Vol. 1 No. 1 (2015)

Assessing adoptability in shelter dogs through a behavioral test

Published 2015-04-02


  • dog,
  • shelter,
  • behavior,
  • adoptability,


In Italy, a specific law (281/1991) establishes that shelter dogs cannot be euthanized unless dangerous or affected by severe or untreatable diseases. The result of this ‘no-kill’ policy is that some dogs are kept in shelters for their whole lives.

Aim of the research has been to realize a test for adoptability evaluation of shelter dogs, subjecting them to the most common stimuli of urban environment.

For the research twenty-six dogs were involved. The dog adoptability evaluation was performed in 4 different steps.

Step 1: Evaluation of some important dog characteristics not changeable by a re-education program, such as: age, size, coat colour and dog morphology.

Step 2: Information obtained by shelters operators about dog behaviour in the common kennel routine.

Step 3: Dog reaction to a direct approach of an unknown person to the shelter fence.

Step 4: Last subtest consists of 13 steps based on possible scenarios that approximate/simulate common situations encountered by dogs at home.

All the score in the 4 steps represent the dog adoptability index (DAI), a value indicative of the level of desirability that each dog possesses, because of its specific characteristics. On the basis of the DAI obtained scores we created 3 categories:

Category 1 - Dogs immediately adoptable (DAI ≥ 80).

Category 2 - Dogs with a critic adoptability (60 ≤ DAI ≤ 79).

Category 3 - Dogs adoptable with difficulty (DAI ≤ 59).

The examined sample had a minimum score of 50.5 and a maximum score of 92.5.

17 of the 26 dogs examined in the present research were adopted. 70% of the dogs adopted belonged to Category 1, 18% to Category 2 and 12% to Category 3.

It is very important to identify the problem dogs and subject them to a behavioral modification program as soon as possible to make them adoptable. Only in this way the kennels will become sites for dog redevelopment and will fulfill an important social function, protecting/increasing animal welfare.