March 28, 2017
Categories: Research, Animal Behavior, Foster Programs

Are there dogs in your shelter or rescue who you honestly think can’t be adopted because of behavior problems? There might be a simple solution — and if it works for them, they’ll have a dog named Patty to thank.

Kristen Auerbach, Deputy Chief Animal Services Officer at the Austin Animal Center, told Patty’s story during her presentation at the 2016 American Pets Alive conference, “Patty had every problem you don’t want a dog to have if you want to get it adopted,” she said. “She was so stressed that her eyes were blood red. She would sit and wait to nip feet. She was super jumpy and mouthy, and extremely reactive to both people and animals walking by the kennel.”

After playgroups with Aimee Sadler of Dogs Playing For Life, Patty remained challenging and her anxiety didn’t improve. “We worked with her for several more weeks but it didn’t work, it was just getting worse. So we got to the point where we put her on the euthanasia list.”

Luckily, a staff member had connected with her and asked if she could, “just take her home for one night?” They approved, and not surprisingly, Patty left walking around the shelter jumping, biting at her leash.

But can you believe what happened next? “She completely changed the second she stepped out of the shelter.”


“She stepped one paw out of the shelter and she became the laziest cow-like dog you’ve ever met!”

Patty went on to stay in foster for a few days with a staff member, then she went on to another foster home. She also turned out to love cats!

After seeing Patty thrive in a foster home, Auerbach went back and read the original notes about her and realized they missed something.

“Because we don’t work very closely with our animal control officer, we missed a really key note. Patty had been brought to the shelter nearly dead. She had been trapped in a hot car.” The officers had to break the window and pull her out.

“When we found that out, it all made so much sense that she would be experiencing this intense anxiety in the confinement of the shelter based on what she’d been through. We often say that dogs live in the moment, but she was one of those dogs carrying trauma with her.”

Thanks to fostering, Patty “totally turned around and became a different dog.” She even went on to be featured in Best Friends Magazine and was their cover star! She also inspired a behavior study that’s made it possible for Austin to save 90 percent of the dogs with behavior challenges. And it’s all thanks to Patty!

Watch the full presentation Fostering: Saving More Dogs with Behavioral Challenges to learn more about Patty, and the study she inspired that would help save large dogs with behavioral challenges, and lifesaving methodologies to help save dogs in your shelter!