Behind the scenes: The Case For Behavior Screening Shelter Dogs

When you rescue a dog from a shelter in MA, it's very likely that the dog has come up from a southern or mid-western state. It's awesome that we're saving 14,000 dogs (legally, though more illegally - more on that in a moment), but it's after the adoption that behavior issues start to arise.

Here is a great article from the Boston Globe showing some of the behind-the-scenes of dog rescue. It also starts to tick away at what we dog trainers have been noticing in recent years. As more dogs are being trucked into our state (or worse, outside state borders at a highway rest stop), we're noticing an increase in behavior modification medication and significant behavior problems. That's not to take away from what veterinarians are seeing: an increase in diseases that were once uncommon in the Commonwealth. If these were minor issues, the conversation wouldn't be shifting towards regulations and education. The number of cases trainers are seeing are increasing as far as wayward behavior is concerned. I love doing behavior work, but it can be an incredible burden on a family who just wanted a buddy for their kid to find out they now have to be experts in dog behavior.

We're not asking that people give up on looking to rescues for a dog. We're asking that you make certain that the dog is behaviorally and physically sound before bringing it home (the same I would argue for individuals going to a breeder). Many shelters make sure that the dogs are healthy and behaviorally fit for living in your environment,and they have trainers on staff that can help you make the best decision for you, your family and your environment. Environment, though often overlooked, matters more now that dogs from the woods are moving into apartments in the city, and it's the one element that most of us forget to consider when looking for a new companion. Many southern dogs do just fine in Boston, but many others need way more space than an urban environment will allow. A shelter that takes the time to do enrichment programs as well has behavior evaluations in the shelter are doing their part to give you the best chance of really saving a dog.