Test to assess a rescue dog for reactivity

The following is our version of the BARC (Behavior Assessment Reactivity Checklist) that we use to assess dogs that might be trained to help people with disabilities.

  • This is not a full dog behavior assessment checklist because our version assumes that someone has told you the dog is nice and friendly (good with other dogs, not hyper, etc.)
  • If you don't know much about the dog (or there is a chance that the dog might be aggressive), then you'll want a more complete version of the dog behavior assessment checklist 

Put a checkmark next to the answer that best describes the dog when you meet them.


Go up to the dog, turn sideways, and crouch. Then talk to the dog in a calm voice. Then observe the dog’s behaviors.

__ 0: The dog approaches you in a friendly manner. The dog is soft/friendly.

__ 1. The dog has an excitable response to your presence.


Play with the dog using a rope-toy or stuffed animal. Then once the dog is engaged, attempt to remove the toy. Then offer the dog a treat in exchange for the toy.

__ 0: The dog gives up easily, and overall, the dog has a playful attitude. Or slight resistance to toy removal, but gives in with a slight correction. Or shows no interest in the toy.

__ 1: The dog takes the toy and plays keep-away.

__ 2: Playful growling.


Gently touch the dog’s head and body. Then touch backside and underneath the dog (front and back). Then apply slight pressure to the shoulders, back & hips. Then stroke the dog's tail and hold the tail for a brief moment. Then rub the ears and cover one eye. Then walk away, coming back to approach the dog from the rear.

__ 0: The dog softens with petting, and engages you. Licks, nuzzles, and seeks attention. Or rolls onto back.

__ 1: The dog moves away in a neutral manner. Or accepts but does not seek additional contact.

__ 2: Over-stimulated, gets mouthy, or follows your hand. Or Skittish, avoidant. Or hindquarter/tail sensitivity.


Offer the dog a treat (3-­‐6” jerky strip), allow the dog to take it. Then offer another treat, as he begins to bite, gently remove/pull back the treat. Then drop a treat on the ground, when the dog sees it cover it with your foot. Then, when the dog is eating treat begin some mild general handling.

__ 0: The dog is indifferent or friendly to your actions. Or confused (looks up at you).

__ 1: Dog digs at the treat, or gets pushy for the treat, or follows treat with extreme focus.


Walk the dog near other people and distractions. Let the dog sniff or become interested in something for a few moments and then give a slight tug on the leash and a verbal re-direction.

__ 0: The dog easily redirects to you/compliant. Or slow to correct, but follows. 

__ 1: Fights against correction and becomes stubborn to comply.


Push down on a dog’s shoulders using your hands. Maintain pressure for a moment.

__ 0: The dog melts under slight pressure/submissive. Or remains neutral. Or unresponsive.

__ 1: Stiffens up in reaction. Or turns in a strong way toward you. Or the dog shows that he/she feels uncomfortable with the situation.

Other Dogs

Start test through a fence or at a distance. Walk the dog being tested by a neutral dog a few times (giving praise/reward for good behavior) then allow the dog to go and greet the other dog. Keep the leash loose. Allow sniffing for 3-­‐4 seconds, then separate and re-­‐introduce.

__ 0: The dog is interested/social toward the other dog / soft body. Or approaches neutral or playfully (play bow). Or remains indifferent and doesn’t engage the other dog.

__ 1: Posturing. Or barking. Or must be corrected.

Food Issues with Other Dogs

Introduce another dog into the immediate (but not reachable) vicinity of the test dog: Offer the other dog a treat while ignoring the test dog. Bring the dogs close together and drop treats for one dog and some for the other dog.

__ 0: The dog does not interfere when the other dog is eating.

__ 1: Threatens to retain the treat, or pushes the other dog for his treats.


What is the general picture of your experience with the dog during your entire interaction with the dog?

__ 0: The dog is calm, friendly, easy to handle

__ 1: Jumps on you. Or mouthy.

Look at your checkmarks, then add up the numbers! The lower the number, the less reactive the dog was when you met them.