Tips for Choosing a Shelter Dog
adoption is a wonderful thing. There are many dogs in shelters and rescue
organizations that will make wonderful lifelong companions. So how do you find
the best match for you and your family?
her book Do
Over Dogs: Give Your Dog a Second Chance for a First Class Life, Pat Miller explains how
to conduct your own behavior
assessment to evaluate a prospective adoptee. Here are some of the steps to
follow as you evaluate a future canine family member:
from Do Over Dogs: Give Your Dog a Second Chance
for a First Class Life]
friendly, and relaxed; excitable and aroused; stressed and nervous; or timid
and fearful? What does he do when people or other dogs walk by?
neutral position. Don’t talk to him or make eye contact as you stand sideways. Does
he come to the front of the kennel with a happy face and friendly wagging tail?
Charge to the front of the kennel barking aggressively? Slink to the back and
avoid eye contact? Stand or lie down quietly, looking at you?
don’t smile, but don’t actively threaten him. Is he happy and friendly? A
little worried? Very fearful? Does he stare back and growl or bark?
More aroused or aggressive?
confidence, or does he have to be coaxed through doorways and across new
surfaces? Is he pulling ahead of the person walking him, or lagging far behind?
As he walks past other dogs does he try to greet them happily? Aggressively? Or
does he try to avoid other dogs altogether?
with few distractions. Remove the leash, sit on a chair, and let him explore for
several minutes, without trying to engage with him. Is he curious and
confident? Tentative and cautious? Excited and boisterous? Does he try to leave
attention. Does he come to you when you call him or does he ignore or avoid
you and continue to explore the room? Is he polite when he greets you? Does he
jump all over you? Does he seem fearful when you try to interact?
far side, and touch, lift, tug on (gently!), and hold various parts of his body
– his tail, his ears, his feet. Does he enjoy or resist the handling? Get
excited or fearful?
that he may already know, such as sit, shake, and lie down. Use common owner
body language cues (hand at your chest for a sit, pointing to or patting the
floor for down, offering your own hand for shake). Then try and get him to do
some behaviors he doesn’t know for a tasty food treat—sit, down (if he didn’t
do them for you without treats), or maybe a spin or twirl, where you lure him
in a circle to see if he’ll follow the treat. Does he know anything already?
Does he seem willing to try new things? Is he fearful of your attempts to
elicit new behaviors, or too stressed to even consider a treat?
normal play with him. If he has seemed cautious or fearful, play very gently.
See if he’ll chase a ball. Does he bring it back? If he shows no interest in a
ball, try a soft squeaky toy, and offer to play tug with a tug toy. If he won’t
play with toys, try running away from him and see if he’ll run after you, or
get down on the floor and invite him to play. If he’ll engage with you
lightheartedly, he’s playing, even if he doesn’t know how to play with toys. On
the other end of the scale, is he getting too excited during play? Is
he biting at you, grabbing your clothes, jumping on you, perhaps even mounting
you? When you stop playing, hide the toy in your hand and fold your arms in
front of you. Does he stop what he’s doing or continue to interact
inappropriately with you?
a good idea to alert shelter or rescue staff members ahead of time that you
will be doing this assessment so that they know what to expect. Remember, this
assessment cannot tell you everything a dog will do in the future. It only
gives you a snapshot of what the dog did on one day, in one particular
environment in response to specific, limited stimuli.
for, and bringing out the best in your adoption dog in Do Over Dogs! Give Your Dog a Second Chance for a First Class Life
in the clickertraining.com store.