The behavioral and psychological assessment of our dogs is perhaps one of the less conspicuous roles of our team, though one essential to ROLDA’s ultimate goal for every dog in our care; to see them go on to an adoring family and happy new home.
ROLDA never rehomes a dog unless they are in good psychological and physical health and our team and vet are sure they will adapt well to a new environment and would not find the journey distressing.
In order for this to happen, ROLDA performs a rigorous assessment of adoption candidates and finds for them the perfect new environment and people for their needs, personality-type, and idiosyncrasies.
Dogs, like people, vary greatly in their personalities and temperament. Many are traumatized by past experiences and some might possess negative predispositions towards humans and/or other dogs.
Some may recover this trust over time, or some will remain wary and require an understanding and reassuring presence to feel comfortable.
ROLDA’s shelter and medical staff are highly experienced in interpreting canine body language and patterns of behavior. Over time, as the relationship and trust between our team and new arrivals grow, they become to know our dogs and are able to make a well-informed and accurate assessment of their suitability for adoption.
ROLDA’s behavioral assessment considers these factors and allows a dog to express themselves in different settings and scenarios.
Shelter Environment vs. Home Environment
A dog shelter can be a stressful and noisy environment. Dogs, like humans, express themselves when in need or when wishing to express a particular emotion. A shelter can be a cacophony of the voices of hundreds of dogs all vying for attention. This environment can be stressful for dogs unaccustomed to busy environments or intimidated by large groups.
ROLDA dogs go on to private homes usually as the only household pet or one of few. We assess our dog’s behavior in noisy and quiet areas inside the shelter to allow a shy, defensive or otherwise hyperactive dog the chance to be themselves in a peaceful setting in which they feel more confident and happier.
Group Interaction vs. One-on-One Interaction
Individual attention is important in details: from eye contact, which should or shouldn’t happen (depending on the dog) and continuing to every clue that a dog (that used to be a stray for his whole life, totally independent and acting like a wild animal) can give in a human’s presence.
Individual attention from an owner or caregiver is important to dogs of all ages. How a dog behaves is strongly influenced by human contact. It is difficult to evenly distribute attention and affection to even a handful of dogs and completely impossible in large groups.
A calm, caring and assertive influence can radically change a dog’s behavior, especially over time.
The small details are important: eye contact (depending on the dog), touching consistent with how much the dog enjoys being touched, consistent and fair expectations behavior, the tone and volume of our voices, our body language and how to approach a dog all to contribute to trends in behavior.
ROLDA assesses each dog’s behavior alone, in the context of the group with other dogs and one-on-one with one of our team.
Other common factors and trends we observed are:
Unfortunately, many dogs stay with us for several years and some become either too accustomed to the setting and routine of the shelter or form attachments to our team and may become distressed by a new environment, especially dogs later in their years.
Some younger, male dogs will see their peers as competition and seek to bully and occasionally fight in a quest to establish superiority.
Aggression During Feeding
The majority of our dogs were either born or have lived much of their life as strays. We provide ample food and no ROLDA dog goes hungry, though it is the instinct of dogs used to group feeding in the wild to make a reserve of excess food underneath them and will growl or fight to protect it.
Some of our dogs have spent their entire lives in the wild and find it exceedingly difficult to shed predatorial instincts to small wildlife.
Many adopters understandably want to shower their new canine companion with love and affection.
However, when a dog enters a new home it is essential that they learn the rules of the house. By being too lenient in this induction phase, dogs will struggle to understand how they are expected to behave.
A kind but assertive attitude is required to reinforce expectations of behavior which will allow the dog to become comfortable and confident at home without “taking over”.
Adopters sometimes fail to consider the dog entering their home is used to a life in the wild. Dogs with a stray upbringing can often be more cunning, bullish and resistant to authority than dogs purchased from breeders or pet shops.
ROLDA’S Canine Behavioural Assessment Plan:
• Observe dog with staff inside kennel
• Observe dog in a large group of dogs
• Observe dog outside kennel alone
• Observe dog with staff outside kennel
• Observe how the dog walks leashed
• Observe energy levels
• Observe general health and temperament
ROLDA’s behavioral assessment also includes evaluating how comfortable each dog is adapting to necessary aspects of a new life in a private home:
We see how well they adapt to being on a collar and then a leash and walking with a leash with the guidance of a person.
Furthermore, we mark each dog’s energy and excitableness on a scale from One – Five. (One indicating a very sedate and relaxed dog, five indicating a hyperactive and highly demanding dog.) This is essential in matching dogs to perfect homes; dogs who are less active are ideally suited to older people without young children at home. Highly excitable dogs are much more suited to younger families able to indulge their energy.
On sponsoradog.rolda.org, the potential adopter finds all the necessary information to choose among our dogs his/her next furry buddy. On our website, potential adopters can learn all about our dogs, how comfortable they are around other dogs and people, their medical history, and of course, the results of our behavioral assessment. ROLDA uses our plentiful experience, but also the adopters and web visitors’ feedback to make this website as comprehensive, user-friendly, and accessible as possible.
ROLDA promises to keep this information as complete and as up-to-date as possible. We understand dogs change over their lives just as humans do and we guarantee potential adopters receive updated information to help them making their right decision.