I decided to write this post because I feel many shelters do not have in place an evaluation system for the dogs that reside there. I do not think I can support a shelter that does not properly, thoroughly, and professionally evaluate their dogs. Evaluating is CRITICAL.
Some of the things considered when performing a thorough evaluation: super stressed, agitated, doesn’t like to be touched somewhere for one reason or another, if he/she has had any prior training, food aggressive, dominant, submissive, subordinate, defensive, nervy, possessive, loves food, loves toys, takes things gently or doesn’t, is under socialized, aloof, shows idiopathic aggression, is noise sensitive, hand shy, has a lack of manners, cat aggressive or will tolerate them, dog aggressive and if not truly, what would this dog prefer for the best qualities of a pack mate (older, opposite sex, not very energetic).
If you think about some of the things just mentioned, why wouldn’t shelter staff and management take the time to get to know and evaluate their dogs before they are returned to the public sector? When placing a dog with some of the traits stated above, if the dog had these issues (i.e. defensive, or any aggression) I would NOT show to a family with children under the age of 12. The shelter’s staff who fail to thoroughly evaluate their dogs do not know that the “cute” dog, that a family with two young’uns is interested in, has this undesirable temperament and behavior of deciding to possess or own the sofa and disciplines the child at face level for approaching his valued spot. Also, what if a dog is not tested properly and a young child trips and falls over a sleeping dog who happens to be quite defensive? The outcome is predictable.
If you work in a shelter, (and I have, day, night, and weekends – good, bad, and the ugly) you may love animals, I don’t doubt that. I do doubt however that many of you even comprehend true canine behavior, have the experience and/or the knowledge to assess, place, and/or make difficult decisions if necessary, especially under the pressure of volunteers and/or board members who wish to save every animal that comes through your doors. So that is why I say if you are in this business you need to consistently educate yourself. If you do not, you are not only doing a disservice to your dogs, you are doing a disservice to your community, which you are potentially putting in danger.
This is a staff negligence issue. Volunteers are the most fabulous creatures on the planet!
You can also learn about medical issues you wouldn’t have otherwise seen during the evaluation period. This is one time that the dog gets looked at in a somewhat sterile (little distractions) environment from nose to tail and most importantly you get to check out what is in between their ears!