Facility Assessment
Animal Assessment
Make a Plan
Stress Reduction
Enrichment & Socialization: Cats & Kittens
Enrichment & Socialization: Dogs & Puppies
Enrichment & Socialization: Small Animals
Training & Behavioural Modification
Glossary of Terms
  • Animal welfare: The well-being of animals. Refers to the state of the animal; the treatment that an animal receives is covered by other terms such as animal care, animal husbandry, and humane treatment. Protecting an animal’s welfare means providing for its physical and mental needs.
  • Anxiety: A multisystem response to a perceived threat or danger. It reflects a combination of biochemical changes in the body, the animal’s personal history and memory, and the social situation.
  • Auditory: Of or relating to hearing, the organs of hearing, or the sense of hearing.
  • Aversive: Anything an animal considers “bad” – anything unpleasant, painful, annoying, or uncomfortable. A strong dislike, or disinclination; tending to avoid or causing avoidance of a noxious or punishing stimulus. E.g: Shouting, hitting, ignoring, jerking with the leash, squirt bottles, applying pain intentionally, grabbing, restraining, noxious sprays, and electric shock.
  • Aversive-based training: A form of behaviour training or modification in which a noxious event is used to punish or extinguish undesirable behaviour.
  • Behaviour: The way in which one acts or conducts oneself. Any action performed that can be observed and measured. E.g: The dog resting in their bed.
  • Behavioural modification: A treatment approach, based on the principles of operant conditioning, that replaces undesirable behaviours with more desirable ones through positive or negative reinforcement.
  • Bridge: AKA “bridging stimulus” or “marker”. A stimulus (something an animal sees, hears, feels) that pinpoints the exact moment in time an action of a desired behaviour was performed – bridging the gap between the time the signal was given and the delivery of a reward is provided. E.g: The “click” of a clicker, the sound of a whistle.
  • Circadian rhythms: A 24-hour cycle in the life processes of animals, often used in reference to cycles of light and darkness.
  • Classical conditioning: A process in which a neutral stimulus (such as the sound of a bell) is paired with and precedes another stimulus (such as the taste of food) until the neutral stimulus alone is sufficient to elicit the conditioned response (such as salivation in a dog).
  • Cognitive: Relating to, being, or involving conscious intellectual activity (as in thinking, reasoning, or remembering).
  • Conditioning: (also learning). Observe the animal’s behaviour. If their behaviour changes, learning is taking place.
  • Counter-conditioning: Taking a fear-provoking event, which is associated with an unpleasant situation, and changing (countering or reversing) the association to one that predicts something pleasant. This is the reversal of a learned response, often used in conjunction with desensitization.
  • Consequence: An action or event that occurs after a behaviour. It can affect how often that behaviour will occur again in the future.
  • Cue: A signal which will elicit a specific behaviour or reflex. E.g: Saying “sit” or using hand signal for “sit”.
  • Enrichment: A process for meeting the behavioural needs of animals by improving their environment or behavioural care (e.g. toys, perches, beds, hiding places, perches).
  • Environmental: Relating to or associated with the environment.
  • Environment: The conditions that surround someone or something; the conditions and influences that affect the growth, health, progress, etc., of someone or something. The aggregate of surrounding things, conditions, or influences; the sum total of all surroundings of a living organism, including natural forces and other living things, which provide conditions for development and growth as well as of danger and damage.
  • Fear response: Fear is the instinctual feeling of apprehension resulting from a situation, person or object presenting an external threat — whether real or perceived.
  • Group-Housing: Placement of multiple animals in a primary enclosure.
  • Instinct: An inborn predisposition to behave in a specific way when appropriately stimulated. Instincts are species-specific complex behaviours. They are natural and unconditioned qualities shared by all members of a species. E.g. dogs chasing things, guarding their bones, digging, chewing, jumping up to greet.
  • Intake: The point of admittance of animals into the shelter.
  • Learning: The acquisition of knowledge or skills through experience, practice, or study, or by being taught. The process in which relatively permanent changes in behaviour are produced through experience and memories.
  • Lure: Something that motivates or is used to motivate a person or animal to do something.
  • Maladaptive/abnormal behaviour: A type of behaviour that is often used to reduce an animal’s anxiety, but the result is dysfunctional and non-productive. It is a behaviour that interferes with an animal’s activities of daily living or ability to adjust to and participate in particular settings.
  • Pheromones: Chemicals animals produce that can affect the behaviour of other members of the same species. They are believed to be common and important in coordinating social behaviour in animals, especially mammals.
  • Operant conditioning: The fundamental principle of operant conditioning is that behaviour is determined by its consequences. It is a process of changing behaviour by rewarding or punishing a subject each time an action is performed until the subject associates the action with pleasure or distress.
  • Martingale collar: A martingale is a type of dog collar that provides more control over the animal without the choking effect of a slip collar.
  • Motivation: A general term referring to the forces regulating behaviour that is undertaken because of instinctual drives, needs, desires, and is directed towards a goal. A factor that can influence whether or not, a learned behaviour will be performed. The animal needs to be motivated in some way to perform a specific behaviour – either from others or from within. E.g. for dogs: petting, praise, attention, toys, games, tug, food playing with other dogs.
  • Negative: In regards to animal behaviour, the word means to subtract, or take away.
  • Negative punishment: In operant conditioning, the removal of something an animal wants or finds favourable. E.g. Dog jumps on a person to say ‘hello’ – person turns their back and ignores the dog.
  • Negative reinforcement: The immediate removal of something an animal finds unpleasant when the desired behaviour is performed. E.g. Pulling up on a choke collar until the dog sits butt on the ground, choke collar is released.
  • Olfactory: The sensory system used for olfaction, or the sense of smell.
  • Positive: In regards to animal behaviour, the word positive means to add, or give.
  • Positive Punishment: In operant conditioning, the addition of an aversive stimulus, or something an animal seeks to avoid, that is found within the animal’s environment, following a behaviour, with the intention of decreasing the frequency of that behaviour. E.g. dog eliminates on the carpet, the dog gets smacked, or an owner pinning dog in order to “take control.”
  • Positive reinforcer: Is something the animal desires or finds pleasant.
  • Positive Reinforcement: The addition of a reward following a desired behaviour, with the intention of increasing the frequency of that behaviour. E.g. dog sits, gets treat for sitting, the dog continues to sit because it predicts treats.
  • Portalizing: Creating double compartment housing in cat cages through the installation of a portal between two or more cages, thereby increasing square footage, separation of litter and feeding area, and decreasing stress.
  • Primary Enclosure: A restricted area designed to confine an animal such as a cage, run, kennel, stall, or pen. In most sheltering situations this is where an animal eats, sleeps, and spends the majority of its time.
  • Reinforce: Strengthen or support an existing feeling, idea, or habit.
  • Reinforcer: The item that increases the frequency of the behaviour it immediately follows (such as a treat, or praise).
  • Reinforcement: The event (such as giving a reward) which increases the frequency of the behaviour it follows.
  • Reward: Anything the dog considers “good” — stimulates at least one of the five senses – sight, smell, taste, touch, sound. Anything the dog finds motivating and reinforcing – can be food, toys, praise, touch, freedom. E.g. belly-rub, a rousing game of fetch, comfy bed, something stinky to roll in, kissy-face with family members, liver treat. A return that is obtained upon the successful performance of a task.
  • Reward-based training: Using anything an animal finds appealing and “rewarding” to elicit, reinforce, or inhibit behaviours.
  • Rounds: A process of walking through the shelter to visually observe and monitor the needs, status, health, and well-being of every animal.
  • Self-Maintenance behaviour: Behaviour essential to survival and health such as feeding, eliminating and grooming.
  • Sensory: Of or relating to sensation or to the senses.
  • Socialization: A process of familiarizing animals with a variety of stimuli, including direct contact between animals and humans during their critical period of development; may also refer to animals of any age spending time with one another.
  • Social distance: Intra-species communication distance. The flight zone of an animal is the area surrounding an animal that if encroached upon by a potential predator or threat, including humans, will cause alarm and escape behaviour.
  • Species-specific behaviour: Behaviour that is specific to the members of a species and is unlearned. This is also known as species-typical behaviour.
  • Stereotypic behaviour: Stereotypic behaviour is defined as a repetitive, invariant behaviour pattern with no obvious goal or function. Stereotypic behaviour is not seen in animals in the wild and is understood to be abnormal and is, therefore, a negative factor in the shelter environment.
  • Stimulate: To rouse to action or effort, as by encouragement or pressure; spur on; incite.
  • Stimulus: Anything in the environment that can be perceived by an animal through one of his senses – sight, smell, touch, sound, taste. Any event or change in the environment that leads to a bodily or behavioural response by an animal. Plural: stimuli.
  • Stress: A state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.
  • Stressor: A stressor is a chemical or biological agent, environmental condition, external stimulus or an event that causes stress to an organism.
  • Tactile: Of or connected with the sense of touch.
  • Training: The action of teaching a person or animal a particular skill or type of behaviour.
  • Threshold: The least amount of stimulus required to elicit a response. The point at which a stimulus becomes perceptible or is of sufficient intensity to elicit a response.
  • Visual: Of or relating to seeing or sight, perceptible by the sense of sight.