Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT, Director Special Projects, ASPCA
A CASE FOR ACCURATE
IDENTIFICATION OF SHELTER DOGS
Let’s face it, no one likes to be wrong or lose one’s credibility. But, that can happen when you don’t make accurate breed identifications. To the public, you appear to not know what you’re doing. Then trust breaks down between the adopter and your agency.
You might ask who’s going to tell them? A more accurate identification might come from another dog professional — their vet, their trainer, the guy at the pet supply store — or just some lady at the dog run who once had a dog “just like yours”. In a worse case scenario, you may put an adopter between the proverbial rock and a hard place – by misidentifying a pit bull when they live in a situation that bans the breed.
WHY TAKE THE TIME TO DO IT RIGHT?
Credibility – If the adopter finds out you were wrong about this, it leads them to question other advice and policy.
Predictability – Some generalizations can be made based on breed type that can assist in placement. While nothing beats a good evaluation, knowing breed characteristics can help you read and interpret the information you obtain during the temperament evaluation and sometimes even during the medical exam.
Availability – An accurate identification flags the dog for rescue groups and seekers on Petfinder.com, as well as making lost & found matches more likely.
LEVELS OF CHALLENGE
Easiest – well-bred popular purebreds
Easier – regional breeds
Easy – common mixes
Hard – puppy mill/backyard bred purebreds
Harder – the rare breed or cross breed
Hardest – the multigenerational mix, the odd ball, puppies under 8 wks. of age
Impossible – generic dog, pariah dog
MAKING A BREED IDENTIFICATION:
- Look at the profile.
- Consider the parts: ear set, skull shape, muzzle length, coat texture and length, shape of feet, and tail set and furnishings (areas of extra hair i.e. ruff, tail feathering, “pants”).
- If you are not sure what it is, rule out what it isn’t.
- Check your resources.
RESOURCES FOR BREED IDENTIFICATION:
THE ASPCA COMPLETE GUIDE TO DOGS by Gerstenfeld & Schultz, Chronicle Books and THE ASPCA COMPLETE GUIDE TO CATS by Richards, Chronicle Books $24.95 plus shipping & handling (available to Petfinder members at the reduced price of $19.95 ea. – shipping and handling included) through the ASPCA.
THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF DOGS and THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CATS by Bruce Fogle, Dorling Kindersley LTD.
THE MINI-ATLAS OF DOG BREEDS and THE RIGHT CAT FOR ME by De Prisco & Johnson, TFH
THE ATLAS OF DOG BREEDS OF THE WORLD by Walkowicz & Wilcox, TFH
THE COMPLETE DOG BOOK by the American Kennel Club, Howell Book House
Still not sure? Post it in the Breed Bin.
Please keep the following in mind when posting a digital photo to the breed bin to ensure the most accurate identification possible:
- Post a photo that is at least 2 ½ – 3 inches tall. No postage stamp-sized photos, please.
- Remove the animal from the cage. Shooting through chain link distorts the image of the animal.
- If possible, take a photo of the entire animal, not just a close-up of the head. The body in profile with the head turned to face the camera is ideal.
- Provide some idea of the size/scale of the animal. Stand animal next to a chair or an adult whose leg is in the picture. Tell how much the animal weighs and/or how old the animal is in the narrative.
By Jacque Lynn Schultz, CPDT
Director, Special Projects, Animal Sciences
424 East 92nd Street
New York, NY 10128-6804