Dog Behavior Program

The Austin Pets Alive! Dog Behavior Program will provide the dogs in our care all available resources to enhance their quality of life and save as many lives as possible.

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We recognize, respect, and treat each animal as an individual. We utilize all tools and techniques in our programs to teach and support healthy, appropriate behavior to companion dogs within our community. We support our adopters in strengthening and nourishing their bond with their companion. We share our program successes with other animal welfare organizations to support life-saving efforts beyond our own shelter and community.


Each dog in our behavior program costs anywhere between $250 to several thousand dollars more to save than an average, easier to place, dog. By donating to this program, you are directly helping us to get more dogs out of the shelter alive and learn the skills they need to thrive as loved companion animals in forever homes. Donations pay for training, dog handling equipment, enrichment toys, special training treats, and all of the resources and tools our pooches need to succeed.



Dog Playgroups

Play groups are a great way for dogs to socialize with one another and get exercise while potential adopters and staff at APA! get a better idea of their unique traits. This part of the dog behavior program has led to the saving and enrichment of countless lives at APA! To learn more about this program or to watch videos of playgroups in action, click here!

Canine Good Citizen Preparation Program Barrels1

Starting summer 2013, large-breed adult dogs in the dog behavior program at APA! also began training to be American Kennel Club Canine Good Citizens, thanks to support from Best Friends Animal Society. For information about this program, check out the feature page here!

Volunteer Opportunities

The APA! Dog Behavior team provides a wide variety of ways for volunteers to get involved with the dogs and the program as a whole. For more details about available opportunities, check out the dog
behavior volunteer opportunities page!

Adoption Follow-up Program

morgan_closeupThe adoption follow-up program is provided by APA!’s behavior department staff and is a complimentary service for all dogs adopted from APA! regardless of age, size, breed, medical, or behavior history. The follow-up services include:
* Phone Consultations
* Private lessons at the shelter (or in the home if adopters live close by!)
* No time limit on support, it is available for the lifetime of the pet!
*Several of our adoptable dogs even come with free training sessions after adoption!

**The APA! Dog Behavior Staff cannot provide basic obedience group classes, but do provide support for any behavioral issues/concerns. Adopters are also notified of recommended basic trainers in their area. **



Meet Our Behavior Team!

unnamed Mike Kaviani, Dog Behavior Program Manager
Mike Kaviani began working with shelter animals at the Irvine Animal Care Center in California when he was 18. His “3rd Chance for Pets Program” received national recognition when IACC was given the 2007 Shelter of the Year award primarily due to this program. In 2010, Mike became the Director of Training and Behavior at the Southampton Animal Shelter Foundation. At SASF, he worked under the guidance of Aimee Sadler (founder of the Playing for Life Program), and together their work resulted in the shelter consistently reaching one of the highest save rates in the country.  In the Spring of 2012, Mike brought the Playing for Life model to Austin when he joined forces with Dr. Ellen Jefferson and became the Dog Behavior Program Manager for Austin Pets Alive! APA! has already achieved a 90% Save Rate for the entire city of Austin, and Mike’s focus is to save the last 10%, which is primarily comprised of large dogs. At APA!, he conducts daily dog play groups, provides training and behavior modification, adoption follow-up and support, and teaches weekly volunteer training classes.


Aaron Caldwell, Dog Behavior Program Assistant Manager
After studying social behavior and psychology at the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee Aaron packed up his stuff and moved down to Austin on a whim. Aaron stumbled upon Austin Pets Alive! after helping two friends find their own adoptive dogs through the organization. After a few visits to Austin Pets Alive! he spoke with the adoption counselor, who also happened to be the Dog Adoption Program Manager, about getting a job. Two weeks later he received a phone call and the rest is history. Aaron started as on off-site counselor with APA! and moved into a lead position, working at the main facility. When APA! moved their home to the Town Lake Animal Center, Aaron came over to become a lead counselor at the new shelter. When the Behavior Program was launched at APA!, Mike Kaviani the new Dog Behavior Program Manager took Aaron under his wing and has been a mentor and a guide to him since 2012.


Marian Cannell, Canine Good Citizen Program Coordinator
Marian began her work with dogs in 2011 when she was approached with the opportunity to attend a local training academy in Austin, Texas. She decided to leave the sector of private dog training in August 2012 to work at her local shelter, Austin Pets Alive!. In the Spring following, she was invited to join the behavior team under the direction of Mike Kaviani. Shortly after joining the team, Best Friends Animal Sanctuary provided the opportunity for APA! to integrate a new position into the behavior department, the Canine Good Citizen Coordinator. Marian Cannell enthusiastically accepted the position, and is currently working full-time to keep the larger dogs at Austin Pets Alive! enriched, well-trained, and highly adoptable through the CGC Program.


Carrie Morris, Dog Behavior Program Assistant
Carrie started volunteering at APA a little over 2 years ago bottle feeding kittens.  Her first staff position was as a matchmaker at the Manchaca location.  She then moved on to being a dog counselor and recently became a member of the behavior team. Her duties as a Behavior Program Assistant include hands-on dog training with our dogs who are most in need, assisting with Play Group, and counseling adopters on specific behavior-related issues. You can usually find her around Austin Pets Alive! dancing, singing or snuggling with a dog.

Our goal is to give our dogs every opportunity to succeed, like…


Beebee; Once at risk of having her life cut short, she spent a few months with APA! and is now loving her home with another dog and a cat


Louise; After 20 long months in the shelter, she is enjoying a couch (& home) that she can call her very own!


Capone; who is enjoying a new lease on life with a loving family

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