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Those of you who work at or have experience with shelters,

There is another thread on DF:
http://www.dogforums.com/2-general-dog-forum/53683-shelters-breeds.html
now which asks how shelters determine or guess the breeds of the dogs they have.

I was wondering what people's experiences were with how shelters do their evaluations of a dogs temperament, behavioral issues, etc. Have you seen it based on info from the previous owner, or testing, what kind of testing, etc. Effective or not? Who are the people doing the testing? Suggestions how to improve?
 

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I volunteer at our local animal control, and foster for a private rescue. The evaluations are pretty scant, mostly because of lack of resources and volunteers. As far as the rescue goes, we pull from kill shelters and have no knowledge how the dogs are. And then they immediately go to foster homes and it's trial and error. Not a method I am a fan of, because I've taken in some dogs that turned out to have extreme behavioral problems.
The AC shelter doesn't really do much of an evaluation at all. If the dog seems friendly, it's deemed friendly and up for adoption. If it growls, lunges, or bites for any reason regardless of circumstance or what caused the bite, they're deemed redemption only and not up for adoption. Euthanized if not claimed.
 

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1. Most shelter animals are abandoned, or owner-relinquished, or brought in as strays. Many of them have been neglected or abused. All of them are stressed-out upon arrival at the shelter.

Any temperament test done should be done after a minimum of 3 days at the shelter so the dog has a chance to settle into his/her environment.

Tests are only a starting point at best. They test the dog in circumstances that are different to those the dog will be in, once adopted.
Things like "boldness" of a dog can be mistaken by evaluators. Many, though not all shelters give a minimum of training for temperament testing.
I preformed temperament tests at our local shelter. IT was basically on a point system for most of the exercises and a pass fail for a few. If the dog showed food aggression, dog aggression then the dog would need extra care in adoption and went to breed rescue where possible. If it showed aggression to humans... Sadly, it's fate was sealed.

Even more sad was when new management came in, they trained some of their very young and inexperienced staff to do the temperament tests by showing them a video. These poor souls were expected to assess behavior and decide to put up for adoption or euthanize a dog based on their very limited knowledge. Many dogs were put to sleep that shouldn't have been. Others, maybe should have been but were not. It was not fair to the dogs or the staff.
My suggestion on how to improve it would be to do much more extensive training of staff. Adoption counseling by a trained staff member who actually DOES know about different breeds is also a huge help. If possible talk with volunteers that actually spend time with the dogs while walking or playing outside. How does the dog behave in those situations? What do they notice about the dogs behavior. Also, training of volunteers is critical too.
 

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The local humane society does have a pretty systematic method of testing dogs. They test things like taking food from from the dog, seeing if the dog accepts petting while playing, etc.... They then categorize dogs from being ultra hyper on the go to laid back couch potatoes. Unfortunately, these tests aren't always accurate as some dogs completely shut down in shelters.
 

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I volunteer at my local RSPCA in Australia. it's a bit scary what happens actually. if pups comes in that look even remotely pitbull, they are euthanised on arrival, because it's illegal to own pits or pit crosses in Australia, and the shelter can't afford dna tests. small fluffy dogs are normally cavoodles or malteseXshitzu dogs with masks, or spots and pointy ears are normally referred to as cattle dog crosses, anything with border collie markings is a border collie cross. anything black and tan is either kelpieX or GSDX. and large dogs are lab or mastiff crosses. unless obviously purebred.

it's not very well guessed usually

the temperament test is very inadequate and many dogs come back for aggressive behaviour and subsequently get put to sleep.
 

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Those of you who work at or have experience with shelters,

There is another thread on DF:
http://www.dogforums.com/2-general-dog-forum/53683-shelters-breeds.html
now which asks how shelters determine or guess the breeds of the dogs they have.

I was wondering what people's experiences were with how shelters do their evaluations of a dogs temperament, behavioral issues, etc. Have you seen it based on info from the previous owner, or testing, what kind of testing, etc. Effective or not? Who are the people doing the testing? Suggestions how to improve?
Great question. I'm also curious, who writes the articles? and how much experience do they normally actually have with the animals?
 

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I volunteer with a rescue network not a shelter, so the experience might be different. All the dogs are placed in foster homes and the foster parents get a pretty decent idea of the dog's temperament (limited of course by the fact that the dog is usually in a multi-dog household which might not be the case when he's adopted).

When you've lived with the dog for 3-4 weeks you get a pretty good idea of its personality all the way from aggression issues to toy preferences to housetraining to leash manners. I have to take the dog to another volunteers' house to check cat reactivity though...my wife is deathly allergic to cats.

Reaction to kids is the tough one for us. We don't have any, and I'm not comfortable using other people's kids as test subjects. So if a dog is real rambunctious or mouthy we generally error on the side of caution and say No Kids Under 10.
 

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What sort of tests do they actually do?
People aggression?
Dog aggression?
Children?
Other pets?
All depends on the shelter. There's no regulation and some shelters do very in-depth testing and some don't do anything.
 

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What sort of tests do they actually do?
People aggression?
Dog aggression?
Children?
Other pets?
theydon't do any people aggression tests, if the dog is friendly to them, it lives, if it's not it dies.

they introduce them to other shelter dogs on leashes to see how they go, on a lot of occasions dominant aggression is seen as playful behaviour and isn't written down. such as tail up, ears forward and wagging tail, with the hackles raised and nipping of the back, that can quickly escalate.

no children tests, until people come to adopt

no other pets test, unless someone that has surrendered it has told of the dogs dislike for certain other species.
 

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Unfortunately with shelters it's a total crap shoot. Some are really, really good and some are really, really bad. I once adopted a very high energy dog because the shelter told me directly that if I didn't, the dog would be put to sleep. I'm a low energy person. It was not a good match and I knew it, but the shelter guilt tripped me. What are most people going to do if they're told, "You take the dog or he dies?"
 

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Unfortunately with shelters it's a total crap shoot. Some are really, really good and some are really, really bad. I once adopted a very high energy dog because the shelter told me directly that if I didn't, the dog would be put to sleep. I'm a low energy person. It was not a good match and I knew it, but the shelter guilt tripped me. What are most people going to do if they're told, "You take the dog or he dies?"
I have a similar story, but I fully intended on adopting Smalls regardless. I catch a lot of crap for this (I don't understand why. She was sick and needed help. Why wouldn't I do it when I had the means?) but when I went to pick Smalls up she had a prolapsed rectum and was extremely emaciated. The shelter tells me if I don't take her, they'll just put her down that day and won't I look at their other dogs? I thought it was extremely inappropriate even though I knew it was reality.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
I once adopted a very high energy dog because the shelter told me directly that if I didn't, the dog would be put to sleep.
The shelter tells me if I don't take her, they'll just put her down that day and won't I look at their other dogs?
That is so wrong. People going into a shelter looking for a pet are trying to do the right thing. Laying a big guilt trip on them is wrong. The fate of a dog, should he not be selected by a particular person, should likely never be discussed.
 

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That is so wrong. People going into a shelter looking for a pet are trying to do the right thing. Laying a big guilt trip on them is wrong. The fate of a dog, should he not be selected by a particular person, should likely never be discussed.
The problem with that shelter experience is that the whole thing was a lie. I called several days earlier to say I was far away, but could they pleaaaase hold her for me I will give them whatever info and pay over the phone. I drove about 9 hours round trip and when I got there they claimed they tried to call me all day (they had THREE contact numbers for me) but she had parvo (definitely not parvo) and it had just happened that morning. And that they planned to put her down if I didn't want her. When I did want her, they told me if she died over the weekend they'd refund my money. We got her to the vet immediately, and they said her rectum was like that for at least 2-3 weeks, judging by the tissue loss and that gangrene was setting in.
 

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Are shelter dogs normally given a medical exam by a vet before being offered out to people?
I know even at our poorest run AC around here, the dogs have a vet come by every day between certain hours. The thing is, they often can't afford to treat the dog, especially if it's something like heartworm. They let people know the dog is special needs, and hope it gets adopted and taken care of.

The rescue I foster for does a full veterinary exam and takes care of all health issues, spays/neuters, and does all the vaccinations before it's adopted out.
 

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As others have said, behavior assessment is going to vary widely from location to location. I work in the spcaLA's behavior and training department and when I assess a new dog I'm basically doing the Canine Good Citizen test. My expectations are slightly lower than they would be for someone's well-trained pet, but the exercises are the same. In addition, we take into account whatever an owner tells us about an owner surrender and all notes subsequently made by volunteers who work with or walk the dogs.
 

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That is so wrong. People going into a shelter looking for a pet are trying to do the right thing. Laying a big guilt trip on them is wrong. The fate of a dog, should he not be selected by a particular person, should likely never be discussed.
Not only that, it is not a good thing to foist a dog on a home that really isn't the right fit. Might just make a miserable home for the dog and hte people which is no good. Plus, they could have rescued another dog that may not be as much of an emergency to get rescued, but also would eventually be put to sleep and with a better fit give a dog a much happier home.
 

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Our local animal control adopts out dogs. They have no health testing whatsoever. If the dog doesn't try to bite them, he's deemed adoptable. You pay the fee and pick up the dog with no shots, no nothing. You pay for a vet visit out of your own pocket. (I'm sure some people don't got at all.) If the vet says the dog is unhealthy, you can bring the dog back and get your money back. I don't want to speculate on what happens to the dog at that point as no alternative sounds like a good one.

The local Humane Society adopts dogs as well. All dogs go through a fairly thorough behavior test and they have a foster system as well. All dogs adopted are already spayed/neutered and they are up to date on all but their rabies shot (which must be administered by a vet by law.) They also have 20-30 or more local vets who offer a free examination of the dog so you get hooked up with a vet right from the start. You're given a leash, a small bag of food and told that if the dog does not work out right for any reason, you can bring him back for a partial refund. It's a pretty nice operation.
 
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