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Behavior Department: Just the Facts, Ma'am

Online behavioral evaluation program gives shelters a new way to assess dogs

  • Huckleberry, an adoptable dog at the Animal Care Sanctuary in East Smithfield, Pa., goes through the possessiveness subtest. A laptop logged on to the Match-Up II program is used to note Huckleberry’s behavior during each sub-test, eliminating the need for paperwork. MICHAEL YALE

“Golden retrievers are so mellow; he’ll be great with kids.”

“You want a Jack Russell terrier? A Jack Russell terrorist, you mean.”

“That dog just looks like a couch potato to me—probably not the best match for a runner.”

And on it goes. Shelter staff are under pressure each day to evaluate the temperament of sometimes dozens of dogs coming through their facilities, so they can make good matches between pets and homes.

Decisions about which dogs would find a happy place with which family are often based on the qualities and tendencies that behavior staff are able to intuit.

It’s an art, not a science, and shelter staff are sometimes prone to preconceptions about various breeds (and mixed breeds) they come across and how they’ll do in certain circumstances.

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