Shelter Dogs Blog

Length of Stay Webinar This Week!

In a perfect world, each animal who comes into a shelter would be cared for, restored to full health, and adopted into a forever home in as short a time as possible. And yet for a lot of shelters, the everyday reality is that many animals end up staying for longer than that ideal, resulting in challenges both for the shelter and the animals themselves. In our own shelter here at the Animal Rescue League of Boston, as I’m sure it is for many of you, managing the amount of time that each animal spends in the shelter environment is a juggling act between shelter resources and the needs of each individual animal. Dr. Erin Doyle, one of our veterinarians in the shelter, is presenting a webinar this week to discuss this very important topic, and how to deliver a better quality of care through managing the population as a whole. You can join us this Thursday, March 6th at 2pm EST (Boston, GMT -5). Sign up now through our webinars page!

Relinquishing a Pet: A More Complex Perspective

Why do people relinquish their animals? Of the many different studies conducted to answer this question, one in particular has had a profound effect on me, enough that I could call it my favorite article. The article is called: “Surrendering pets to shelters: the relinquisher’s perspective”, published in Anthrozoos in 1998 by Natalie DiGaicomo, Arnold Arluke, and Gary Patronek. As a researcher much more used to a quantitative perspective, this article has touched my heart because of the way it brings emotional meaning and deep understanding to such an important subject. Further more, it has changed my own perspective and made me realize that the decision to relinquish a pet is more complex than can be captured by a single line on a paper form.
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Alleviating Stress in Shelter Dogs: A Case Study

For most dogs, being relinquished to an animal shelter is a drastic change and a stressful experience. Even though a shelter may make every effort possible to make a dog’s new shelter home welcoming, it is still a place where dogs will be confined, separated from their previous families, and exposed to more noise due to the close proximity of other dogs. These environmental changes are very stressful for most dogs. Because of the influence of individual dog personality on behavior, signs of stress can vary. Some dogs will hide in the back of the kennel, be less active or stop eating. Some may be more active. Some dogs may behave aggressively in response to stress, while other dogs will begin to perform repetitive behaviors, increase their frequency of barking/vocalization, become destructive, and start to urinate and defecate in their kennel. The presence of abnormal behavior and the absence of normal behavior are equally important to note. A dog not eating and not playing may be just as stressed as a dog who is circling, barking, and lunging at the kennel door.
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Is it Time to Rethink Food Aggression in Shelter Dogs?

What’s the most common problem behavior we see in shelter dogs? Do you want to take a guess? I’ll bet the answer isn’t what you’re thinking. According to the data we have collected through the online version of the Match-Up II Shelter Dog Rehoming Program, it’s highly excitable, exuberant behavior we call “jumpy/mouthy” behavior. As I wrote previously, Match-Up II Online identified about 37% of dogs as displaying “jumpy/mouthy” behavior, the number one problem behavior in the Match-Up II database. But this blog post isn’t about jumpy/mouthy behavior. It’s about food aggression, a topic that has received a lot of attention lately from the Center for Shelter Dogs, among others.
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New CSD Study Finds Activity Levels May Be Key to Identifying Stress in Shelter Dogs

Although it seems obvious when you see it, it can sometimes be difficult to identify harmful stress in shelter dogs. Shelters are stressful places for dogs, even when we provide an enriched, stimulating, supportive environment. There has been a lot of research in the last few years working on ways to identify stress because once we can accurately identify it, we can actively intercede and do something to minimize the causes of stress and reduce the harmful effects of chronic stress on shelter dogs.
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The Real Factors in Dog Bite Related Fatalities

In the 1970s and 1980s, my colleagues and I were lecturing and writing about the “dog bite epidemic”. Although I knew that dogs sometimes bit, I preferred to emphasize that most of the time they do not. And what’s more, there are things that can be done to prevent these incidents. Recently, the “epidemic” seems to be lessening. There are fewer reported dogs bites in many cities across the United States than there used to be. For instance, New York City reported about 37,000 dog bites in 1971 and fewer than 5,000 in 2011. Chicago reported about 12,000 in 1978 and about 2000 in 2011.This is good news but dog bites still happen and unfortunately often become big news.

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Ah, Those Exuberant Dogs!

You know the dog – he’s the one who will leap excitedly at people, jumping to their waist, their chest, their face, as high as he can get.  With springs for legs, he’s jumping, jumping, jumping!  Sometimes licking, sometimes drooling, sometimes knocking people down.

Sometimes even mouthing them, making contact with their teeth and leaving marks or bruises.  We call this behavior “jumpy/mouthy” and it can be a real problem – frustrating staff, scaring off adopters, even inflicting injury.  Yet, these dogs often have a devoted following amongst the shelter staff, because of their seemingly boundless energy, good spirits, and apparent friendliness.  At the Center for Shelter Dogs, we offer resources for working with jumpy/mouthy dogs which we hope will provide shelter staff tools to manage and reduce this annoying behavior and find the right home for these big personalities.  We chose to develop these resources early on because we knew ourselves how hard it could be to work with and rehome these dogs and we often heard from other shelter personnel the same thing.
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Enrichment and Training for Shelter Dogs in a Shelter Dog Training Class

It’s 6:15 on a Wednesday night and there are 8 dogs and 10 people in the auditorium. There’s Tiger and Blackie who are learning sit, stay and look cues with rewards. Duke is shy and just sitting in his volunteer’s lap while being petted and loved. Brady is receiving more advanced training and going through his repertoire of tricks that include touch, spin and paw. Candy is barking and lunging at other dogs, so a barrier is set up to manage the distraction and to help her concentrate while learning. Gracie is going over jumps and building up her confidence to go through a tunnel. Lou is learning that going in a crate will get him a treat, while Lady, who is an older girl, is just surveying all of the activity as she gets some time out of her kennel. Both volunteers and employees participate in bringing these resident shelter dogs for training and much needed enrichment each week. This is a typical Wednesday night in the Shelter Dog Training Class at the Animal Rescue League of Boston.
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What Adopted Dogs Wish People Knew: Tips for a Family with Children

Many of our shelter dogs are adopted into homes with young children or expecting parents. But often times, adopting families are unaware of how the presence of children can affect how a dog adapts to his or her new environment. Of course, the problems that can arise from this situation are entirely avoidable. Here are a few home management techniques that shelter staff can share with parents for improving safety around dogs and prevent common canine-human miscommunications:
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Get to Know Each Dog in Front of You!

Our friends at the Animal Farm Foundation put together this infographic , “All dogs are individuals – why looks don’t equal behavior.” The Center for Shelter Dogs’ Match-Up II Shelter Dog Rehoming Program reflects this philosophy. We can’t predict a dog’s behavior by looks or breed, not only because we are so often wrong about the breeds in a mixed breed dog, but also because experience and environment play a huge role in determining behavior.

We hope you enjoy this infographic. I sure did! Viewing each dog as an individual helps you identify and understand each dog’s individual needs, enabling you to provide customized care while they are in the shelter and better placements for long-term rehoming. As we like to say at the Center, Because every dog is different!
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