Better behaviour assessment could be the key to more successful adoptions andreducing risk of euthanasia for shelter dogs, according to new University ofQueensland research.

School of Veterinary Science PhD candidate Liam Clay is collaborating withRSPCA Queensland to make behavioural assessments better at reflecting shelterdogs’ true behaviours, and their adoption suitability.

“Shelters need to find out why dogs have been surrendered; identify dogs withbehaviour issues that can include high levels of arousal, fear, anxiety, oraggression before putting them up for adoption; and get reliable informationto discover the dog’s true behaviour,” he said.

“Behavioural assessments have been used in shelters in Australia and aroundthe world to identify possible behavioural tendencies to help in the re-homingprocess, and also identify behavioural problems in dogs surrendered toshelters.

“We look for subtle behavioural cues using short, structured tests at theRSPCA, longer-term monitoring, and adoption survey information.

“We’re comparing in-kennel behaviour with assessment information to recogniseearly behavioural problems in the shelter which may continue once a dog is re-homed.”

Mr Clay said dogs exhibited behavioural problems for a number of reasons(often related to anxiety, stress, boredom, or fear), and the role ofassessments was to discover those behaviours and why the dog might beexhibiting them.

“If we can identify key issues early we can do training to help each dog whileit stays in shelter, and better match them with an appropriate forever homefor them,” he said.

“By creating more efficient and effective testing we hope to decrease the timea dog will spend in a shelter and minimise their risk of euthanasia.

“We’re now starting our final study, which assesses dogs in society, whetherthey have been adopted from shelters, come from a breeder or purchased from aprevious owner.

“Our aims are to identify whether the assessment methods we’ve establishedaccurately reflects the behaviour of the dog in their home as well as in theshelter.

“Whether you’ve got the perfect pet, are having problems with your dog, orjust want to contribute to science, we would love to assess your dog and helpyou understand them a little better.”

Researchers are seeking dogs older than six months and under 10 years of age,and have been with their family for at least six months.

“Owners will need to first answer some questions on their dog’s behaviour athome, and then we will find a suitable time to assess the dog at the testinglocation,” he said.

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