Nate Dog Training

Nathan Dunham, owner of Nate Dog Training Service, with his dogs Chelsea, front, and Hazel at Desert Foothills Park on Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012.

In an effort to aid shelter dog rehabilitation and adoption, more than 20 Ahwatukee Foothills students of the Animal Behavioral College have participated in the Students Saving Lives program.

In lieu of October being “Adopt a Shelter Dog Month,” the college stresses the importance of adopting over buying.

About 5 to 9 million dogs are estimated to be euthanized each year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Whether those numbers are due to lack of shelter space or behavior issues, the college seeks to make a difference through the program.

The Students Saving Lives program was launched in 2004 and pairs all students with local shelters for a minimum of 10 hours of service.

As one of the students, Nate Dunham said treating animals with behavioral or aggression issues is “not to be taken lightly.”

After getting his certification in 2010, Dunham started his own training business based in Ahwatukee Foothills, Nate Dog Training, and specializes in behavioral issues.

When training or rehabilitating, according to Dunham, dogs first need to be understood.

“The few things you do in the beginning of the relationship affect the long run,” he said.

Dunham gave about 30 hours of volunteer work through the program at the Arizona Humane Society, helping in dog rehabilitation and with families through the adoption process.

When training dogs through his own business, Dunham said “people’s hearts are in the right place, but they just don’t know what to do.”

Dunham said people sometimes quarantine dogs who have bad behavior or aggression instead of getting them help.

“Anywhere I can help, I’ll go,” said Dunham, who visits clients all over the Valley.

In their effort to help dog adoptions in local shelters, the college believes that training and rehabilitating dogs with issues is the key to making them good candidates.

“It’s an emotional thing,” Dunham said about the adoption process.

People want to see that a dog behaves well and they want to picture them in their home, he added.

While that frame of thinking barely skims the surface, he aims to educate people on how to give dogs directions, and where to go for help.

“The best thing you can do is find help and trainers can steer you the right way,” Dunham added.

For more information about the Students Saving Lives program, visit or call (888) 600-7220.

• Contact writer: (480) 898-4903 or

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