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Discussion Starter #1
I'm just curious about this. We attended an adoption open house recently and I was checking out all the dogs and trying to guess what kind of temperament they had. I didn't have a lot of time with each dog and I realize it was not the best environment to evaluate temperament. So I was wondering if folks who have worked in shelters could comment on the mix of temperaments they typically see. What % are cautious canines? Happy-go-lucky? Non-responsive? Something else? Does that differ from the dog population in general?

Like I said, I'm just curious about it. There were some really sweet pups there. Couldn't talk my husband into this one black great dane girl, though. Rats! She was a doll. Oh well.
 

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Well one thing I always try to remember or take into account is the fact that I am only ever viewing the dogs in a very limited environment. I've seen even the most excitable, happy dog kind of fall into a 'shy slump' due to extended time spent in the shelter. Likewise I've seen calm dogs turn crazy over too much time spent cooped up. So while you can get a general idea about how a dog might temperament wise, there's always the chance that things will be completely different once you leave the shelter.

That being said, I think I see more cautious dogs then anything. Not necessarily cautious in the scared sense, but more in the wary "I'm not sure where I am, who you are, etc." sense. Most of them seem to warm up some after a little interaction, which also leads me to believe that it's more confusion that drives their standoff-ishness rather then being scared.

Second to those dogs would probably be the somewhat crazy "Please take me out and play NOW" dogs. They like everyone and are literally a pain to get out of the kennels as their frantic jumps tend to lead to many scratches up and down my arms.

Other then that, there is the occasional truly frightened dog as well as the dogs that just prefer to be left alone. They seem to be far fewer then the other two categories though.

And of course, this is just based on the one shelter I work with. I imagine it's different in other areas.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks, that makes sense. So what's the best way to evaluate a dog's temperament for adoption? Do you just need to take a chance and see how the dog does in his new home or is it possible to run through some standard temperament tests and get a pretty good sense within a short amount of time at or near the shelter? A combination of both?
 

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I'd say it's a little of both - but most shelters can get a general idea as to how a dog is going to fit into it's new home.

My local shelter uses a program called Meet Your Match or 'Canine-Ality' which was developed by the ASPCA and is a system of tests that help gage a dog's personality or temperament. The animals then fall into a high, medium, or low energy level and one subcategory within that level based on what seems to motivate that particular animal (ie. food, people, etc.)

More info on the different levels can be found here:
http://www.aspca.org/adoption/meet-your-match/meet-the-canine-alities.html

You can also read about the actual test, here:
http://www.aspca.org/adoption/meet-your-match/canine-ality-101.html

The adopters then fill out a survey of their own based on what they are looking for in a dog. Example questions would be things like desired energy level, what you plan to do with the dog, or what kind of environment it will be living with. They are then advised on what level of dog would best fit their family. It then makes it a lot easier to pair up prospective homes with new pets because we don't have to spend as much time standing their convincing a stubborn adopter that no, that high energy Border Collie really ISN'T the best fit for your couch potato lifestyle.

The program itself has shown some success as we have had a lot fewer returns since employing it's tatics. So there are definitely ways to test and gage how something may work out. I don't think there is anything that can be 100% sure, but most will at least help you make a better educated choice.

I know some shelters also have the prospective adopters take the dog out for a walk or play time as well. Sometimes once outside the kennel walls they start to open up more and kind of show their truer personality.
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Thanks for the links - looks like a good system that could help people avoid a mistake. Might be trickier with a dog like mine who could fall into different categories depending on her environment. There are people who know Poca only as the sweetest fun-loving dog they've always seen. Others see her as a little skittish, scary and intense. It all depends on whether she likes them or feels threatened by them or the environment. I fear that she would never get adopted if she ended up in a shelter unless a knowledgeable shelter/rescue worker knew how to read her and could see what a great dog she is (ok, I'm biased!). The combination of black coat and quirky temperament would definitely work against her, I think.

In any case, thanks for the insights. I have a lot to learn before deciding whether to take on another dog and since I'd like to adopt, I thought I'd start there. This helps.
 

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I agree with Dakota. There are all different types of personalities in shelters. There are some dogs that do better in the shelter environment then others. Oddly enough it seems that Pit bulls tend to do just fine for extended stays in shelters vs. Rotties that tend to go sort of cage crazy faster. I have seen dogs that are seemingly comfortable in shelters and others that sit and shake but once out of the shelter environment are happy-go-lucky dogs. Each one is an individual. I think the meet your match is a great starting point for adopter/dog match ups but it is just that, a starting point. Adoption counseling with a knowledgeable shelter employee is great too. They ask questions of the adopter that the person might not have even thought to take into consideration. I used to do breed counseling at our local shelter. It amazed me how often people had applies for a dog they new absolutely NOTHING about. One family had applied for an 8 week old Black Lab puppy. They held the pup in their lap the whole time I spoke to them. Through out our conversation they revealed that they had always wanted an easy going small breed dog. I was like "What???" You have a dog that is going to grow into a fairly large breed and is known for being extremely active. Many people go by "what they see in front of them, is what they will have at home" or " I know someone who has a (insert breed here) and it always seems nice." i am so happy that many shelters are working harder to match the dog with the adopter. It is a great start. The education goes a long way. :)
 

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Uh oh Winnie, did Willow and Bandit's video get Poca hankering for a pal of her own?? :D

I wish I had something important to add - just wanted to say good luck in your search!!
 

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Discussion Starter #8 (Edited)
Uh oh Winnie, did Willow and Bandit's video get Poca hankering for a pal of her own?? :D

I wish I had something important to add - just wanted to say good luck in your search!!
It did not help!! :) I love watching dogs who are well-matched play with each other. For Poca, it's usually a husky/shepherd or mix like her -- big fluffy necks rock! Thank goodness there are no shelters within a 10 mile radius of our house or ones that are open 24/7!

Adoption counseling with a knowledgeable shelter employee is great too. They ask questions of the adopter that the person might not have even thought to take into consideration....It is a great start. The education goes a long way. :)
Asking if they offer counseling is a good tip for finding a shelter that can really help me pick the right dog - thanks. I was a little leery of the folks I talked to last week. I think they did well with the dogs in general, but they didn't seem to know the dogs they were trying to adopt out. That could have been because the most knowledgeable person couldn't be by every kennel counseling people passing by. But they did miss pretty obvious cues the dogs were throwing Poca's way, which gave me pause. In any case, I like the counseling idea and will pursue that.
 

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Our local shelter is pretty small, so they know the dogs fairly well. An interesting thing they do with prospective adopters is to allow them to "check out" the dog for a few days. The people can take the dog home for 2-3 days to get a feel for it in the environment in which it will live. A few days doesn't equal months of getting to know each other, but it's a big step from just seeing the dog in the shelter.
 

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I wish more shelters asked more questions and did tests like that to match the people with dogs. I was very disappointed with the shelter I got Cerbie from. They didn't ask us anything. They didn't even check my driver's license to see if the address I put on the application was the same. I think the next dog I actively seek out (who knows if that will even happen) will come from a rescue group. I think that if I'd seen my Cerbie at his full intensity though, I probably would have passed him up for being a maniac. Although now I know how to manage his energy levels.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Our local shelter is pretty small, so they know the dogs fairly well. An interesting thing they do with prospective adopters is to allow them to "check out" the dog for a few days. The people can take the dog home for 2-3 days to get a feel for it in the environment in which it will live. A few days doesn't equal months of getting to know each other, but it's a big step from just seeing the dog in the shelter.
I love that idea. That would allow me to take some time off so I could observe how they behave with each other. I think we'll definitely insist on that.

I wish more shelters asked more questions and did tests like that to match the people with dogs. I was very disappointed with the shelter I got Cerbie from. They didn't ask us anything. They didn't even check my driver's license to see if the address I put on the application was the same. I think the next dog I actively seek out (who knows if that will even happen) will come from a rescue group. I think that if I'd seen my Cerbie at his full intensity though, I probably would have passed him up for being a maniac. Although now I know how to manage his energy levels.

Your story concerns me and is exactly the reason why I asked the original question. It's clear that the shelter staff are critical in helping adopters make a good decision. I'm glad things are under control with Cerbie. He's lucky to have found you - I doubt other people would have persevered with him.
 

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Most of the shelter's I've been to had A LOT of dogs and were more willing to give away the dogs than do a background check.

As it was mentioned, it's really hard to determine a dogs personality or temperment. It took mine 2-3 months to be himself when I first adopted him.

There will be dogs who have been cooped up for so long they'll go crazy when they're let out. Who can blame them!

I'm mostly drawn to the scared, shy dogs, I don't know why. I want to give them a big old hug and bring them home. But a scared shelter dog can be a completely different dog once he knows he has a home. Which was the case of my little one, who is the king of the house right now.

Maybe you can try looking up dogs that are fostered instead of in shelters? The foster parents can give you a good description of the dogs character, since it is outside of a shelter enviornment and more of a home setting.

Also, why not try fostering a dog that you see as a perspective adoption?

Hope that helps. Good luck on your search.
 

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Your story concerns me and is exactly the reason why I asked the original question. It's clear that the shelter staff are critical in helping adopters make a good decision. I'm glad things are under control with Cerbie. He's lucky to have found you - I doubt other people would have persevered with him.[/QUOTE]

You do have to be careful. If you do go the shelter route, try to talk to other people who have adopted from there. Cerb started showing signs of distemper a few days after we got him home, and I called to let the shelter know so they could quarantine, but they just said "oh, we had an outbreak of distemper in December?" Needless to say, I'll never go back there. I've also talked to other people who've gotten really sick dogs from that shelter since then.

Just keep doing your homework like you're doing, and you'll find the right dog at the right time for you. I really think it all works out for a reason. If we hadn't picked Cerb up the day we did, he would've started showing signs of the distemper in the shelter, and he would've been put down. I know one of his brothers was. But he's been the absolute best dog I've ever owned, he's my buddy.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
KintaroLove & Cerbiesmom - thanks for the additional suggestions. I have thought about contacting breed rescue groups, including those who foster. Esp. since they tend to have more than one dog in the house and would know how the dog gets along with other dogs.

I hadn't thought of contacting others who had used a shelter. If they would give me the contact info I would certainly talk to others who had adopted there. Hard to believe the shelter staff were so unconcerned about distemper. But after reading some of the shelter horror stories posted on DF, I shouldn't be surprised, sadly.
 

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When I adopted Luna, we were brought into a holding room where she and her brother and sister were. I could immediately tell that she had a submissive personality because:

1) the shelter worker doing the interview told me so;

2) by observing her play with her littermates.

Luna's siblings were involved in a very rough wrestling match, and she was content to mostly observe (and follow them around, wagging her tail). When one of them tackled her to involve her in the match, she immediately went to the ground and whimpered. She stayed there until her sister let her up.

She was also immediately loving and playful with me, which only solidified my decision to adopt her!
 
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