Life With Mikey

Mikey is doing great in his new home with new dad, Ian!

When arriving at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, Mikey was very excitable, and very jumpy mouthy in the shelter. Since then, and having gone through the Center for Shelter Dogs’ jumpy mouthy training program, he has calmed down considerably and only jumps and mouths when Ian deems it appropriate, which is during playtime!
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Inspired By A Cup Of Coffee

A few days ago on my way to work, I stopped for a cup of coffee at the coffee shop near my apartment. I was wearing my Animal Rescue League of Boston sweatshirt and the girl at the counter asked me how long I had been working there.

When I told her I worked for the Center for Shelter Dogs, a program of the Animal Rescue League of Boston; she told me about her own dogs that she rescued and that they have behavior problems. She continued telling me all about how she has been working with them on these problems since they first walked in her door. I was glad to hear that she was working on her dogs’ behavior problems and not giving up.  What really made my day though was when she told me how amazing the work we do is.  For the dogs at the ARLB and how many dogs’ lives we are saving. She told me how wonderful it is that we do what we do. It really made me feel like I was making a difference in the dogs’ lives.
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Puppy Mills: The Scientific Evidence of Harm They Cause To Dogs

There is no uniformly accepted definition of “puppy mill,” but one that encompasses the central features common to most definitions would be “any breeding facility in which puppies are produced primarily for profit and which keeps so many dogs that the physical and psychological needs of the breeding dogs and puppies are not met sufficiently to provide a reasonably decent quality of life for all of the animals.”

Conditions in puppy mills vary widely in quality, ranging from squalid and extremely detrimental to the animals’ health and well-being to shiny and clean. The breeding dogs in these facilities are routinely housed for their entire reproductive lives in cages or runs, and provided with minimal to no positive human interaction or other forms of environmental enrichment.  The puppy mill environment exposes the breeding dogs and their puppies to two major potential causes of psychological harm: inadequate socialization (to people and objects) and psychological trauma. Both can result in similar psychological and behavioral challenges when the breeding dogs (adopted through rescue groups and shelters) and their puppies (sold through pet stores and over the internet) are taken into human households. No currently written laws at the federal or state level are adequate to protect dogs against the psychological harm that occurs from living in a puppy mill.
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Update on Thumbelina

Thumbelina, who now goes by the name Sylvie, is doing great!

New mom Thea has been training her to be the best dog she can be. Sylvie had issues with food aggression before she was adopted, so Thea taught Sylvie to “leave it,” and only gives her delicious treats when no one else is around to disturb her, which helps to avoid any potential problems. Sylvie is very protective of her mama, but she knows to “go to her place” if she feels threatened or uncomfortable. Clicker training, lots of praise and, most importantly, consistency, has given Sylvie the opportunity to thrive! 
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Office Fostering: Tips and Tricks

Office fostering is a great way to learn more about the dogs in your shelter. Not all of our dogs come from the quintessential “home” environment, therefore it is difficult to tell potential adopters how they’ll do in a home when we’ve only seen them in the kennels. In one day (sometimes just an hour or so), you can learn a lot about a shelter dog while in office foster.
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Did He Greet Me Showing Guilty Behavior?

We know that when a child looks away and puts his head down, a broken vase is probably nearby. In humans, the behaviors of constricted posture, head down and averted gaze often map to an emotional state called guilt. For humans, this emotion and its corresponding behaviors, actually serve a purpose. As social beings, we need emotions and behaviors that maintain and heal our relationships.

When dog owners come home to a broken lamp, urine on the floor or an eaten pillow, many owners perceive their dogs’ behaviors of lowering body, tail down, moving away, freezing, and lowering head as indicating guilt.
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The “Field” Research Project

Often times our research projects require a minimum number of dogs that cannot be reached at the Animal Rescue League of Boston.  It forces us to look for a larger facility with a sufficient number of dogs.

And, it is always nice to find a shelter with a big air conditioned room available to utilize.  However, in many shelters the situation is far from the above. Though, this story is not about us struggling with research constraints but about one particular research project that went incredibly well in spite of a few bumps in the road.
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Volunteer Mod Squad

A couple of years ago Dr. Sheila D’Arpino, Veterinary Behaviorist at the Center for Shelter Dogs at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, created a volunteer group called the ‘Mod Squad’.

The MSPCA came up with the name for their trainers; we loved it so much, we asked them for permission to use it, and they happily accepted. This group of canine companion volunteers is unique because all members demonstrate stellar training skills and a great deal of commitment to the volunteer program at the Animal Rescue League of Boston.  They work hard and spend a lot of time working with the dogs in our shelter.
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Shelter Dog Obedience Classes

We have the luxury of being able to offer our shelter staff and volunteers shelter dog obedience classes. They were originated by Dr. Amy Marder and have been a part of the Animal Rescue League of Boston for years now. They’re a huge hit with staff, volunteers and our dogs. We learn so much about the dogs that we can’t learn within the usual shelter environment.

Shelter Dog Obedience Classes are twice weekly structured classes designed specifically for our shelter dogs.  Both volunteers and staff are welcome and encouraged to attend bringing their ‘favorite Fido’ along with them.  Being in a room together having to focus and learn while there are so many distractions challenges the dogs and their handlers, for the hour.  Kim Melanson, the Center for Shelter Dogs Behavior Counselor, leads these classes each week and continues to have a huge following with both new and veteran volunteers attending.
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Do Your Dogs Have C.L.A.S.S.?

A few weeks ago I came home from my weekly obedience class with my new dog and proudly beamed to my husband that Kaylee had earned her B.A. I’m sure that statement would sound odd for those not yet familiar with the new APDT Canine Life and Social Skills program.

No, Kaylee isn’t a genius dog who went to college (though we certainly think she’s a canine Einstein). In fact, the B.A. is the term we use for the first level of the C.L.A.S.S. program. Named after human academic degree programs to promote the idea of education and the progression of learning and skills, the C.L.A.S.S. program has three levels: the B.A., M.A. and Ph.D.
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