To Test or Not To Test

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That is the dilemma facing shelters throughout the country.  Of course I am talking about the temperament testing dogs.  It is such a heated debate between shelters and animal rights advocates that taking a stance is certain to ostracize you from one or the other.

The truth is that both sides have valid points.  Shelters are always asked about the overall temperament of a dog by potential adopters, and they have rightful concerns when placing dogs into family homes.  Animal-rights advocates take the side of the shelter dog and claim the unfairness of the test.  And, if you’ve never seen what a shelter temperament test looks like, I urge you to research it online.  There are plenty of video examples available.  These tests are archaic and downright torturous to the dogs being subjected.  Often times good dogs fail for a multitude of reasons not the least of which is the tester doesn’t know how to read a dog’s reaction.

If you watch the needless prodding and instigating of the dog during the test you’ll understand why so many fail, and those that fail get killed.  Yes, based on the outcome of their temperament test many shelters will destroy the dog.

Over the last 6 years I’ve evaluated hundreds of dogs and found a much better way to do it.  A system, in which dogs are encouraged to pass, not pushed to fail.  BARC (Behavior Assessment & Reactivity Checklist) is not a test, but exactly what it says – a checklist.  It is a glimpse into the personality of the dog, a picture of how dogs are and how they can be.

If the dog responds in an unfavorable way, we don’t destroy them, we give them another chance, we want to see if the dog has the ability to succeed, and most do.  BARC takes into consideration the stressful environment of the shelter and treats each dog as an individual.  For the dogs that don’t fare well on the assessment, we have a glimpse of the issues the dog needs help with, and this can easily be referred to a behaviorist, trainer or rescue.

BARC is an assessment tool that most any dog savvy person can apply and the results are easily understandable.  The evaluator simply checks off the behaviors he / she observes in the columns on the checklist.  There is no guessing, nothing creative, it is black and white.  There is no fairer test on the dog and no clearer way to assess a dog than BARC.

I have used the components of BARC to evaluate countless dogs for placement in family homes, in educational programs with at-risk youth, as well as for court testimonies on dangerous and vicious dog cases.  I have re-assessed dogs that have been temperament tested by other testing protocols at shelters and proven better results hands down every time.

BARC is available to all shelters, all rescues and anyone involved in evaluating dogs.  Best of all it is a free resource available as a download at: www.boundangels.org/barc

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