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Thread: Temperament testing

  1. #1
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    Default Temperament testing

    Do they do this in pounds and shelters etc?

    Also, how do they decide a dog is suitable for adoption or not. Do they allow a certain number of flaws etc?

    For example, what happens if the dog is fine with everything, except other dogs. Do they then say the dog is OK to be adopted but must be an only dog, or do they just not put it up for adoption?

    Does anyone have actual experience with this?

    I know the tests for temperament but have never really seen the outcomes etc.

    In NZ, most places dont do temp testing. They may not put all dogs up for adoption due to certain traits they display but there isnt necessarily testing in place so I am curious to know how it works here.

  2. #2
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    I am pretty sure our RSPCA does it. But at the pound it is the responsibility of the rescue org volunteers.

    In the case of the pound dogs, it is usually very limited. They do test the dog's reaction to other dogs, but usually it is just a quick meeting in the exercise yard, on the lead. If the dog is fine with other dogs, that usually is pretty clear during those tests. But some dogs are just so in shock at being in the shelter that it is virtually impossible to guess how they would react in a different situation.

    But the volunteers obviously have a checklist, as you can tell from their descriptions of the dogs they list (this is the dogs still in the pound, they always list them on their FB page). They test how they walk on lead, if they are responsive to the handler, if they respond to treats, if they already know some cues and then how they react when introduced to another dog. They deduct if he would be likely to jump fences by observing if he jumps up against the kennel door, I believe.

    I know our local rescue org will list dogs that are not well socialised with other dogs. They are always honest about this of course and stress that the dog needs to go to an experienced owner who can work on socialisation (or can make sure the dog is kept away from other dogs, I suppose).

    A friend of mine is fostering a dog for the RSPCA. The dog is highly dog-aggressive (and would probably tear a cat to shreds if he came near it) and will apparently jump 6 foot fences without effort. He'd been at the RSPCA for over a year, waiting for someone who could look after him after a complex ear operation. My friend was told she could only let him outside in the backyard on a leash as he would otherwise jump the fence and attack the first dog he met. Yet, he will be up for adoption. They did do a lot of work on desensitising him to other dogs. My friend takes him to the RSPCA trainer for further sessions. I must admit that I sometimes question the resources they spend on a dog with such a difficult temperament. I know it's not the dog's fault and he is lovely with people and every dog's life is valuable. But there are so many dogs that need a home and it may take years before someone is found to take this dog on. They had a dog there for a few years. One carer told me they feared he could not be rehomed because he was so 'institutionalised'. Years in a shelter would mess any dog up. But he was rehomed last month! I guess the RSPCA has enough resources to be able to afford this. It is harder with the pound dogs as it would be very hard to find a long term foster carer for a dog like that.

    Another friend fostered a dog from the pound through our local rescue organisation (who really are fantastic, I must say). She has two dogs of her own and the foster one day viciously attacked her old dog without any warning. Her dog nearly died - partially because her age made it hard to deal with the trauma of such a bad wound. Someone from the rescue organisation came to observe the dog at her home and the decision was made that the dog could never be trusted around other dogs or kids because she attacked without warning and she was put down the next day. Tough choice to make...

  3. #3
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    I do have experience with this......temp testing is done on a set scoring system (at a lot of places) and I feel a good system should have a set routine. There is room to write things in, but the scoring should be set. Different places use different scores and tally's.

    In temp testing we test them with Dolls (kids), which I do not find very helpful, behaviour in Kennel, how it deals with Aproach by the person who puts the dog on lead , groups of people (different ages if possible), other dogs, general simple obedience, does the dog allow friendly approach, ignore and see reaction, how it react to being put in a sit or drop position hands on, Strange sudden movement approaching, also resource guarding is tested by both human approach and other dog....And a few more, which I always check off my list, because I can never remeber them all.
    Each event is scored and it is added, room left to add notes

    I am sure there are several different systems, but a quite few places go with the system I was taught.

    Sometimes if the dog is very anxious another test might be done a few days later after settling. The rescue's I have dealt with tend to do it once.There are so many dogs

    There are so many shelter dogs and the rescues I know tend to only take the dogs that are not known for aggression. Unless they can find trainers who will give the time to do one on one. And sometimes if they have a history of the dog and know the why, it can help in the re-training.

    I take the newfie problem rescue dogs and I have helped with quite another few giant breeds and other breeds for people, who did get them from rescues and ended up with aggressive dogs. There is no fool proof way to temp test a dog. Some dogs may not relax enough to show their true temperament until about three weeks, which is what I always tell people when they get a Rescue, watch carefully at three weeks +/-, some dogs will suddenly come across more confident and might take on other dogs in their new pack.... When you get problem dogs you cannot reliably pass them on to other people, even though they are good with the Trainer or one particular person. It would have to be to someone who can read the dog and protect it from getting into trouble.
    Pets are forever

  4. #4
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    Pretty sure AWL does this locally.

    They test the dog's reaction to people, other dogs, a very dog savvy cat (ie one that won't run, protected by a fence), and a doll for child. Which is a bit of a worry because my dog knows the difference between a doll and a child. She loves children and will do all manner of grovelling to get their attention - but dolls and stuffed toys get ripped to pieces with great joy. Maybe I'd better do something about that.

  5. #5
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    I don't get the doll thing either. That's such a human concept. I can't see why any dog would make the association between an inanimate object and a child.

    I think our local rescue org assesses a dog's suitability for a family with kids based on their general behaviour. Eg. if they are skittish and fearful they are definitely not recommended for kids at all. If they are jumpy and boisterous they usually advice they are not the best dog for small kids. The RSPCA has even more generalised rules about this. They will not adopt out a tiny dog to anyone with kids under 6 or 8 or something, regardless of the dog's temperament. I think that's a bit too rigid myself.

    ETA: the dog that my friend fosters for the RSPCA is having his assessment on Monday! I think she'll be allowed to watch, so I'll ask her to report on the details.
    Last edited by Beloz; 12-30-2011 at 05:54 PM.

  6. #6
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    I have to agree the doll thing is in my eyes studpid....My Katy who loves kids ( she is a therapy dog for disabled kids) and is generally a really casual dog. But she is actually worried bout the dog, so she would fail that part.
    I suppose no-one wants to use real kids to test dogs.

    But the dog would not be assessed on the behaviour to the doll alone
    Pets are forever

  7. #7
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    I saw the doll thing too and didnt get it. My dogs like kids, but I would think they would look on a doll as a toy. One dog I have loves to shred toys.

    One of my dogs is from rescue, rescued from an abusive situation. In rescue he was very timid and they wouldnt adopt him out to anyone with kids, they didnt do the doll thing. He was also energetic and they wouldnt adopt him out to anyone who wasnt going to deal with that. He had a few people interested in him but were deemed not suitable. I dont think they did a temperament test as such but they are a working dog rescue and the people involved are all very passionate and experienced in dealing with and assessing working dog breeds. The person who runs the rescue is a qualified dog trainer and is pretty knowledgable.

    I met the dog, she interviewed me quite rigourously, she does agility herself so had seen me running my other dogs. I took him on a trial period to make sure everything was good with my other dogs.

    Turns out he was probably in shock at being dumped, mind you he was only about 7 months old. He is wonderful with kids, dogs and is generally a very nice dog. He does still carry some mental scars as we know he was very roughly treated as a pup as his former owner got very frustrated with him. He will usually cower and pee himself if you raise your voice. Something none of my own dogs raised from pups would do.

  8. #8
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    That's what I find a bit sad about how rigid the RSPCA is about in these things. We got knocked back for a couple of dogs because they would not consider them for homes with kids.

    When we met Banjo at her foster place, she was so wild that we just could not touch her for the first 10 minutes we were there because of all the jumping and mouthing! There was no way the RSPCA would have let a dog like that go to a home with a 7yo. But we both decided it was a minor issue compared to all the good things the dog had to offer. It took a lot more effort than I had expected to deal with the boisterous behaviour though. And I could well imagine a less determined person with less confidence in the power of training and consistency might have given up on her and returned her. And I suppose that is a situation that the RSPCA tries to avoid at all cost.

    I must admit that I myself am a bit amazed to see the dog mingle with a group of kids now sometimes when I think back of what a hazard she was to little people only a few months ago! So I am very glad that the rescue organisation gave us a chance.

  9. #9
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    I volunteer at a no-kill shelter (Monika's Rescue, on the Northern Beaches Sydney). So they take the dogs that the pounds are about to "exterminate" and keep them until they can find a suitable home. I don't know if they use a scoring system when the dog first arrives but the shelter hands pay a lot of attention to the dogs and it's amazing how much they know about each one (and there are over 100 at any given time). Their website gives an indication of what is known about the dog, and any negatives are highlighted, like: "not suitable for household with children", "aggressive towards some men", "dog aggressive", "food aggressive", "displays separation anxiety behaviours", "has a heart condition and requires lifelong medication" etc and then when you go in for your interview, they will tell you more. Monika will ensure the dog seems to be a good match for your life/ situation and if she feels otherwise, she won't actually let you adopt the dog and will recommend others that are a better match.

    I adopted my dog from there and his report said "good with kids & adults, no aggression, not food aggressive, highly socialised with other dogs, requires only moderate exercise" and so far it has all been true.

    In terms of a dog in a shelter becoming institutionalised, well I know if a dog has been at the shelter at Monika's past the 1.5 - 2 years mark, they try to place the dog in foster care so the dog adjusts to being part of a household again.

  10. #10
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    That's what I like about foster places too. They get to know the dogs and form an idea of what type of family they would fit into. And they are usually very honest about the dog's good and bad sides.

    Though I must say that the foster carer we got our dog from seemed a bit inexperienced. It was her first foster and she didn't have a dog of her own and in hindsight her description of the dog was probably a tad optimistic as it didn't really address the jumping and mouthing issue at all.

    On the other hand, I have been grilled by other foster carers who immediately decided that I would not give their foster enough exercise and stimulation, probably based purely on the fact that I am a single parent. I felt a bit offended by that, even if I realised that they only had the dog's wellbeing in mind.

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