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Good boy or bad dog? The efficacy of shelter cull tests




Animal shelters use behavioral tests to determine whether dogs are safe for adoption.
Animal shelters use behavioral tests to determine whether dogs are safe for adoption.
Erika Aguilar/KPCC

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Try tugging away a bowl of food from your dog – will it bite your hand?

For shelter dogs, failing the bowl test can have serious consequences. Animal shelters often use behaviors exercises like these to determine which dogs are safe to be adopted out and which should be euthanized. But an analysis from last year says those life-and-death shelter tests are no better than arbitrary.

According to “No better than flipping a coin: Reconsidering canine behavior evaluations in animal shelters,” there are a variety of factors, including the fact that a shelter is a stressful, transitional environment, that undermine the validity of these tests as predictors of a dog’s potential aggression in a home.

Have you interacted with a rescue dog that acted differently once it was placed with a family? Do you think aggression behavior tests are adequate predictors of a pet’s behavior?

Guests:

Janis Bradley, director of communications and publications for the National Canine Research Council; she’s trained over 400 professional pet dog trainers and she’s the co-author of “No better than flipping a coin: Reconsidering canine behavior evaluations in animal shelters

Michael Chill, LA-based dog trainer specializing in dog and puppy training; he’s been a consultant for agencies such as the Department of Animal Control and the Santa Monica Animal Shelter, as well as private adoption agencies    

Sue Sternberg, creator of Assess-a-Pet, and author of a number of books on dog aggression, including “Assessing Aggression Thresholds” (Dogwise, 2017)