Arizona State University psychologist researching how dog behavior helps adoptability

TEMPE, AZ - Have you ever been to an animal shelter and wondered if the dogs are actually trying to get your attention by being extra cute? 

Well, an ASU psychologist is trying to figure out just that: do dogs exhibit behavior that makes them more adoptable? 

And is this something that can be taught?

Clive Wynne is not your typical dog lover.

“What I love about Oakley, is that he brings the ball back,” says Wynne as he plays fetch with one of the dogs being sheltered at the Arizona Animal Welfare League.

Dr. Wynne is the director of the Canine Science Collaboratory at Arizona State University.

“It's my group that studies the behavior of dogs and their relationship with people,” says Dr. Wynne. “I call it a collaboratory because I like to collaborate with other kinds of scientists.”

The dogs at AAWL are perfect test subjects for the Collaboratory's research. 

“We are looking at ways to help dogs get adopted, how to put them on their best behavior which you can see, the shelter here does a tremendous job as you can see here with Oakley,” says Wynne.

You might be thinking, "How can a dog be taught to be more adoptable?" Well, leave it to a psychologist to figure that out.

“We call it active engagement. A dog that hangs at the back is less likely to be adopted, but a dog that gets too overly excited is also less likely to get adopted. So active engagement is what a dog needs to practice to be adopted,” says Wynne.

But the dogs cannot do it alone. Dr. Wynne says the shelters need to work with their dogs.

“A well-run shelter like this one, the dogs calm down, they give them regular exercise, they show their true character like Oakley here. I’ve been to a lot of other shelters, and I won't name names, where that just doesn't happen, they just become worse and worse. They become less adoptable the longer they stay,” says Wynne.

Dr. Wynne is also studying the relationship between dogs and their owners.

If you would like your dog to take part in one of studies, check out the Canine Science Collaboratory .

And if you're interested in Oakley or any of the other dogs at the Arizona Animal Welfare League, you can visit their website.

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