Canine Behavior and Enrichment

Behavior Assessment

Coming into the shelter environment can be a highly stressful experience for any animal. Each dog is different, so we look at each animal’s unique history and known circumstances during the evaluation process. Initially, our animals receive a behavior evaluation that includes several types of observation tests to help provide an overall picture of the dog in the shelter environment:

  • Kennel Test – Observes the dog’s behavior when pulling and returning the dog to the kennel, including putting on and removing the leash. Staff looks at things such as reactivity to approaching the kennel, ease of leashing, and temperament when placing back inside the kennel, etc.
  • Leash Test – Observes the dog’s behavior and "walkability" while on the leash. Staff looks at things such as how well the dog walks on a leash, any pulling or stop-and-go behaviors, jumping, leash chewing, etc.
  • Handling Test – Observes how the dog reacts to touch when being handled or people sensitivity. Staff looks for things such as soliciting attention, flinching or wariness, body posture, etc.
  • Dog-to-Dog Test – Observes the dog’s reactions to another dog (for dogs over 30 pounds). Staff looks at displayed behaviors such as sociability, selectivity, fearfulness, confidence, tolerance, etc.

A rating of easy (level 1), moderate (level 2), difficult (level 3), or in some cases "staff only" (level 4) is assigned for each of the above tests based on the observed behaviors of the animal. In addition to the assessment tests, staff include other pertinent observations along with any known behaviors reported from internal and external sources such as: resource guarding, high prey drive, jumping, excessive barking, growling, unreported minor bites, interactions with other animals and people, etc.

  1. Determining Availability
  2. Observation Methods
  3. Enrichment Activities

How We Determine Canine Availability

Below are the guidelines for determining the availability of each dog that enters our shelter. For animals that are suffering and/or have immediate medical needs, those urgent treatment decisions are handled by our qualified licensed veterinarians. Our goal is, and always has been, to get as many animals out of the shelter as quickly and responsibly as possible.

Dog Availability Flow_6_image no links Opens in new window

Download the Interactive PDF >

You may also view the linked documents separately:

Yin Canine Bite Levels >

Behavior Test Results >

Social Status and Play Style >

Our ultimate goal is to responsibly move animals out of the shelter as quickly as we can, however the pathway and timeline for each animal may differ depending on their needs and circumstances. By evaluating the individual animal as a whole, including any known history, reported bite history, behavior observations and assessments, and any medical concerns, we are better able to determine the availability of the animal for adoption.