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Pet Behavior

Pet Behavior

The Animal Rescue League of Boston is an unwavering champion for animals in need, committed to keeping them safe and healthy in habitats and homes.

FREE Pet Behavior Helpline

ARL is committed to being a reliable resource for behavioral and health-related questions about your pet – well after they have been introduced to their new home! Learn more.

Dog Training

We offer a variety of dog training courses as part of our commitment to supporting positive relationships between people and their pets. View class descriptions and book an appointment.

Match-Up II Training & Resources

ARL is very proud to offer Match-Up II, an evaluation and rehoming tool to all animal shelters in order to assist them in rehoming dogs in their care. Register today.


FREE Pet Behavior Helpline

FREE Pet Behavior Helpline

The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) is committed to being a reliable resource for behavioral and health-related questions about your pet. Our Goal is to help owners provide the best care for their animals. We are here free of charge to help with behavior questions for anyone in need.

If you have basic behavioral questions about your pet, such as excessive barking, crate training, house soiling, etc., call our FREE Pet Behavior Helpline at (617) 226-5666 or email us and an ARL representative will get back to you within 48 hours.

Looking for training for your dog? ARL offers a variety of dog training courses as part of our commitment to supporting positive relationships between people and their pets. Learn more.


Pets As Gifts… CAN Be a Good Idea!

5 factors to consider before you give pets as a holiday gift

It seems like a no-brainer… Giving a pet as a present can be a win-win situation for everyone involved: the animal has a cozy home to call its own, the recipient is in a state of awe, and the giver (you!) has made your loved one’s holiday even more joyful.

While this is the gift-giving scenario that every animal lover dreams of, make sure it really is the purrfect present for the person on your list.

If giving your loved one a new pet as a present is on your mind, here are 5 things to consider:

  1. Manage the surprise. Even at the risk of spoiling the surprise, make sure that the intended recipient wants a new pet. Check in with someone who currently has pets or has recently lost one to make sure they are ready.
  2. Don’t make them sneeze. That’s not a twinkle in their eye; it’s allergies. Confirm any allergies among all household members. No one wants to go get an allergy shot after opening what’s supposed to be an extra special gift, after all.
  3. Know where they live. Even if you know your intended recipient really wants a pet, ensure that their building and development allows them. If their home is pet-friendly, be sure to confirm any weight or breed restrictions.
  4. Find out what they can handle. You want to know that the animal you are getting matches the lifestyle, physical limitation, ages, and personalities in the household.
  5. Adopt from a shelter.  When you adopt, you give an animal a chance at a better life.  Adopting from a reputable animal shelter like the ARL’s locations in Boston, Brewster, and Dedham also has many practical benefits. All our adoptable animals, for example, receive spay/neuter services, vaccines, and a health and behavioral screening.

Keep in mind… It never hurts to run the idea by your loved one beforehand or take them along to pick out their new pet. They and their new furry friend will be thanking you for many years to come!

ARL has many deserving animals looking for a home!

It’s not just snowing cats and dogs here at ARL’s shelters in Boston, Brewster, and Dedham. We have many special small shelter pets like birds and rabbits who are looking for loving homes!

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5 Thanksgiving Foods Your Pet Should Avoid

Keep your pup joyful and healthy this holiday with these helpful tips

Thanksgiving is a time to savor delicious food, enjoy the company of our family and friends, and to show gratitude for all that we are thankful for in our lives.

Be sure to also keep pets away from food wrappings and decorations, as these items can cause intestinal obstructions!

While it’s wonderful to include your pets in your holiday traditions, it’s important to remember that our furry companions cannot indulge in the same feasts that we prepare for ourselves. Some of the common Thanksgiving foods that fill our plate can actually be very dangerous for your pet to ingest.

Here are the 5 Thanksgiving foods that your dog should avoid:

  1. Turkey bones are small and can become lodged in your dog’s throat, stomach, or intestinal tract. They may also splinter and cause severe damage to the stomach or puncture the small intestine.
  2. Fat trimmings and fatty foods like turkey skin and gravy are difficult for dogs to digest. In fact, consuming turkey skin can result in pancreatitis. Symptoms for this serious disease can include vomiting, extreme depression, reluctance to move, and abdominal pain.
  3. Dough and cake batter contain raw eggs, so the first concern for people and pets is salmonella bacteria. What’s more, dough may actually rise in your dog’s belly, which can lead to vomiting, severe abdominal pain, and bloating.
  4. Mushrooms can damage your dog’s internal organs, including kidneys, liver, and central nervous system. Symptoms can include seizures, coma, vomiting, and possibly death.
  5. Raisins and grapes, although the causes of their toxicity are unknown, can cause kidney failure in dogs.

The best way for your pet to partake in the holiday cheer? Stick with traditional treats that are safe for dogs and cats! Food puzzles and interactive toys like a Kong filled with peanut butter are a great way to keep your canine entertained and feeling satisfied all holiday long.

Bonus tip: Keep your vet’s emergency number handy. Should your pet become ill, contact your pet’s veterinarian or the local animal hospital’s number! A quick call to either of them can give you life-saving advice or even help you avoid a trip to the ER. You can also reach Boston Veterinary Care at (617) 226-5605.

For more helpful tips about dog and cat health and behavior, visit

Responsible Pet Ownership

The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) believes that responsible pet owners should protect the well-being of any animals in their care, whether the animal is a companion or working animal.

The ARL defines a responsible pet owner as one who:

  • Provides humane care; species-appropriate food, water, shelter, exercise, preventative and emergency veterinary care and behavioral enrichment;
  • Complies with the animal control laws for the town and state in which they live, including but not limited to, pet licensing and immunization requirements; and
  • Provides a humane and appropriate alternative for a pet if for any reason he or she can no longer keep the animal.

Therefore, the Animal Rescue League of Boston will:

  1. Promote responsible pet ownership through all adoptions.
  2. Be a resource for connecting community members and adopters needing assistance in pet care with appropriate programs, whether external or through ARL programs, such as Boston Veterinary Care, Dog Training Classes, and Spay Waggin’ low cost spay/neuter.
  3. Be a resource for pet owners who can no longer keep their pet.
  4. Seek to inform community members on responsible pet ownership through the ARL’s Behavior Helpline and outreach activities.

Click here to read more ARL Policy and Position Statements.

Pets in Housing

The Animal Rescue League of Boston believes that the lack of accessibility to affordable pet-friendly housing contributes to the surrender and/or abandonment of companion animals.

Financial burdens pose barriers to finding appropriate housing.  Massachusetts law prohibits landlords from collecting funds beyond the first and last month’s rent with a security deposit of up to one month’s rent and costs for the purchase and installation of locks and keys. Under existing law, any additional deposit is prohibited. However, the housing market is tight, particularly in the Boston area and, therefore, landlords and others require “pet fees” and/or pet deposits.  The need to find pet-friendly housing often causes tenants to accept additional costs without complaint.

Specific breed restrictions limit housing accessibility. Massachusetts law prohibits cities and towns from enforcing specific breed restrictions. However, the law does not prevent insurance companies, private housing owners, public housing authorities, landlords, property agents and property managers from imposing such restrictions.  Additionally, there are often characteristics such as the number ofanimals, height, size, and weight, which limit availability. Those factors often act as de facto breed restrictions.

Families who wish to foster or adopt children from the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families cannot own certain breeds of dogs. Dogs of certain breeds can become homeless when families wish to foster or adopt a child, but have a dog that conflicts with this policy.

The Animal Rescue League of Boston believes that the best and most objective measure of pets in housing involves an individual assessment of the animal or animals in question.  Additionally, the Animal Rescue League of Boston believes that imposition of deposits or fees should only be for situations where the pet and owner actually receive additional services; or where monies are held in case of actual damage and where, if the funds remain unused, the fees and deposits are refunded.

The Animal Rescue League of Boston understands that pet owners must be responsible, caring owners, thoughtful in their choice of housing, and considerate of others in any housing situation.

Therefore, the Animal Rescue League of Boston will:

  1. Support establishment of services such as behavior training to prevent surrender or abandonment due to housing issues;
  1. Support measures that both ease landlord concerns and financial burdens on pet owners by permitting refundable pet deposits held in interest-bearing accounts;
  1. Support measures which explicitly prohibit fees and/or deposits unrelated to services actually received or repairs for actual damage;
  1. Support education and legislation to develop more pet-friendly housing;
  1. Encourage housing owners, managers and agents to remove breed, height and weight restrictions;
  1. Encourage responsible pet ownership through spaying, neutering and vaccination.


Click here to read more ARL Policy and Position Statements.

Pets and Insurance

Massachusetts does not permit cities or towns to regulate ownership and residence of dogs by breed nor does state law permit the determination of a dangerous/nuisance dog based solely upon breed.

However, insurance companies, private companies, and publically-owned and subsidized housing authorities can refuse to offer insurance coverage, renew insurance policies, and can impose restrictions as a requisite to obtain housing which may require an owner to surrender a pet. These restrictions severely limit the options of pet owners seekinghousingand oftentimes result in an owner having to move, re-home, or surrender ananimal even if they have lived with the pet for some time without incident.

Insurance company restrictions can affect the landlord and/or property owner as well as the pet owner. Neither the landlord/owner nor pet owner maybeable to obtain or retain insuranceif the insuring company imposes breed restrictions and if they do not abide by those conditions. The landlord facing a loss of coverage due to breed restrictions may have very little recourse but to impose the restrictions. Those restrictions, in turn, may mean, for example, that a tenant may lose housing upon renewal of the lease and may, in turn, be forced to give up the pet in question. Loss of housing remains the single most common reason for surrender of animals.

Currently, there is no law or regulation in Massachusetts which prohibit an insurance company from imposing breed restrictions as a requisite to obtaining or renewing insurance coverage.   As a result, many companies do, in fact, impose restrictions or, may add an additional premium, there by effectively pricing the landlord or the pet owner out of the market.

Just as with the issue of breed specific legislation [See BSL position statement], the Animal Rescue League of Boston believes that insurance restrictions based solely upon a breed determination are ineffective and unfair.  The Animal Rescue League is aware that State Farm, which does not currently operate in Massachusetts, is the largest home insurer in theUnited States.  It follows the policy of “it’s not the breed, it’s the bite.” The policy is grounded in the belief that, depending on circumstances, anydogmightbite.Insurance is not based on the breed of the dog, rather, every dog and situation is evaluated individually and the primary focus is on the importance of responsible pet ownership. An insurance company following this model in Massachusetts would likely expand pet friendly housing.


Therefore, the Animal Rescue League will:

  1. Support legislation which prohibits insurance companies from refusing to issue or renew, cancel, or charge an increased premium rate of any insurance policy based upon the breed of dog to reside in the property;
  1. Oppose continued use of breed identification by any insurance company as the basis for denial, cancellation, failure to renew and increased premiums for insurance coverage based upon breed identification;
  1. Encourage education of insurers related to unreliability of breed identification and  ineffectiveness of breed as predicator of behavior;
  1. Promote responsible pet ownership for tenants and other individuals seeking insurance coverage.


Click here to read more ARL Policy and Position Statements.

Let’s Talk Pets Workshop

Let’s Talk Pets is a series of FREE workshops hosted by the Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) for pet owners in the Codman Square neighborhood and beyond. Workshops will focus on subjects, such as basic animal care and hygiene, living with pets and children, winter pet safety, behavior and enrichment exercises, and more!


Saturday, April 29 at 10:00AM

Basic Care for Birds, Rabbits, Cats, and Dogs

  • Light refreshments and ARL tote for attendees (limited to 1 per family).
  • Topics covered: Cage set up for birds and small animals; basic care and hygiene; importance of physical exercise; behavior myth

To reserve your spot for this workshop, call (617) 426-9170. 

Please note: workshops are by reservation only and are first come, first serve.


Pet Me, I’m Irish!

Find your lucky charm at an ARL Shelter today

All the animals at ARL shelters in Boston, Brewster and Dedham are getting into the St. Paddy’s Day spirit!

If you’re looking to add a furry addition to your family, visit our adoptable pets at our shelters from 1 pm – 6:30 pm, Tuesdays – Sundays and find your lucky charm today. (Green top hat not included.)

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When you adopt, you give an animal a chance at a better life.  All adoptable animals at the ARL also receive:

  • Spay or neuter services
  • Health screening and veterinary examination
  • Behavior screening and evaluations
  • Vaccinations and flea/tick/mite treatment
  • Microchip identification and registration
  • And much more!

Speaking of pet-friendly holidays, St. Patrick’s Day is most definitely a festive celebration of Irish culture, music, and the opportunity to dress up in bright green and shamrock prints. (Read: fun!) As with any holiday however, remember to take precautions with food and libations which may not be safe for pets to ingest.

If you plan to celebrate the holiday in a home where a pet resides, keep in mind three safety guidelines to ensure that everyone has a good time:

  1. Keep the leash.  If your dog is a genuinely friendly, relaxed, confident and calm dog with familiar and unfamiliar people, things and dogs, maybe he could be included in St. Patrick’s Day festivities. Still, it’s best to keep your dog leash. The smell of food, a large group of people, and other excited pets can easily overstimulate a dog, increasing the potential for poor behavior and bites.
  2. Watch the secret sippers.  Alcohol is poisonous to cats, dogs, and other animals and can lead to severe illness or death.  Do not leave alcoholic bottles, cans, etc. on the floor or in reach of a pet. Although the container may seem empty, even ingesting trace amounts can cause illness in animals.  If you suspect that a pet may have ingested alcohol, look for the following symptoms and seek emergency medical treatment: excessive drooling, retching, vomiting, stomach distension, elevated heart rate, weakness, low blood pressure, hypothermia, or coma.
  3. Beware the sneaky eaters.  We’ve all had it happen—turn your back for just a second and your pet starts to eat the food right off your plate!  Keep food and snacks out of paws reach because many party foods can be hazardous to cats and dogs.  Though you might be tempted to share your St. Patrick’s Day corned beef and cabbage with your furry friend, keep in mind corned beef contains a high amount of sodium, which isn’t good for cats or dogs.  Onions—a frequent ingredient in many corned beef and cabbage recipes—can also damage a cat’s red blood cells, restricting their capacity to carry oxygen effectively.

Find your lucky charm today! Search adoptables


New Pet Owner Resources

New Pet Owner Resources

The Animal Rescue League of Boston (ARL) is a leader in animal health and safety, keeping animals out of shelters and in the habitats and homes where they belong. As part of our commitment to supporting positive relationships between people and animals, ARL offers the following resources to adopters and members of our community:


Schedule a Wellness Visit for Your Pet
Make an appointment at Boston Veterinary Care – a clinic with a mission, all proceeds benefit shelter animals at ARL!


Enroll Your Pet in Dog Training
Learn more about ARL’s dog training courses.

Contact ARL’s FREE Pet Behavior Helpline
Contact an ARL representative at (617) 226-5666 regarding basic behavioral questions about your pet.

Surrender an Animal
Contact the Intake Office at the ARL shelter location closest to you to speak with a representative.


Report Animal Cruelty & Neglect
Call ARL’s Law Enforcement Department at (617) 226-5610.

Help Your Pet in Distress
Call ARL’s Rescue Services at (617) 426-9170; then press “1″.