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A Guide Through Functional Behavior Assessments in Shelters with Suzanne Clothier Episodes 81-82

Animal assessments are much more nuanced than they appear on the surface. They require a detailed understanding of an animal's natural energy level, sociability, and temperament. These traits are significant when matching a potential adopter with a pet. This process is complex and requires a deep understanding of both the animal's needs and the potential adopter's lifestyle and preferences.

Clothier asserts that understanding the nuances of behavior and temperament can dramatically influence the lives of shelter animals and their adoption success. Her insights are not only enlightening but have the potential to fundamentally alter the way we interact with dogs.


The age-old debate of nature versus nurture is tackled head-on, with Clothier challenging the notion that puppies are a blank slate. Drawing upon the groundbreaking 1970s research of Fuller and Scott, she explores the role of both genetic predisposition and environmental influences in shaping a puppy's temperament. Clothier dives into the complex world of epigenetics, illustrating how our pets' genetic makeup and life experiences intertwine to mold their behavior.


Clothier also introduces listeners to her innovative assessment tool designed to aid in making informed decisions about animal outcomes. This tool simplifies the understanding of temperament, providing a more nuanced understanding of each dog's unique character. The ultimate goal is to match each dog with a forever home that is best suited to their temperament and behavior, increasing the chances of successful adoption.


Working in a shelter environment can be fraught with challenges, and Clothier acknowledges this reality. From matching a dog to the right forever home, to making the difficult choice of euthanasia due to limited resources, shelter workers face immense pressures. Clothier believes that asking the right questions and understanding the psyche of our canine companions can make all the difference. Her tools, such as the Animal Response Assessment Tool, Relationship Assessment Tool, and the new Functional Assessment Tool, are designed to help navigate these complexities.


Clothier's insights offer a fresh perspective on the challenges faced by those working in shelters. Her compassion and understanding for both the animals and the people involved in their care are evident throughout the episode. By asking the right questions and understanding the nuanced behavior of our canine friends, we can ensure more successful adoptions and happier shelter dogs.


Part 1 offers a deep dive into the world of canine behavior, temperament, and the challenges faced in a shelter environment. Clothier's expertise and compassion shine through, offering valuable insights and practical tools to improve the lives of shelter dogs and the people who care for them.


We continue the conversation in Part 2 and begin to navigate through the beautiful terrain of human-animal bonds. We shared personal anecdotes about pet companionship and discussed how animals enrich our lives. Understanding animal behavior is essential for their optimal care, whether it's the neighborhood stroll, sharing a bedroom, or even our relationship with bugs and spiders.


Ultimately, understanding animal behavior is not just about successful adoptions but also about ensuring the well-being of animals in shelters. It's about matching animals with the right homes where they can thrive and about ensuring that these animals receive the care and attention they deserve.


In the end, our aim is to deepen our understanding of animal welfare and advocacy. As we explore these topics, we realize that the journey to animal welfare is not a destination, but a continuous process of learning, understanding, and advocating for the animals we love so much.


Episode 7 of Series 8: The World of Animal Welfare and Sheltering (Part 1) Transcript

Episode 8 of series 8: The World of Animal Welfare and Sheltering Transcript ( Part2)


Guest: Suzanne Clothier has worked with animals professionally since 1977, with a background includes obedience, agility, puppy testing, breeding, Search and Rescue, conformation, instructing, kennel management and AAT.

Her Relationship Centered Training™ approach blends science and heart to create humane, effective and practical solutions for dogs and the people who work with them, whether professional working dogs or couch warming companions. Her suite of assessment tools provide a powerful framework for trainers and organizations:


RAT™ (Relationship Assessment Tool) – handler/dog dynamics, rapid assessment plus ability to track and compare

CARAT™ (Clothier Animal Response Assessment Tool) – temperament assessment on 6 categories, 21 dimensions

FAT™ (Functional Assessment Tool, release in 2022) – global of functionality/welfare assessment across physiological, social and cognitive dimensions


Book Recommendations:

Kinship with All Life by J. Allen Boone and Behaving As If the God in All Life Mattered by Machaelle Small Wright

Other Links: Meet Your Match Home to Home Program

Chess and Thomas



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