Texas animal shelter – dogs – tests matchmaking

How odd could it be after reading the article about the puppy abuse this article appeared the next day as a highlighted headline.  This is like having a story end with a happy ending and so nice to have a positive article on the heels of a negative one. 

The Town Lake Animal Center in Austin Texas is conducting a trial/test of matchmaking on all dogs that are considered adoptable.  So here they are trying a new approach in the adoption process and hopefully will prevent, at least I hope, less and less animals being subject to cruelty. 

This of course is just the partial story, I hope you will find it interesting enough to continue and read the rest.

New Tricks
Published: April 8, 2007

08dog_190_126.jpg“Let me know when you’re ready,” Diane Mollaghan called out as I rummaged one recent winter afternoon through the costumes and props she had stored in the back room of a run-down house trailer on the grounds of the Town Lake Animal Center in Austin. Mollaghan, a 34-year-old animal-behavior researcher and graduate student in the University of Texas’s psychology department, was waiting in the trailer’s main room beside a tan-and-brown mutt that had recently been left in the shelter’s night drop-off box with no ID tags or background-information form. Estimated by the shelter’s staff members to be a “Manchester terrier mix,” it looked like a pointy-faced Chihuahua on stilts, a creature of indeterminate origin and yet-to-be-determined disposition. That, literally, was where I was to come in.

dianemollaghan190_3.jpgDiane Mollaghan at work

All afternoon, in that continuous din of kennel-dog barking — high-pitched, autocatalytic, corrosive — I had been helping Mollaghan conduct various trait-assessment tests on some of the shelter’s recent arrivals, trying to get a fix on each animal’s temperament, measuring characteristics like sociability, playfulness, aggressiveness and fearfulness. The house trailer — situated midway between Town Lake’s western row of kennels, which hold already approved, adoptable dogs, and the compound’s eastern end, where the veterinary clinic and euthanasia rooms are — was serving as a kind of purgatorial courtroom. The dogs we gave high marks to would advance westward with a certificate of adoptability; those we didn’t rate so well would be dispatched the other way, eastward to the euthanasia room.

 As fair trials go, these were anything but, given the inherently stressful venue and the somewhat offbeat nature of the tests themselves. Indeed, many a so-called well-homed dog I’ve met might have taken my head off for some of the antics our defendants were being subjected to that afternoon. There was the “approach by angry normal person, stare, raise voice, raise hand as if to strike” test; or test No. 12, the “friendly approach by toddler doll” — a three-foot-high, raggedy-haired creature in a paw-smeared yellow taffeta dress, a figure that is still showing up in my nightmares. And there was test No. 13, the little number that I was just then donning an outsize yellow raincoat with hood and walking stick to perform for our Manchester terrier mix: the “friendly ‘strange’ person with cane, approach and pet” test.

Although the “NEW TRICKS” article is no longer available for viewing at the NY Times site you can read the interesting background on how this project came about at The University of Texas at Austin’s website.

Dr. Sam Gosling is  an assistant professor of psychology at The University of Texas at Austin. 

Gosling, who directs the Human and Animal Personality Lab at the university, admits initially he assumed that animals did not have personalities, but he decided to put his assumption to the test. Drawing upon his background in human personality research, he applied the same methods and rigorous standards to test whether personality differences exist and can be judged in dogs. His findings showed that, indeed, dog personality traits could be identified with an impressive level of accuracy.

The above is an excerpt from an article on the university’s website.  For the complete article read: A Fetching Personality written by Michelle Bryant featured on the university’s website. 

The cute doggie graphic above by: Christina Murrey

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