Nation’s First Group Housing Habitat for Dogs is Here — and it’s Getting ’em Adopted Faster than Ever

Editor’s note: We’re beyond paw-roud to offer this post as part of our partnership with Animal Humane Society (AHS). You may know ’em for their outstanding adoption offerings, but we’ve been blown away as we’ve learned about the additional services they offer to our community.

It comes as no surprise that Animal Humane Society (AHS) — the leading animal welfare org in the upper Midwest — is also leading the pack when it comes to finding better ways to help shelter dogs thrive.

Case in point: Their NEW, first-of-its kind habitat prototype for shelter dogs.

Can we get a pup yeah?

Their drool-worthy dog habitat opened up to the public this summer, and we were lucky enough to see it in person. While there, we learned how the space came about — and what makes it so doggone special.


As the pet lovers at AHS explained, despite all the TLC that animals get while in their care, the shelter life can be rough for some. Just like humans, dogs are social creatures. Being able to smell and hear — but not interact with — other dogs at the shelter is a recipe for stress. Some pups will shut down — or even act out. 

So last year, AHS President and CEO Janelle Dixon and staff hit the road to see what other humane organizations across the US were doing to improve shelter life. Everything they uncovered — the good, the bad, and the shaggy — would help inform future AHS upgrades. What they learned was that while shelters work tirelessly for the good of all companion animals, there hasn’t been enough recent innovation in how to best support shelter pets during their stay. With their new digs for dogs, AHS hopes to help change all that.

dog habitat

A local design team helped AHS dream up and build their new dog habitat prototype. It includes space for up to six social pupper-flies to spread their wings and live and play together on the daily. This group housing environment, constructed at the Golden Valley AHS location, consists of a group play area as well as cozy individual dens for residents to eat, nap, or just get their downward dog on.

The prototype concept allows the AHS team to continually test, learn, and refine everything from lighting and materials to furniture and toys. They’ve learned a few things right off the snout. For example, optimal play time seems to be about 20 minutes at a time, after which most pups are ready for some quiet time or a quick snooze in their private den before rejoining the group for another romp.

The end goal? Offer a high quality-of-life for shelter dogs — and ultimately help more dogs get adopted, sooner.


It’s working.

Since welcoming adopters to check out the space, AHS has seen a significant decrease in the amount of time it takes for these lucky dogs to get adopted. An average length of stay is 11 days; dogs in the new habitat are generally adopted in only a few short days, if not on the first day they make their debut in the adoption center.

dog habitat

Beyond the reduction in length of stay, AHS has seen incredible benefits for each dog in the habitat, especially for shy or fearful dogs. “We’ve brought shy dogs who are too afraid to even walk on leash into the habitat, and within 20-30 minutes of group interaction we see confident, healthy social behavior,” shared Liv Hagen, Animal Humane Society’s Behavior Modification and Rehabilitation Manager.

They’ve also seen a positive shift in high-energy dogs who find the adoption center overstimulating and can react with excessive barking, jumping, or mouthing. “These dogs are able to release their energy through more appropriate behaviors — social interactions with other dogs — and are successfully adopted from the habitat.”


This new habitat isn’t just for the dogs — potential adopters are benefiting, too. They’re treated to the opportunity to observe adoptable dogs showing off their true, playful selves. They can also visit with the pups in this more inviting setting, helping them envision how a paw-ticular dog may fit into their family.


To help spread the woof AND help set the new standard for shelter life, AHS is working with a researcher from the University of Minnesota to document their findings and eventually share their learnings with other humane organizations nationally, allowing more and more shelters to create temporary homes befitting a four-legged king or queen. 

The dog lovers at AHS know that the more they keep those tails a-waggin’, the faster the dogs in shelter care can find their forever homes.

What are you waiting for? Go sniff out the dog habitat for yourself.

You may just come home with your new best friend.

animal humane society logoThis article was brought to you by the dog lovers at Animal Humane Society. Through low-cost spay and neuter services, wellness exams, training, expert advice and more, AHS is committed to helping pets and their families thrive together. Learn more and donate today.

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