Assessing Dog Behavior

by Diane Blankenburg

We were privileged this past week to have Kelley Bollen in town, educating our area’s shelter staff and volunteers on a variety of topics that will help us better understand, care for, and place our shelter animals. She conducted sessions in understanding dog behavior, safe handling of dogs and cats, reducing stress for sheltered animals, and dog behavior evaluation and modifications.

Kelley Bollen is the owner and director of Animal Alliances. She has a Master’s Degree in Animal Behavior and is a Certified Animal Behavior Consultant (CABC). An accomplished expert in her field, Kelly is dedicated to improving the quality of life for all animals and extremely passionate about sharing her knowledge of animal behavior with people who live and work with them.

While Director of Behavior Programs for the Shelter Medicine Program at Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, she developed a dog behavior assessment model that was based on years of hands-on research. This model—a proven tool to help assess and predict the behavior of shelter dogs—is what we now use at Nevada Humane Society to evaluate all dogs who come into our shelter. The assessment model is critical to making appropriate and successful adoption matches, as well as ensuring that we do not place animals who are not safe back into the community.

Designed to emulate normal situations that will occur once adopted animals are in a home environment, the evaluation process includes a series of exercises that assesses dogs’ sociability, how they protect their food and possessions, and how they react to strangers and other dogs. It is not a pure test where there is a pass/fail result, but rather an indicator of future behavior. This evaluation, when combined with the dog’s history and current observations in the shelter, gives staff valuable input  into making appropriate placement decisions.

Our mission at Nevada Humane Society is to care for the homeless pets in our community until we can find them find loving homes while at the same time protecting the community from dogs who pose a risk to humans and other animals. Animal behavior, just like human behavior, is not an exact science, but Kelley’s work helps us accomplish our mission more effectively by creating a more stress-free shelter environment, evaluating our dogs’ behavior with confidence, and placing our animals into the best homes possible. Thank you Kelley Bollen—for enriching our organization and even more importantly, for enriching the lives of the thousands of animals that depend upon us every year.

Note: Visit and “like” Animal Alliances Facebook page to stay in touch with Kelley’s work.

Events that Help Animals

Spring Fling Adoption Promotion, March 20 – April 2 at Nevada Humane Society. $20 for adult cat adoptions and $45 for adult dogs. Call 775-856-2000 for more information.

Easter Egg Hunt on March 30 at Nevada Humane Society. Hunt starts promptly at 3pm with 1,500 goodie-filled eggs available to children 14 and under. Shelter located at 2825 Longley Ln, Reno.


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