Test to assess a rescue dog for reactivity

The following is our version of the BARC (Behavior Assessment Reactivity Checklist). Our version assumes that someone has told you the dog is nice and friendly (good with other dogs, not hyper, etc.)

Put a check-mark next to the answer that best describes the dog when you meet them.

Approach

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 a oft/friendly.

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

Possession

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.

Handling

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

__ 0: The dog softens with petting, engages you. Licks, nuzzles, 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.

Food

Offer 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 treat. Then drop a treat on ground, when 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.

Correction

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.

Reactivity

Push down on a dog’s shoulders using 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.

Overall

What is the general picture of your experience with the dog during your entire interaction with him/her.

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

__ 1: Jumps on you. Or mouthy.

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