Do You Like to Be Petted by People You Don’t Know?

I’ve been wondering lately… Why, in the animal sheltering world, do so many people feel that a dog must come right up to you and display super friendly body language in order to be considered ‘normal’ and ‘adoptable’?

How many people do you know go right up to every person that walks into a room to give an enthusiastic and warm greeting? Is it ‘normal’ to expect that a dog that needs a home would do something that many of us wouldn’t do ourselves? I’m not saying we should find homes for ALL dogs with low initial social interest, but I am saying that I think we should think about the subject.  And yes, it is possible that decreased interest in interacting with people might be associated with aggressive behavior toward people… but I know lots of dogs that don’t love strangers but are also not aggressive.
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My First Two Months at the CSD

I started my Northeastern Co-op with the Center for Shelter Dogs at the Animal Rescue League of Boston two months ago and have already learned so much in the short time that I have been here. I am interested in veterinary medicine but also want to learn about behavior.

So far, this internship has been great and I didn’t realize how much of an impact it would have on me until I met Gatsby.
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Why “Special Adoptions” Are Special To Me

When I got the call that let me know I’d be working for the Center for Shelter Dogs at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, I was overjoyed. I decided some time ago that my dream job involved dogs, dogs and more dogs with a little psychology tossed in.

This was my opportunity to work with dogs, do research, and work with and learn from some extremely talented individuals. Little did I know, my experience would quickly become far more than just a stepping stone along my career path.
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In Memory Of Putney

This blog is written in honor of Putney… a  cute 15 year old Rat Terrier. Putney came into my life 4 years ago when I first began working at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, and died one month ago.

She had a rough life… a mom who loved her dearly, but didn’t have a stable life where she could take proper care of Putney…a life without much stability. Putney was one of those dogs that loved to be near you, but rarely wanted to be touched.  She taught me a lot… that you could love another living being without ever being able to have close physical contact (the first time I was ever able to give her a hug was after she passed away). She taught me that if we let go of assumptions about how we ‘should’ interact with a dog that is a family member, and accept a dog’s needs and wishes in terms of what type of relationship THEY are comfortable with, we can have a wonderful and special relationship… one that is very rewarding. In honor of Putney, this blog celebrates the unique special traits of every single dog… even dogs who, on the surface, have lots of challenges. This list is written in fond memory of the Putster-Ann Lady.
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An Update From Nellie

My name is Nellie and recently, I got a new home. I first met my potential family when I was staying at Sheila’s house, the nice lady from the Center for Shelter Dogs at the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

I loved Sheila and her family and felt very comfortable in her home so you can imagine how underwhelmed I was at the idea of meeting more new people. When they came in, I was a little nervous at first; I barked a bit and stuck my tail between my legs, slinking around. I wasn’t thrilled at the strange dude in the house, but the lady was OK. But then I ventured over to sniff-out my potential new bro (a 20 lb Rattie who looks JUST like me!) and everything changed. Seeing as I love other dogs, meeting this male version of me definitely helped break the ice. We quickly went outside and began our game of chase (well, I chased him because this is probably my favorite game in the world!). We pounced, sniffed and played together. You could say I brought him out of his shell because he is FAR more reserved than I am! Sheila and my potential parents watched us play and were thrilled at how we got along. But seriously, what dog wouldn’t love me? My signature move of sticking my bum in the other dog’s face is sure to win anyone over.
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The Mystery Of The “Guilty Look”

Is a “guilty look” a familiar dog behavior to you?  If so, was it associated with a misdeed such as a ruined shoe, stolen steak or other yummy food?

If you answered “yes” on this question, you probably misinterpreted the meaning of the “guilty look,” relying on anthropomorphism. However, you probably noted some recognizable guilty looking behaviors such as: dog avoids looking at you, turns eyes aside, cowers, or slinks back in a submissive way, etc., so, where do those behaviors came from?  To answer this question, Alexandra Horowitz, a scientist at the Horowitz Dog Cognition Lab at Barnard College, New York, examined, in her article, what situation precedes the “guilty look.” In her study, she recruited 14 owners and their dogs. The owners were told that the researcher was testing their dogs for obedience at a distance.
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Meet Boaz

I have had the pleasure of sharing my office with this handsome man for the last several weeks while he got more comfortable around new people; he’s quite the cuddler once he gets to know you, but he’s shy at first and exhibits some fear of people so our Veterinary Behaviorist and Behavior Programs Supervisor asked if I’d work with him through our office foster program.

I started off fostering both Boaz and his buddy Benito – who, happily, has since been adopted – so they could both get used to being around people together.
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Scruffy’s Story

Scruffy was such an appropriate name for this cute, little guy.  He came to us a while ago with his wiry black fur, his bark and his playful but fearful personality.

About a month after he came to us he was adopted, but then quickly returned because along with his playful personality came his voice.  He had a bark that could be heard from very far away.  We quickly learned that this bark was his indication to us that he was scared of something in the environment.  It ended up that he was mostly scared of new people.  The family that had him for a month were having ‘new’ people in and out of their home daily because they were having construction projects completed shortly after they adopted him.  It didn’t seem like it was going to be the right fit for our fearful friend Scruffy.
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CSD Behavior Modification Webinars

I’ve had the opportunity to sit in on the latest webinars that Dr. Sheila D’Arpino has conducted here at the Center for Shelter Dogs. These webinars have been a huge hit and so unbelievably helpful to people by providing information in an extremely easy way.

They can watch or listen right from their own homes or offices.
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Update on Maddie

Miss Maddie is now happily adjusting to life in her new home!  A great family that lives just outside of Boston adopted her and she could not have found a better home.

Although it comes as no surprise to me, she is doing great and loves her new friends and family. Her mom tells us Maddie is a quick learner and a true delight to be around.  She no longer bites the leash on walks and even goes on a lot of hikes off the leash altogether.  She’s making tons of doggie friends and especially loves going to the beach.  The car trips to get to the beach are a riot with Maddie because she likes to remind you of her exuberant personality by howling along to the songs on the radio.
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