters—are both great and stars.

At the same time that the dolphins or belugas do natural behaviors during our current aquatic show, “One World,” Dory, Coral, or Bruce do parallel behaviors, showing guests how positive reinforcement, the “Shedd Way” of training, easily translates from marine mammals to family pets.

DoryWith her reddish coat, erect pointy ears and bushy tail, Dory is a foxy lady. The 2-year-old shepherd mix, who is the oldest of the three dogs, was adopted from Anti-Cruelty Society. Her alert “what’s next?” expression signals that she’s ready to play with the other dogs or the trainers.

Coral is a sweet-faced Airedale mix. She most likely wound up at Chicago Animal Care and Control because of behavioral challenges. Shedd’s trainers recognized her as a reactive dog—she barked at noises, sudden movements, other animals, just about everything but her own shadow. By building her confidence and Coralusing positive reinforcement to establish desirable behaviors instead of reactive ones, the trainers have helped Coral become comfortable with the world around her—including an amphitheater filled with guests during the “One World” aquatic show. She’s more playful, too—she loves those long, skinny plush dog toys.

Too often, great dogs like Dory and Coral are dumped at shelters because their owners didn’t understand how to train them. In some cases, dogs like Bruce are legally removed from abusive situations and placed in shelters. And sometimes pets simply outlive their owners and wind up at the pound. More than 3 million unwanted dogs are euthanized at shelters across the country every year.

At Shedd, every day is National Dog Day as through “One World” we encourage people to visit their local animal shelters when they are ready for a pet. Many of the dogs in shelters are adoption-ready: They are house-trained, know basic behaviors and are good with other pets and children. Others just need a second chance, with a little patient training to bring out their potential.

Dory, Coral and Bruce (yes, you recognize those names from Finding Nemo) all had sad stories—with happy endings. “After temperament tests,” says Ken Ramirez, vice president of animal care and training, “we found that our three dogs would become great companions with the right training. The same is true of so many other homeless animals. Your next canine or feline best friend may be waiting for you in a shelter.”

Be sure to catch “One World” on your next visit. You’ll love whichever dog you see and be inspired to teach your own dog a few new behaviors the “Shedd Way.”

(And please remember to provide your pet with plenty of water and a cool retreat, and keep walks short during the beastly heat of the Dog Days.)

Karen Furnweger, web editor