Lotsa Dogs Lotsa Fun

Lotsa Dogs Lotsa Fun
The Big Dogs Wait at The Door

Saturday, November 12, 2005

Sue Sternberg

This week I spent a couple of days with Sue Sternberg learning how to evaluate dogs for aggression. The seminar was intended largely for shelter workers; it focused on determining whether a shelter dog is adoptable. But even for a doggie daycare owner, the it was excellent!!

Sue has been evaluating dogs for years and her method has been studied and determined to be statistically predictive of aggression. That's impressive enough. But what really struck me was her commitment to open-minded education and dialog. She euthanizes unadoptable dogs at her shelter and I had always been against that. After listening to her experiences and the litany of misery that dogs endure in long-term kenneling situations, I'm now open to the euthanasia solution. She's a person with a big heart - it shows when she teaches; that's what convinced me that if there were another solution besides euthanizing unadoptable dogs, she would have found it.

Her method ranks dogs as (1) okay for the average family (2) in need of a firm hand with people who have clear desires and limits in terms of how they'll live with a dog, and (3) dogs that need to live with a dog professional. Before she taught us the procedure for evaluating a dog, she took us through a whole day of learning how to observe details in the dog's behavior, then collect a set of observations to make the judgment. For example, a stiff posture and upright tail don't mean anything clear all by themselves. But if the dog gives those cues, plus a hard stare, and a lack of interest in socializing with the handler, then then the dog could very well be a biter. I was impressed with the "gather a set of data" approach. It seemed much more scientific then approaches that assign meaning to specific behaviors. It allows for differences among individuals.

If you're a dog professional of any kind go to a Sue Sternberg seminar!
The Doggie Den Homepage


Anne Hicks said...

I have agreed, for years! Myself and my staff have attended numerous seminars of Sue's and I have also for the past two years done the internships with Sue at her shelter (both the Beginning and Advanced). She is a resource that is highly recommended. A truely brillant and remarkable woman whom I have learned a great deal from.

Anne Hicks
Central Bark Doggy Day Care

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you enjoyed her seminar. What do you think of her opinion (stated multiple times) that 75 to 85 percent of the dogs in shelters in the Northeastern US should be killed? This is a truly despicable person whose air of authority but lack of common sense have led to the deaths of thousands of placeable dogs.

Semavi Lady said...

These sorting and killing tests are faulty, scientifically invalid and are based on human perception in the anthropomorphic interpretation of animal behavior. That alone should bring plenty of red alerts to the observant. By design, the tests are intended to reduce numbers of living dogs.

More reading-
Winograd has a PDF
Temperament Testing in the Age of No-Kill.

Julia McDonough (dobie rescue) has an article called 'Dead Dogs
Walking' which pretty much points out the farce of these tests
Dead Dogs article

Another discussion
The Bark (temperament euthanasia decisions)

Sacramento said...

Wow - she actually said that?? NO ONE who says "75 to 85 percent of the dogs in shelters in the Northeastern US should be killed" has any business making life or death decisions for dogs, cats or any other creature.

Far too many shelter animals are killed due to poor temperament evaluations. It's so much easier to slip in that needle, rather than put in the time and energy to find the *right* home for a special needs pet.

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