A dog is the only thing on earth that loves you
more than he loves himself. Josh Billings
There are many of us out there (you know who you are) who love dogs just as much as they love us. Which brings us to Rick Belmonte and Dog Lovers CREED.
Dakota Wants to Love You
You may have seen Rick Belmonte at the Upland Animal Shelter or at our annual Spring Pet Faire. He is the owner of Belmonte's Dog Training and Equipment as well as the founder and President of Dog Lovers CREED. Rick, along with his Dog Lovers CREED team members Robin Drott and Kristi Kho, are professional dog behaviorists and trainers who have a deep love, appreciation, and understanding of dogs.
Spring Pet Faire Demonstration
Many of us have witnessed Rick’s special magic. For example, he can take a dog he’s never met before, a dog who is a little feisty, distracted, and pulling on his lead, and within minutes, have the dog watching him closely and following his lead. It's amazing to watch. Teaching a dog this simple behavior not only provides a solid foundation for further training, but also forms the core of a good human-canine relationship.
Over the past ten years, Rick, Robin, and Kristi have volunteered their time in local shelters and rescues to help save as many dogs as possible. Rick has spent countless hours at Upland Animal Shelter working with our dogs and helping our staff and volunteers assess animals and develop their dog-handling skills.
As Lead Volunteer Kathy Ferguson explained, "Some dogs come to the shelter completely disengaged. They're terrified, confused, and unmanageable. Rick gives these dogs a chance for a new life. His knowledge of dog behavior allows him to reach these dogs and help them to relax, focus, and listen. So many shelter dogs have quickly found new forever homes because Rick has shown them the way. So many volunteers have discovered the best way to work with shelter dogs by working with Rick and observing his techniques."
Rick and Lead Volunteer Kathy Ferguson
Over the years of working in shelters, Rick and his team found that well-mannered dogs got adopted quickly, but some of the dogs who lacked good social skills often became "long term residents". They also noticed that many of these organizations did not have the necessary resources to offer advanced training for staff and volunteers on how to work with the more challenging dog behaviors.
They decided to form a non-profit organization to apply their professional skills and love of dogs to help shelters and rescues save these “harder to place” dogs at no charge. The name “Dog Lovers CREED” came easily to them. They are all dog lovers and CREED is an acronym that captures their core beliefs and values:
Rehabilitation in Action
Our staff and volunteers spend a lot of time socializing our animals. This not only reduces the stress associated with being in the shelter, but also helps them remain adoptable. However, when we have animals with poor behaviors that may hinder their adoption, we often ask Rick and his team to assist.
As an example, we asked Robin to take Lucy, a 7-week old Pitbull puppy with a little bit of an “attitude” to help her gain some much-needed social skills. Robin observed that Lucy was displaying article guarding (showing aggression to people and other dogs) with toys and food, which is unusual for a puppy of this age. She was also displaying some other bad behaviors, such as barking at dogs anytime they came around her.
Robin and Lucy
Her “improvement program” included being saturated with hands-on contact, being taught to surrender toys and food, and being kenneled with dogs who could be trusted to teach Lucy “dog rules” and good social behavior. Four weeks later, Lucy returned to the shelter a new puppy. Although it was hard for Robin to part with her little angel, she knew it was time. We couldn’t help but jump for joy when Lucy was adopted the following week.
Education in ActionOne aspect of the “Education” part of Dog Lovers CREED is focused on “training the trainers” so that more people can help more dogs learn good social skills and behaviors. In addition to routinely helping our staff and volunteers in the shelter, Rick offers Behavior Workshops every Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon for our volunteers.
For these workshops, Rick selects a few shelter dogs and shows our volunteers how to work with them based on their particular personalities and behaviors. Below are a couple of videos capturing these workshops. One of the things to notice is that working effectively with dogs can be relaxed and joyful.
Jake is a 3-year old Chinese Sharpei/Shepherd mix (ID#A04923). He's been at the shelter since July 24, 2016. Our Lead Volunteers note that he is a great dog, but he doesn't show well in his kennel. The video is of Rick working with him in the park on a long leash showing that he is calm and obedient. He is a good boy who really needs to find a loving home.
Click to Play Jake's Video
Dakota is a 2-year old Brindle Pit Bull mix (ID#A044760). She's been at the shelter since July 2, 2016. Our Lead Volunteers note she came in already knowing many commands. She's a little hard to handle when she gets out of the kennel, but once she's outside the shelter, she does well on a long leash and has a great time. The video shows Rick teaching her how to "play dead", which she learned in about 2 minutes. She's very smart. We really want this good girl to find her forever home.
Click to Play Dakota's Video
Rick also conducts Behavior Workshops for the public every Tuesday evening at 5:30 p.m. at Upland Animal Shelter. These workshops focus on developing good dog handling skills and are offered at a low cost of $20.
Not only do these workshops teach good skills, they help resolve behavior issues and establish a better relationship between dogs and their owners. When we get a call from someone wanting to surrender a pet because of poor behavior, we recommend they attend Rick's class. When they do, it often changes a family's decision from wanting to surrender their pet to keeping their pet.
We are grateful that Dog Lovers CREED has chosen to work with Friends of Upland Animal Shelter and sincerely thank them for everything they do.
It is a relief to know that with a bit of training, time, and dedication, most behavioral issues can be resolved. With committed people like Rick, Robin, and Kristi offering their support, all of our dogs can have a chance at finding good homes. Plus, our human-canine "packs" can have a better chance of staying together. All of this helps fewer animals enter the shelter and more animals leave the shelter.
That's what we call a miracle.
Because Dog Lovers CREED offers their services at no cost to us, please consider supporting them by making an online donation on their website at www.dogloverscreed.org and follow them on Facebook @dogloverscreed.
Meet Rick at the Spring Pet Faire
Once again, Rick will be at the Spring Pet Faire on May 6 doing shelter dog “makeovers” and offering tips for how anyone can work more effectively with their own dogs. Plus, this year he will be evaluating dogs to see if they would make good candidates for further Canine Good Citizen testing and certification. The cost is $30.00 per dog. Anyone who is interested is welcome to bring their friendly dog on a six-foot non-retractable leash.