Predictive Value of Canine-ality and Puppy-ality Assessments
What is the predictive value of the Canine-ality and Puppy-ality Assessments?
The Canine-ality Assessment identifies a dog's behaviors in the near future. This assessment enables you to predict a dog's likely behavior in the home for the first 2 to 4 weeks.
The Puppy-ality Assessment is a little different. Because it is not possible to predict the future behavior of such a young animal, the assessment conducted on puppies identifies their current behaviors and areas where the puppies may need behavior modification or extra attention.
Why is Puppy-ality designed for canines six months and under (and not one year and under)?
Puppy-ality was specifically designed for young puppies. Research shows that as canines approach six month of age, they become more developed behaviorally, psychologically, physically, and sexually so that they are more like adult dogs.
Do dogs and puppies outgrow some of the behaviors we see during their assessment?
"Outgrow"—maybe. Change—absolutely. The Canine-ality assessment tells us what the dog is like here and now and for about a month into the future. Behavior is influenced by a variety of factors, from food to human interaction. As those factors change, so does behavior.
Is 4 minutes alone in a room really predictive of what a dog will do when left alone in his or her new home?
Yes, particularly when considered with the results of the other assessment items. Most destructive dogs do their damage within the first 10 minutes of being left alone, and then they settle down. The left alone assessment item is not designed to predict separation anxiety. However, dogs who pant, whine, scratch within 2-3 feet of the door during the entire left-alone item appear to be more likely to have reported symptoms of separation anxiety.
When to Assess
How long does each Canine-ality assessment take, start to finish?
Each assessment requires approximately 12 to 15 minutes, depending on the size of your facility. Transit time between kennels and assessment locations is the major factor determining time needed for each assessment. Facilities with the least amount of time per assessment have assessment locations close to each other, which makes the transit time between one assessment item and the next very short.
When should we conduct the Canine-ality and Puppy-ality assessments on our animals?
Before conducting the Canine-ality assessment, first conduct an aggression assessment using an assessment tool, such as ASPCA SAFER.
If you conduct the aggression assessment in the morning, you can conduct the Canine-ality assessment as early as the afternoon of the same day.
If you conduct the aggression assessment in the afternoon or evening, wait until the following morning to conduct the Canine-ality assessment.
Conduct Puppy-ality assessments within a day or two of the pup's arrival at your facility.
Should we conduct the Canine-ality assessment, particularly the food motivation item, before the dog has been fed?
Conduct the Canine-ality and Puppy-ality assessments roughly 2-4 hours after mealtime or play groups, in order to give the dog time to digest and/or settle down. The assessments should not be conducted immediately after rigorous play groups or mealtimes.
How often and under what circumstances should we re-assess our dogs and puppies?
Because animal behavior is fluid, malleable, and influenced by environment, plan to re-assess animals who've been in your shelter for an extended period of time, as well as animals who are adopted and then returned to the shelter. In most cases, expect to re-assess dogs every 3 to 4 weeks, and puppies every 7 to 10 days.
Who Should Assess
Who should conduct Canine-ality assessment in an agency?
Adoption Counselors (ACs) are a great choice to conduct the assessments because they deal directly with potential adopters and need to have intimate knowledge of the available dogs. However, the kennel or other staff can also be trained to conduct assessments. If so, it's important for the ACs to thoroughly read each dog's assessment.
If the dog knows the assessor and has a bond with them, can that person do the assessment?
Ideally, no, because dogs may respond differently when assessed by someone with whom they have a bond. In facilities with limited staff, we recommend that assessors limit interactions with a dog until after the dog's assessment is completed.
Assessment Space and Equipment
How important is quiet and minimizing distraction during the assessment?
During the left alone assessment item, quiet is vital in order to get a valid assessment. The dog's responses are most predictive of future behavior if he/she is focused on what's in the room rather than what's going on outside the room. The left-alone assessment is like "Candid Camera" for dogs.
During all other assessment items, it's very important to minimize distraction. You want the dog to focus on the assessment item, not on a person walking through the room/play yard. For accurate assessments, it's key to keep distractions at bay.
For the left alone assessment item, can we use a room that has a two-way mirror instead of a video baby monitor?
Unfortunately two-way mirrors do not work for the left alone assessment item. Dogs can see shadows and changes of light through these mirrors, especially when there is light in the opposite room.
Can we use the same space for the left alone and play items?
You can use the same space for both if it is large enough that a dog can romp and engage in play, but not so large that the dog can't easily explore the four corners of the room within the first minute or so of the left alone assessment.
After each assessment, should we clean the room and equipment used during the assessment?
Minimally, clean up after the dog if he or she urinates or defecates. We also recommend that you include MYM room(s) and equipment in your cleaning protocols and disinfect the spaces and equipment daily.
We recommend that you do not assess dogs who are obviously sick (coughing, diarrhea, vomiting, etc.). Not only can they spread illness, their behavior during assessment is likely to be less predictive because they are not feeling well.
What should we do if the dog is nibbling at our fingers (not in an aggressive way) during the food motivation item?
If the nibble is not painful, simply make sure the dog does not get the treat. As soon as the dog learns that nibbling does not dispense the treat, but following it with his or her nose does, the dog will stop nibbling.
If the nibble is uncomfortable, take your hand away, and make sure you don't reinforce the nibbling behavior by letting the dog get the treat. Try the food motivation item several more times, giving the dog the treat the second he or she "waits" reinforcing the "wait" behavior. Either way—if the dog learns "wait" or if the dog continues to nibble at your fingers—you'll know that this dog is highly motivated to get what he or she wants.
How many times do we conduct the food motivation item during an assessment?
The food motivation item is designed to examine how hard the dog will work for something he really wants. It is not important for the dog to necessarily learn the cue. Rather, it is an opportunity to gauge how persistent he is once he understands how to get the food lure. We recommend you use the food lure 4 to 6 times with each dog. It's important to remain consistent in the number of times you use the food lure each time you conduct an assessment.
Is the sequence in which we conduct assessment items important?
Yes. We do not have evidence that the assessment is predictive of future behavior if it is conducted in any order other than the one presented in the guide, video, and workshops.
Which is more important, calculating the correct color category or choosing the appropriate cage-card description within a color category?
Both the color category and the cage card description are important. However, you select the color category by adding up the points accrued during the assessment, while choosing a cage-card description is less exact and concrete.
What should we do if a dog or puppy receives a supervisor alert? for one or more of the assessment items?
Each assessment item has instructions on how to proceed if a supervisor alert occurs during that item. Supervisor alerts identify dog or puppy responses to an assessment item that indicate that the animal needs specific behavior modification or social enrichment before he or she will be ready for adoption. Plan to re-assess these animals after they've received this extra support.
The Enrichment, Management and Behavior Modification chapter in your Meet Your Match Canine-ality and Puppy-ality Manual and Training Guide has specific behavior modification protocols for the supervisor alerts that can occur during assessment. Also in that chapter there are enrichment and behavior modification protocols that address issues that are common among shelter dogs and puppies.
Communicating with Adopters
Should we have the adopters fill out their survey before they see the dogs? What if they don't want to?
In an ideal situation, the adopter fills out the survey first. This prevents adopters from gravitating to a dog that is not the best match for them. However, if the adopter prefers to look around first, by all means him or her to do so! Treat each adopter as an individual, focusing on building trust and open communication.
Should we be keeping completed adopter surveys on file for a few months?
If you are able to, we recommend keeping them on file for 30 days. That way if a potential adopter doesn't find the dog he or she wants that day, this person can come back at a later date, review the survey, and update any information as necessary.
Is the information we get from owner surrender reports appropriate to give potential adopters?
Types of information to share with a new adopter are things like where the dog likes to sleep, favorite food, treats, games, etc. You should also share previous behavioral problems or issues with potential adopters. If your shelter's assessments have not found behaviors consistent with those in the report, be sure to discuss this inconsistency with the adopter and plan to follow up with the adopter post-adoption.
What do we do if we don't have any purple or orange dogs for adoption?
Lots of shelters think they're going to have a kennel full of green dogs. Don't worry: you won't. You will have more orange dogs than either purple or green, but you will be pleasantly surprised at the variety you actually have. You'll also have more orange adopters.
What should we do if we don't have a certain color dog available for an adopter?
Here are some strategies you can try:
Are there any MYM shelters in your area that might have a dog of that color available? If so, call the shelter to check while the adopter waits. (This courtesy means that adopters won't feel they are being sent on a "wild goose chase" from shelter to shelter.)
Setting up reciprocal relationships with other Meet Your Match agencies in your area in advance can streamline communication, to the benefit of adopters, participating shelters, and the dogs.
Is there another dog at your shelter who the adopter is interested in? If so, where are they compatible and where might they run into challenges? Let the adopter choose whether or not they'd like to try to overcome the challenges presented.
Can you contact the adopter when you get a dog of the appropriate color? You can also encourage the adopter to call your shelter regularly to check on dogs who are available.
Are your dogs' Canine-alities listed online? If so, the potential adopter can keep an eye out online for their best match. Be sure to provide the adopter with the web address where your animals are listed.
Promoting Meet Your Match
Do we need to use the exact shades of green, orange, and purple for the cage cards and guest passes?
Yes! The Meet Your Match program and brand are registered trademarks and must be used as presented.
Can we post the adopter survey on our website?
Yes, you can post the survey in PDF format if you are currently using the program or in the process of implementing. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to request this document.
Can we use the purple, orange and green silhouettes of dogs and the Canine-ality cage card descriptions to promote our use of MYM and our dogs on our website?