Having assisted in performing these evaluations for a rescue group, I can see their utility in providing information about an animal, its personality, the kind of environment it needs to thrive, and areas in which it might need special attention.
|Daisy is available from http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/18687962|
The evaluator also tests for the dog's level of excitability, by getting him riled up with excited play and seeing how quickly--or if--the dog can calm down. Great opportunity to see if you need to get some volunteers to work on impulse control with the dog.
But too many shelters use evaluations as the first, last, and only criterion used in deciding whether an animal is "adoptable." Which is unfair for so many reasons.
First, these evaluations are being conducted in a shelter environment. What dog in the shelter is not overly excited due to lack of exercise, boredom, and stress? How many dogs have just come in off the street or from neglectful situations where they didn't know where their next meal was coming from, and so are understandably protective of resources once they finally are given something to eat?
Says Jean Donaldson, author of "Mine! A Practical Guide to Resource Guarding in Dogs,"
“...we need tests that are scientifically proven to be reliable and valid. We couldn’t get Sue [Sternberg]’s test past the reliability issue, and four of her five unadoptable dogs did fine. We adopted out three and did behavior modification on one.”Fozzie failed his evaluation with flying colors and was on death row when I rescued him. I didn't get all the details, but I am certain it had to do with his excitability. Invite Fozzie to play, and he wants to PLAY!
It took a little work, but it was fun work, and now he controls his impulses much more.
|Meet Jackson at http://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/19916409|
These common behavioral problems are ones that can be worked with, not ones that should result in a death sentence.
Granted, many shelters are using evaluations the way they should be used--as information-gathering sessions to inform a progressive training and rehabilitation program. Too many, however, use assessments as a way to ensure that their facility is seen as having a high percentage of "successful" adoptions, because all the animals who might need some work are summarily executed.
A more detailed discussion of behavioral evaluations is here. Anyone concerned about the practice can help by learning some basic reward-based training exercises and volunteering at a shelter, so even those who don't come in with perfect manners can have a better chance of getting out alive.