The Art and Science of Animal Sheltering


Barbara Walmer, Behaviour Advisor, Department Head of Behaviour, Calgary Humane Society

What does science currently tell us about animal sheltering? In general, there is a lack of scientific evidence available to critically evaluate the numerous animal sheltering methods. As a result, we use anecdotal evidence to determine which methods work and don’t work in shelters. While there are multiple facets to animal sheltering, stress reduction and animal enrichment remain at the forefront of the limited research available, as we often need to determine how to appropriately allocate resources in order to maximize our results. We often will follow what other neighbouring shelters do or adopt anecdotal evidence that is discussed on blogs or during networking opportunities. These options can be beneficial, but is it the best thing we could do for the animals and with the resources that we have?


  1. What does it look like to have the data on changes that we institute in shelters?
  2. How can we start implementing data collection and reflection? The process of data recording and analysis does not have to be daunting.
  3. Calgary Humane Society has gathered information about new areas that have been explored in animal sheltering and behaviour, and we are applying the findings to changing some of our programs and processes in shelter. We will review three of these, and how we are tracking them to continue to see they are meeting our expectations.

Barbara Walmer’s professional experience working with dogs dates back to when she was just 14 years old, working in a local veterinary clinic as a vet assistant. From there, Barbara began her professional dog-training career, competing in Canadian Kennel Club obedience trials and expanding her knowledge and understanding of the science behind how animals learn. Barbara is a proud lifelong learner and has trained and certified many professional dog trainers in Calgary. Some of her credentials and qualifications include: Certified Pet Dog Trainer Knowledge & Skills Assessed (CPDT-KSA), Tellington TTouch Practitioner Level 2,  Karen Pryor  Academy (KPA) Certified Training Partner (CTP), TAGteach Level 1, Certified Behaviour Consultant Canine - Knowledge Assessed. She is a member of the Association of Pet Dog Trainers (APDT) and Canadian Kennel Club (CKC). Barbara also presents and speaks internationally on animal behaviour at animal welfare agencies and conferences, as well as at professional dog training conferences. Barbara is often requested to speak on talk radio and television news in regards to training and behaviour. Outside of work, Barbara enjoys training and competing with her own dogs and shares her home with four Golden Retrievers and a Papillon.