Inside The Mind Of A Shelter Dog

The ARL’s Dot Baisly on working with shelter dogs

Ever wonder what goes on in a shelter dog’s mind? You know, aside from the usual, “When is it time to eat? When can I go outside to play? When is it time to eat….?”

Dot Baisly, the ARL’s new shelter enrichment and behavior manager, may not know exactly what shelter dogs are thinking at all times, but what she does know are the best methods to help them adapt to their new environment and get them ready to find a new home.

The ARL Blog sat down with Dot to learn more about how the ARL approaches shelter dog enrichment and giving potential adopters a profile of a dog’s behavior.

ARL Blog: What are some common behavioral issues that you come across related to shelter dogs and how do you work with them?

DB: The most frequent issue in shelter dogs is over-arousal and “jumpy mouthy” behavior. This issue is common for many reasons, such as lack of stimulation, the animal’s adolescent age, and a lack of proper training.

I like to treat the animal holistically by working to enrich their daily experience while teaching impulse control, and by finding ways to help the dog relax and find a quiet space at least three times a week.

Dot with rooster on her head

Dot Baisly faces every day at the ARL with a positive attitude–and with her party hat (a.k.a. ARL adoptable rooster Leonidas – come meet him at our Dedham shelter!)

ARL Blog: When the ARL does a “behavioral screening” for animals, what exactly does that mean?

DB: Our behavior evaluation process takes in all the information available to us for each animal. When possible, we start with a profile when an owner relinquishes a pet to us. If the animal comes in as a stray, we do everything that we can to gather as much information about an animal’s behavior.

We process all dogs through a systematic behavior evaluation in which the animal is screened for friendliness to humans, excitement levels, fear, aggression, and how well they know cues.

Finally, we gather and report all behavior observed in the shelter and compile this information to best match each individual dog with a new home.

ARL Blog: What is a typical enrichment plan that you give to a shelter dog?

DB: A typical enrichment plan should address the individual needs of each dog. For heavy chewers, for example, we feed them from a toy daily so that food acquisition is a mentally stimulating part of their day.

Basic obedience training is a part of every enrichment plan and quiet time outside of the kennel should happen regularly.

In many cases, we encourage play to learn impulse control and other aspects of interacting with humans.  This can be done with fetch, tug, and other games for the young adolescent dogs in need of physical exercise. When possible, I also include agility, appropriate social interactions with other dogs, and handling/massaging from humans.

 MORE ABOUT DOT – Dot first came to the ARL as an under-grad looking for a part-time job. She found she loved the work so much, she joined us full-time for several years before going back to school for her master’s degree. She operated her own dog training business, through which she continued to work with shelters.

Most recently, Dot worked at the SPCA of Westchester, New York, designing and implementing a volunteer-based dog walking and training program and fulfilling all behavior needs of that shelter.



January is National Train-Your-Dog Month

Check out ARL classes at

Shake a Paw TrickAccording to Kim Melanson, CPDT-KA Behavior Counselor at the ARL, you and your dog can benefit from training in five ways:

Freedom:  A well-behaved dog can have an enriching life by spending more time with his family.  He can hang out with visitors, go places with you and join in on family activities. If your dog has learned some basic house and outdoor manners, he will not jump all over guests or bother them too much. He can ride in a car safely, go to a relative’s house and settle, go to the park or the beach for an outing and come back when called.

Bonding:  With just a few minutes a day of active training and/or adding some training into every day activities, you and your dog can learn more about each other and have fun. The benefits of positive reinforcement humane training are abundant. Both human and dog enjoy the experience as they teach and learn from each other, as well as create a trusting, mutually-enriching, and lasting relationship.

It lets your “dog be a dog”:  Dogs like to do natural things that sometimes do not fit well in the human home such as: chewing, jumping, chasing, and digging. Training them in an appropriate way to have their fun lets them to do ‘doggie’ things and lets you join in too, all while making sure they do not disturb the household in a negative way. Train your dog to chew on dog chews and toys instead of shoes and pillows, sit for greetings and attention instead of jumping, playing ‘find it’ with treats and stuff Kongs instead of digging, and retrieving balls with a drop for chasing. Not only will your dog be happier, but you will also have fun!

Burns mental energy and relieves boredom:  Positive training promotes thinking in dogs and humans, and a thinking brain can relieve excess energy. A few minutes a day can really help your dog rest well and not seek out destructive ways of burning energy. Teaching tricks is a great activity to do on a rainy day – kids and friends will love seeing your dog do tricks!

Keeps dogs in their ‘forever’ home:  Many dogs are surrendered to shelters for behavior problems and or because they  have become too much for the owner to handle. A well-trained dog stays in her forever home because she has become part of the family and is a joy to live with. She can also become an ‘ambassador’ for dogs everywhere. There are public places, apartment buildings and areas that are banning dogs, and some people are frightened of dogs. If our dogs are well-behaved in public, people see that we can keep dogs as an integral part of our society and families.

DT_mini2Training obedience cues of sit, down, stay, drop, come and more are great for dogs to learn, but training also means teaching your dog to live in a human household and beyond. House training, learning to settle, go to a mat or crate, to chew appropriate chews, to play appropriate games, to walk on leash and polite greetings for people and dogs are the cornerstones of a well mannered and well liked family dog.

The Animal Rescue League of Boston offers many dog training classes that review basic and advanced cues, along with house and outdoor manners. We also offer some dog sports and fun agility classes. We are offering a 25% discount for ARL alums and 10% off for BVC clients. For more information about our Boston classes check out our schedule.


Happy Adopt-A-Dog Month!

October is Adopt-A-Shelter-Dog-Month



Homeless dogs need your help. If you’re thinking about getting a dog, then please consider adopting. There are numerous benefits to adopting a dog, but most importantly, when you adopt you’re saving two lives, the life of the animal that you adopted and the life of the animal that’s going to take its place at the shelter.

Here at the Animal Rescue League of Boston we’re going to spend this month honoring all of our wonderful, adoptable shelter dogs and offering canine tips throughout the month. Stay tuned for important information regarding canine health, grooming, exercise, training and nutrition. In addition to sharing helpful tips, we’ll also be tweeting some incredibly touching quotes and photos.

If you’re currently not in a position to adopt a dog, but would still like to help, there are plenty of ways that you can help shelter dogs.

  • Spread the word. Talk with your family and friends about the importance of supporting local animals shelters and adopting pets.
  • Follow your local animal shelter on Twitter and retweet stories by them.Use the hashtag #SaveDogs. You can share the stories of shelter animals on Facebook and dedicate your Facebook status to an adoptable dog. Social media is a powerful tool and you can use it to help homeless animals.
  • If you’ve adopted a dog, write an op-ed about your experience and share your story with your local newspaper.
  • Become a volunteer or foster parent. We’re currently in need of volunteers at our Dedham location.
  • Donate to your local animal shelter. Every dollar makes a difference and no contribution is ever too small.



Five Maltese Dogs Who Need Your Help

Five very special guests at our Boston shelter can all use your help.

08-29 Maltese TWO

Photo Credit: Maria L. Uribe

As reported in the MetroWest Daily News today, Marlborough Animal Control removed five Maltese dogs from the home where they were staying due to unsanitary conditions.

The dogs were filthy and appeared thin and dehydrated, so were taken to Foster Hospital for Small Animals at the Tufts University Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine for evaluation. Because their fur was so matted and caked in urine and feces, they had to be shaved before they were returned to Marlborough Animal Control.

Later in the week, the dogs were delivered to us for continued care and treatment of a wide range of medical issues.

Everything we do for these dogs—from rescue to shelter and veterinary services—is with one goal in mind:  to help them get better and find loving homes.  And it’s only through the generosity of supporters like you that we can provide this kind of comprehensive assistance to animals in need.

Please visit or click the button below to make a donation to help us pay for the care and treatment of these dogs and others like them.

Donate Today

In spite of the terrible living conditions from where they came just a short time ago, all the members of this Fab Five are doing amazingly well—sweet as can be  and eager for love and attention.

They do all have medical concerns that will require veterinary attention and monitoring in the future, but as of this morning are all available for adoption!

Visit for more information and the address of our Boston shelter.

ONE Photo: Maria L. Uribe

Photo Credit: Maria L. Uribe

THREE Photo Credit: Maria L. Uribe

Photo Credit: Maria L. Uribe


FOUR Photo Credit: Maria L. Uribe

Photo Credit: Maria L. Uribe






Paw it Forward by August 30

“Pawing” it Forward Seems to be a Trend Here at the League

Since we started promoting our fee waived cat adoptions back in July, many adopters who took home a fee-waived cat have chosen to pay it forward and sponsor the adoption fee of another cat. Thanks to all of those people, many of our long term cats have been able to find loving homes. We have been so touched by this outpouring of kindness from our adopters and donors. Thank you for caring so much about the other animals.

“Take Me Home Today” our final, shelter-wide, adoption event of the summer will be the last push to reach our adoption goal by August 31. Please help us empty our shelter by sponsoring a portion of a cat or dog’s adoption fee.

Donating $100 may mean that an animal goes home thanks to you! If you’ve ever adopted an animal, you understand the kind of love we are talking about.

Please “paw” it forward and help empty our shelter on August 31, 2013! By sponsoring a portion of an animal’s adoption fee you are not only helping that animal, but also helping us reach that 1200 in 12 weeks goal! You have until Friday, August 30 to make your donation.

PAW it Forward NOW

08-14 Cat Paws


Adoptable Dog Photo Survey

Center for Shelter Dogs Survey on Shelter Dog Photos

Help us improve how we feature our adoptable dogs! Our Center for Shelter Dogs would like your help reviewing a photo of a former shelter dog (who has since found a home) and answering some questions about the photo and the dog.  All responses are anonymous and confidential and it only takes 10 minutes.  Must be 18 years or older.  Click the link to get started!


Center for Shelter Dogs Holds 5th Annual Summer Institute

2012SummerInstituteGroupPhotoThe Center for Shelter Dogs, a program of the Animal Rescue League of Boston, is holding its 5th annual Summer Institute this week, June 10-13, 2013 at the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

The Summer Institute is a unique, four-day training opportunity for animal care professionals whose job involves dog intake, behavior evaluation, training, and adoption.

Throughout the first two days, attendees will learn about Match-Up II Online, the groundbreaking online version of the Match-Up II Shelter Dog Rehoming Program. The program is a multi-part system that incorporates information from a dog’s behavioral history, behavior evaluation, and behavior in a shelter, in order to get a comprehensive view of a dog’s individual needs. Through presentations and hands-on learning led by Dr. Amy Marder, attendees will learn how their shelters are able to gather more information about a dog’s personality and use the program to make more successful dog-adopter matches.

Dr. Sheila D’Arpino will focus on implementing enrichment and training techniques to improve the lives of shelter dogs during the remaining two days of the Summer Institute. The Center for Shelter Dogs’ behavior team will demonstrate treatment of common shelter dog behavior issues such as jumpy mouthy and food aggressive behaviors. Attendees will also observe a shelter dog playgroup, learn about special adoptions, and participate in fun demonstrations, such as clicker-training.

The Animal Rescue League of Boston is proud to support animal sheltering organizations care for and re-home shelter dogs through the programs and services provided by the Center for Shelter Dogs. Established through the generous support of the Stanton Foundation, the Center for Shelter Dogs provides the animal sheltering community with best practices, training, and the resources needed to improve the welfare of shelter dogs and to help them find the most suitable homes. Because every dog is different.

1 Week Countdown to 1200 in 12 Weeks!


We can’t believe that the ASPCA Rachael Ray 100k Challenge Kick-off weekend is only one week away!

To kick-off the ASPCA Rachael Ray Challenge, we’re extending adoption hours at all three of our locations! Please join us on Saturday, June 1 and Sunday, June 2 to adopt your new furry friend! See extended adoption hours for all three of our shelters below. Remember we need YOUR help to find homes for 1200 animals in 12 weeks!

• Boston: Sat., 6/1 & Sun., 6/2 from 11:00a.m. to 5:00p.m. AND Mon, 6/3 from 1:00 to 4:00p.m.

• Dedham: Sat., 6/1 & Sun., 6/2 from 11:00a.m. to 7:30p.m.

• Brewster: Sat., 6/1 and Sun., 6/2 from 10:00a.m. to 4:00p.m.

Our Boston shelter will be giving away beautiful hand-made quilts (*while supplies last), donated by some amazing students and instructors from the Brandeis theatre department with each cat adoption. That way our kitties already have a bed when they go home with you!

Angel models on one of the quilts we'll be giving away with *each adopted cat!

Angel models on one of the quilts we’ll be giving away with *each adopted cat!

Canine Massage Comes to Shelter Dogs at the League

Massage1Time for some rest and relaxation for our shelter dogs…

People all over the world frequent spas and salons searching for ways to relax. One of the most popular methods for finding calm is by having a massage. Letting your body relax while someone else works all the stress of your day away has a major impact on our wellbeing and mental state. So if it works for us, why not dogs too? Canine massage is a growing industry and it can provide relief to older, arthritic dogs, as well as, our shelter dogs.

Massage2This past week, canine massage came to the Animal Rescue League of Boston. Two former volunteers, Julie Polvinen and Amy Campbell, returned to the League after receiving their certification in Small Animal Massage to teach the shelter staff and our dog volunteers how to use this tool to benefit our shelter dogs. The shelter can be a scary place for dogs and can create tension and anxiety. Now our staff and volunteers can use massage to help them adjust and feel more comfortable during their stay with us. Massage can benefit any dog that accepts the handling, but it is important to receive instruction before attempting it at home as dog muscles are very sensitive.

Even though massage will not be appropriate for every dog, it sure is fun to take some time out of our day to give a little R & R to our shelter dogs and see how calm and happy their are after! Thank you, Julie and Amy!


Girl Holds Creative Fundraiser For Animals

Reese Lally & Jennifer Keefe with Jerry the resident corn snake at the Dedham shelter.

Reese Lally & Jennifer Keefe with Jerry, the resident corn snake at the Dedham shelter.

Just before Christmas, 2012, 10 year-old Reese Lally, had asked her mom how she could help dogs. They approached their neighbor Jennifer Keefe, the proud mom of a shelter dog and asked for some advice on the best way to raise funds for an animal shelter. After some brainstorming, it was decided that since Reese likes to bake and make crafts, she could make chocolate covered pretzels and paw print pins that could be sold to friends and family. With a little help from her mom and Jennifer, Reese was able to raise $106.85 which she recently donated to the Dedham shelter of the Animal Rescue League of Boston.

Below is the photo of a few of the fabulous pins that Reese made and her donation. Thank you, Reese, for helping animals in need! Keep up the great work!