Featured Foster: Bok Choy


Bok Choy is thriving in foster care with his foster parents Mike and Georgia! This handsome 7-month-old is one of six Belgian Malinois puppies surrendered to the HSVC in early January. Shortly after his arrival, Bok Choy began showing signs of barrier aggression and resource guarding. Barrier aggression is a territorial behavior in which a dog exhibits stress or aggression when placed behind a barricade such as a fence or a gate. Resource guarding is another territorial behavior in which a dog exhibits aggressive behavior over food or toys. Both are very common with shelter animals, and both are trainable!

Professional dog trainer and behaviorist Tracy Vail of The Canine Messanger was called in to observe Bok Choy. She concluded that the behaviors he was exhibiting were likely due to the environment he grew up in living amongst his littermates with little to no human interaction at a young age. Vail recommended Bok Choy be placed in foster care to help rehabilitate his behavior. 

Mike, a long-time friend of Vail, recently contacted her expressing interest in fostering with HSVC. He was specifically interested in fostering a Belgian Malinois after noticing an influx of the breed in shelters. His own pup, Leon, was adopted from the shelter in 2016 after he was rescued from a neglectful environment. Leon also exhibited aggressive behaviors during his time at the shelter but with Vail's guidance, Mike was able to transform Leon into the loyal and loving dog he is today.

Bok Choy and Mike first met in the agility yard at the HSVC (left). The young pup was fearful initially, but Mike's patient and calm demeanor allowed Bok Choy to relax and slowly begin to trust him. Mike returned to the shelter a couple more times before taking Bok Choy home to officially foster him.

With Vail and Mike's direction and Leon leading by example, Bok Choy's behavior instantly improved. He no longer resource guards his food and is comfortable eating in the same area as other dogs. He takes treats gently out of your hand and is not reactive when you take his bowl away.



Fellow friend and dog lover Georgia (below, center) also joined in fostering efforts after showing interest in helping Bok Choy find his forever home. With Vail's guidance, she and Mike have turned what was once an aggressive puppy into a friendly, trusting dog. They frequently take Bok Choy out into the community to expose him to different environments including the dog park (above, left), Lowes (above, center), and the Ventura Pier. He now loves spending time with his four-legged friends Leon and Sequoia (above, right), and he's even done well meeting Georgia's cats!

"As a trainer and behaviorist, I feel Bok has made remarkable progress in a short time in his foster home. The perfect match for Bok would be someone that has the time, patience, and dedication to give on a regular basis to help him continue to grow and thrive into an adult dog. Bok is eager to please and a fast learner. His sweet and curious demeanor shines through. Plenty of mental and physical stimulation is a requirement for this breed. He would enjoy continuing to meet up with dogs and be part of a family," said Vail about the sweet pup.


Bok Choy's story is a perfect example to illustrate how a shelter dog's behavior can change with its environment. Barrier aggression, resource guarding, and kennel stress can all affect a dog's demeanor. However, when taken out of the kennel environment, many dogs transform into sweet, lovable companions like Bok Choy. We ask those looking to adopt a rescue dog to take this into consideration when choosing their next furry family member.

If you are interested in adopting Bok Choy, please contact the shelter at 805-646-6505 to schedule a meet and greet. To learn more about fostering, visit our website or contact our Foster Coordinator, Cheney, at [email protected].


Be the first to comment

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.