C-BARQ: A Useful Tool For Dog Shelter Intake
It’s no secret that behavioral problems are one of – if not the most prevalent – risk factor for dogs being relinquished to shelters, and some research has shown that nearly 50% of relinquishing owners cite behaviour as a contributing factor. Furthermore, about one quarter of people cite behavioural problems as the central factor for relinquishment. Overall, there is great public pressure to improve dog welfare at shelters, and part of this is a perceived need for reliable accurate behavioral assessments that can identify problems at the time of relinquishment.
One reliable standard for behavioral assessment is the Canine Behavioral Assessment and Research Questionnaire (C-BARQ), which has been evaluated in various studies as a potentially quick and effective tool. In one study, it was used to show that people “tended to under-report certain behavior problems if they believed the information would be used by shelter staff to match dogs to appropriate homes.” In other words, people were intentionally understating their dogs’ behaviors to theoretically improve their chances for adoption. The study also showed that the average time of the C-BARQ evaluation – 12.2mins – appeared to deter many people from doing it voluntarily.
In this study, researchers wanted to evaluate a shortened version of the C-BARQ test. Looking specifically at the issue of people under-reporting problematic behavior, the researchers wanted to know if the C-BARQ could “discriminate between relinquished dogs based on their final dispositions (e.g. euthanasia versus placed for adoption),” and also gauge the level of association between C-BARQ assessments and shelter personnel’s assessments.
Using actual shelters across the U.S., the researchers were able to adjust for any local differences or particularities, and in total they used 438 cases from across the U.S. What they found was that the C-BARQ responses were “relatively free from systematic over- or under-reporting biases,” and that this was consistent across all of the shelters that participated. Interestingly, they found that the pre- and post-adoption assessments of dogs were only significantly correlated for three of the behaviors in the C-BARQ study: aggression directed toward unfamiliar people, chewing inappropriate objects, and house-soiling (urination) when left alone.
The researchers conclude that the standardization of the C-BARQ can be used to collect valid and reliable info from people relinquishing dogs to shelters, and widespread adoption of it could help to collect standardized data on many different aspects of the relinquished dog population. Companion animal advocates could help to push for such standardization and adoption of C-BARQ in their own regions.