Canine behavior rehabilitation centre

Aiming to transform the adoption process and give fearful dogs a second chance for a better life.

Photo of Dora Ghecenco
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I confirm that I am fully aware of the eligibility criteria and terms of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize and, based on its description, I am eligible to apply:

  • Yes, I’m eligible
  • Yes, I’m 18 years old or older

Should you be successful, please confirm your availability to attend:

  • Additional Skype interview(s) during the week of March 16-20th 2020
  • The Purina BetterwithPets Forum in Paris, on 3-4th of June 2020

Initiative's representative name

Dora Ghecenco

Initiative's representative date of birth


Initiative's representative gender

  • Woman

Headquarters location: country

  • Romania

Headquarters location: city

Cluj county, Răscruci village

Where are you making a difference?


Website or social media url(s)

Date Started

July 2016 and in May 2018 we became a NGO

Focus Areas

  • Enhance physical activity and wellness
  • Promoting responsible adoption and reintegrating abused dogs in families

What is your current yearly budget for the initiative? If you are an idea stage, what early budget you would need to kick-off and run operations in your first year?

  • €1k - €10k

Organisation Type

  • nonprofit/NGO: an organisation that uses its resources to achieve a purpose outside of creating profit

1. Founding story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this project to succeed.

The Dogs on Hills team is formed by 2 people (Ana and Dora) which met when Dora was looking for a solution to make her rescued senior dog's life better. The dog was called Momo and she was fearful, afraid of people and other dogs. Normal dog training classes were paying off, but Dora knew Momo could do so much more in the little time she had left. This is how she met Ana, who was taking care of 50 dogs in a house outside the city. Most of the dogs were abused, fearful and not ready for a family, but they had so much potential. Ana worked with Momo and Momo transformed herself. After that, Dora joined Ana's dream of a canine behavior rehabilitation centre and Dogs on Hills was born to prove that fearful dogs are not broken.

2. The problem: What problem are you helping to solve?

Many abused dogs live in private and public shelters in Romania - most of them are overlooked and live their entire life closed in a small area, the rest are being promoted for adoption as normal, happy dogs. After families are found for these dogs, most of them don't know how to handle the dogs, so they either abandon their animals or live a stressful life. We want to offer a sustainable solution for both the dogs and the community.

3. Your solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.

We are working on creating a canine behavior centre where we could work with fearful dogs through positive reinforcement methods and provide these dogs with a stable, calm environment, and protection from fear triggers which is essential to building confidence and trust for the dog in need. We also want to change the mentality of people who adopt shelter dogs and offer a sustainable solution for the dog abandonment problem. We want to change the now known shelters where dogs are kept in kennels and feed while people think that is wonderful and enough. For this, we started building inside individual spaces for dogs where we can spend quality time with the dogs and we aim to also build separate outdoor / indoor spaces where we could socialize dogs taking into consideration how they interact with each other and the environment (spaces that reproduce day to day life scenarios). In parallel, we promote our dogs for adoption by giving all details required and we offer support for the people interested in adopting them. This is not our daily job, but our passion and we do it volunteer.

4. Innovation: How are you innovating or using unique approaches to solve the problem?

We want to change the now known shelters where dogs are kept in kennels and feed while people think that is wonderful and enough. These shelters create the fake idea that these dogs are safe when instead dogs suffer from abuse or neglect and when they get adopted they are afraid of everything new around them. We aim to solve this problem by working with the fearful dogs in our care until they become adoptable and then promote them for adoption and offer all information before a decision is made. We also offer advice and support after a dog is adopted so both people and dogs live a happy - balanced life.

5. How does your project harness the pet-human bond to help people develop important social competencies (For example: emotional intelligence, collaboration, empathy, resilience, inclusivity) and overcome serious societal issues (for example: violence, abuse, trauma, isolation, abandonment)?

Our motto is fearful dogs are not broken and by doing what we do we try to make people understand that they need to put in a lot of work to have the ideal relationship with their dog: they need to invest to see results. We are also trying to bring into the spot light the fearful dogs, the dogs which suffered not only from physical attacks or punishment, but from neglect, inappropriate or lack of socialization. By working with them and explaining step by step what their problems are and what the solution is we hope to make more people understand that depriving a young dog of its mother through too-early weaning, chaining or tying up a dog; forcing him to spend most of his time in a kennel or cage; making him live outside, away from his human family, depriving a dog of daily walks and interaction with different situations are also forms of abuse and can and will harm the dog - human relationship.

6. Impact: how has your project made a difference so far in terms of both business outputs and social impact? How do you plan on measuring progress?

We measure our impact by the number of dogs reintegrated into families and by people who call or ask for advice. Each and every adoption has a story behind, a story which motivates other people. We manage to do these activities thanks to the donations we receive and we receive most donations from people who adopt from us and then support us, from people who come and do volunteer work for us, from people who know us and recommend us to more and more people. We are a small community and we plan to measure our success by the number of dogs we manage to reintegrate into the society,

7. Growth strategies: what are your main strategies for scaling your impact?

We would love to implement educational programs, to be able to make spay and inform campaigns, participate to events and improve and enlarge the dog sanctuary we have.

8. Creating shared value: How does your initiative create value for different stakeholders?

On the long term, it is much more wisely to invest in rehabilitating the dogs, informing people about canine behavior rehabilitation and working on creating a sustainable solution for both the dogs and the community. Also financially wise is better to invest in rehabilitating a dog and faster promote it for adoption than keeping the dog in a shelter and spending money on accommodation, food, treatments, or solve behavior problems that an already adopted dog has than to ignore the situation and prolong the suffering and distress on either part. Prevent abandonment and human/ dog misunderstandings.

9. Financial sustainability plan: can you tell us about your plan to fund your project and how that plan will be sustainable in the short, medium, and long term?

On the short term, we rely on donations. On the medium term, we want to implement an adoption fee, which in Romania doesn't exist at the moment and put a fee on the services we offer. On the long term, we want to apply for funds and find financing for our projects.

10. Team: what is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?

We are two people which do this besides our daily jobs. Ana is a vet tech and Dora works for an IT company. We are hoping that as the project grows, we will make Dogs on Hills our daily job and slowly increase the team.

11. How do you plan to influence your field of work if you are a winner of this edition of the Purina BetterwithPets Prize?

This would be an amazing opportunity to reinforce the idea that fearful dogs are not broken and that they can be reintegrated in families and live a normal life.

12. How did you hear about this challenge?

  • Recommended by others

Evaluation results

3 evaluations so far

1. OVERALL Evaluation

Yes, absolutely! - 66.7%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

2. Is this entry INNOVATIVE?

Yes, absolutely! - 0%

Yes/maybe - 33.3%

Maybe - 66.7%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

3. Does this entry have SOCIAL IMPACT?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

4. Does this entry have potential to GROW & demonstrate LEADERSHIP?

Yes, absolutely! - 33.3%

Yes/maybe - 66.7%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

5. Is this entry VIABLE?

Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%


Yes, absolutely! - 100%

Yes/maybe - 0%

Maybe - 0%

Maybe/no - 0%

No - 0%

7. FEEDBACK – Highlights

INNOVATION: You have a great understanding of the problem, have researched existing solutions, and have developed unique, thoughtful new solutions or used an old model in a new way - 0%

IMPACT: You use specific numbers and evidence to describe what your project has achieved so far (or plan to achieve in the future) and you have a plan for measuring impact - 50%

GROWTH & LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL: You have a thoughtful plan for growth and your founding team has a strong combination of leadership and knowledge-based skills - 50%

VIABIBLITY: You have given a great deal of thought to not just the idea itself but how to make it work from a financial perspective in the present and future - 100%

CHANGEMAKING ACTIVATION: You value thinking around how to activate changemakers and empower them to innovate through your product or programming - 100%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: You have a clearly defined plan on how to maximize shared value across multiple sectors and stakeholders - 0%

WRITING STYLE: Your writing style is concise, descriptive, clear, and specific - 50%

Other option - 0%

8. FEEDBACK - Areas for Improvement

INNOVATION: Be more specific in your description of the research you have done into the past solutions to this problem and focus on how your solution is unique and innovative - 100%

IMPACT: Provide specific instances of your social impact and how you plan to measure impact – it may be helpful to describe the beneficiaries, products and programming, and provide evidence of (or plan for) how to measure impact - 0%

GROWTH & LEADERSHIP POTENTIAL: Your plan for growing the organization can benefit from more specifics. How can you round out the various skills of your current leadership team to make the project a long-term success? - 0%

VIABILITY: Make sure you have provided descriptive information about your financial sustainability plan. Where do the funds come from now and do you have a concrete plan for future sustainability? - 0%

POTENTIAL TO CREATE SHARED VALUE: Your plan can benefit from more thought on how to create value for all stakeholders, not just immediate beneficiaries - 0%

WRITING STYLE: Try to be more concise, descriptive, clear, and specific. Avoid jargon - 0%

Nothing – I thought everything was great! - 100%

Other option - 0%

Attachments (1)

Pliant engleză.pdf

Our presentation flyer

1 comment

Join the conversation:

Photo of Dora Ghecenco

Thank you all for your kind feedback, I do not know why, but I have not received notifications about it.

Dear Kim, in Cluj, or Romania, there are not any other similar initiatives unfortunately. The idea of promoting dogs and giving more details about behavior and how to improve the connection between dog and owner does not exist yet. Dogs are promoted for adoption still as fluffy and lovely creatures, with no defects, and no follow up is done after the adoption process is finished. This leads to abandonment, false expectations and many other problems, as you can assume.

Dear Mark, you are totally right, and I will surely use your feedback to improve our project.

Dear Bill, thank you, you are totally right, more stakeholders need to be involved to scale up our project.

Dear Marc, you are also right. Metrics always help and I will try to be more specific. Thank you!