Once you have thought about why a dog may have behaved in a certain way, you
can begin to make some assessment of his character & predict how he may behave
in the future.
Carry out this test in a small kennel with a wire-mesh door where the dog sleeps
or spends a lot of time. There should be no distractions such as people walking
past or other dogs barking.
If the dog is hungry, looking forward to a walk or has just seen his favourite
member of the kennel staff, he will not pay you full attention and your assessment
may be inaccurate. Remember to ensure the dog has been in the kennels for at least
Reaction to strangers
When you first see a new dog, you will be a stranger to him so this is an ideal
opportunity to test how friendly or otherwise he will be with strangers. Approach
the dog in his kennel and crouch down in front of the door with your body sideways
on and your eyes averted.
Watch the dog's reactions.
Does he approach in a friendly way, tail wagging? Does he come forward slightly,
but look shy & hesitant? Does he give low growls or warning barks? Does he
go to the back of the kennel & look worried? Does he begin to demand your
attention by barking and pawing at the wire? Or is he more interested in the other
dogs & whatever else is going on than in you?
A dog that readily comes forward to meet you is likely to do this to visitors
to your home once he has settled in. A dog that is wary, but looks as though he
wants to be friendly will probably be a very loyal watchdog, but not necessarily
one to take into a busy household. A dog that demands attention by barking or
pawing a the wire has probably learned to do this in a previous home & will
need careful retraining to eradicate the bad habit.
Once you have determined how the dog behaves towards strangers, swivel round
to face him without getting up and talk to him in a friendly way through the bars.
Spend a few minutes talking to him & again note his reaction.
Enjoyment of body contact
If you think it is safe to do so, put your fingers up against the bars, but
don't put them inside to begin with. Does he press himself up against you so that
he can be stroked? Dogs that enjoy being stoked will often shift sideways so they
can press their whole body against the bars for maximum contact with you.
Little dogs that are used to being picked up and cuddled will often bounce
up and down excitedly at this point.
Dogs that are more aloof will keep their distance. This could be through shyness,
their lack of motivation to be touched or because they have not been stroked much
in the past.
Love and affection is often in short supply at rescue kennels despite the attempts
of dedicated staff, so if a dog does not respond to you at this stage and you
want a dog that will enjoy lots of body contact, you may need to look elsewhere.