For dogs with behavioral issues, there aren’t a lot of options. People won’t adopt them, and many end up languishing in shelters without much hope of ever finding a home. 

Fortunately, for troubled dogs, there’s the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Madison, New Jersey. The rehab center takes in dogs with behavioral issues, most of whom were abused or neglected by previous owners. Professional animal handlers help socialize the dogs under their care. Many of their strategies are surprisingly simple: two of the most important techniques are patience and play. Through repeated positive interactions, the dogs slowly learn to trust humans.

In a video released by National Geographic, dog trainers at the rehab center describe the challenges they’ve faced, and the progress they’ve made with some of their toughest cases. For them, each small step—a wag of the tail, or a lick on the arm—is a cause for celebration. But though rehabilitation is challenging, most of the dogs make real progress at the center, and many of them end up finding happy homes in the end. Check out the video below:

[h/t: National Geographic]