Why do we temperament assess?
Since 1998, each dog at the Ottawa Humane Society must pass a temperament assessment and a health check in order to be approved for general adoption. We want to ensure the dogs we adopt into the community are temperamentally sound and safe. We want to ensure the adoption process is a positive and successful life experience. When someone adopts a dog not suitable for their family or their lifestyle, the probability of bonding with the dog, keeping the dog, and caring responsibly for the dog is not high. This will result in either the dog being returned to the OHS, or worse yet, passed from home to home to eventually be returned to the animal shelter. In the process, the adoptive family has been emotionally scarred, someone has possibly been bitten, and the dog itself feels lost and confused.
- Adopting out “problem” dogs as family pets who are aggressive and/or require extensive training, behaviour modification or managing, is not fair to the adopter or to the dog being adopted.
Even though there are some things that cannot be tested for in the shelter environment, we have great success matching our dogs to the right homes.
The main goal of temperament assessments is to pull out the true character of the dog. A dog’s behaviour can be bettered through training. A dog’s temperament cannot be altered: it can be controlled and/or managed but never changed.
- An example of a temperament trait is prey drive. A dog that has high prey drive will chase cats, squirrels and children on bicycles. Prey drive can only be managed by being aware of the limitations of ownership. This means keeping the dog under control at all times, giving the dog no opportunity to chase.
- A dog that jumps up when greeting people is an example of a behaviour trait. This is a learned behaviour that can be changed with training and positive reinforcement.
The assessment consists of a series of tests to trigger specific responses. Time is spent with each dog to get a good sense of how he will likely react in different situations and with different stimuli (for example: new places, strange places, children, and other dogs).