Vetting (In Person)

After conducting the initial phone call, an in-person vetting must be coordinated to evaluated the fit of both the pet and the handler to join on Paws-to-Share Visits. In coordination with the IAABC, Paws-to-Share has created its own Temperament Testing Certification. You may want to review the form before going on your first vetting. The fields in the form are many of the things you'll be looking for and evaluating in the vetting process.

When you arrive you'll want to let your pet run around and socialize if possible. Letting your pet burn off some excitement and energy will help you observe the handler's pet with less interference from your own. You should be wearing the clothes (Paws-to-Share logo) you described when scheduling the vetting and place yourself in a position where you'll be able to find/see the prospective handler. When you greet them, introduce yourself and your pet and give them your card. Feel free to engage with them and talk casually before beginning the vetting process. This will allow you to watch the pet in organic situations and learn more about the prospective handler.
 

The process of vetting involves a "scripted" process where the actions you need to take can be checked off in a list. It also involves a judgements from you outside of a check-list which requires you to have knowledge of pet behavior and experience observing it. The process can be broken down into a few categories, each containing check-list type actions you'll need to take as well as the information you'll be looking for during that portion of the vetting. Vettings involve:

  • Temperament testing

  • Observing the energy level and discipline

  • Checking for aggressive/reactive behaviors

  • Handler comfort and behavior

The first step in conducting the vetting process is to advise the prospective handlers the purpose of the vetting procedure and describe the process in a few words. Make sure the prospective handler knows what actions you'll be taking and some of the notable behaviors you'll be looking for. Checking temperament, behavior, discipline, etc. does not need to be done in a specific order.

Temperament Testing Overview: This should be shared with the handler, and advise that temperament testing  is a process proprietary to Paws-to-Share but developed in concert with the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants, to get a sense of a dog’s ‘personality’. Paws-to-Share accepts a all sorts of dogs with a variety of personalities, even grumpy or asocial. However, NOTE: ANY DISPLAYS OF AGGRESSIVE BEHAVIOR OR REACTIVITY AROUND FOOD OR TOYS IS GROUNDS FOR DISQUALIFICATION. 

Temperament Testing Walkthough:

Ask the prospective handler questions pertaining to the pet's ability to interact with people and other pets:

  • Does the dog shy away from some kinds/types of people? Types of people to mention:

    • Young children?

    • Seniors?

    • People in hats?

    • Men/Women?

  • Is the dog uncomfortable with certain types/sizes of dogs?

  • Has the dog been around people using wheelchairs and/or walkers, and if so, is the dog comfortable around them?

After the initial questions have been addressed, the evaluator should then proceed to confirm the responses if possible. Ensure that the handler is comfortable during each testing activity. Have the dog be off-leash during this evaluation (if allowable), and if the owner is not comfortable with their pet being off leash or with a specific test be sure to note this in your vetting form.

  • Have the handler have their dog approach other dogs—if this happens outside of the park, conduct what is known as a fence test - letting the dog approach the fencing of the park and engage with other dogs through the fence

  • If various sizes and breeds are present, have the pet engage pets of different sizes, energy levels

  • Have the handler introduce the pet to variety of other humans in the park

Advise the handler you will be engaging the dog physically, and what might be considered somewhat aggressive ways, such as making strong eye contact, engaging in rough touch, touching all over, and maintaining a close and somewhat overbearing proximity. Before taking any action, ask:

  • Are there any spots the pet is uncomfortable being touched?

  • Is the pet sensitive to any of the above?

  • Can one put their finger in the pet's mouth safely?

Test the pet on touching and proximity by doing the following:

  • Approach the pet from the front and make direct eye contact.

  • Touch the pet all over paying attention to ears, head, nose, rear, belly, chest, tail, and paws

  • Vigorously pet them

  • Attempt to put your finger in the pet's mouth, touching their gums and teeth

  • Appear large around them by crouching over them (non-threateningly)

 

Methods of Observation and Further Information:

This evaluation is observing how the pet and handler approach people and other pets, which includes how the handler acts in these situations. You will specifically be observing how the pet responds to people, how they approach, and if the pet displays sign of stress (and under what circumstances). If possible, it is recommended the evaluator try to evaluate the dog and handler prior to actually approaching them — this allows us to get a sense of ‘natural; engagement of both the pet and the handler — this does require the evaluator to show a bit early and be comfortable watching ‘surreptitiously.’

The vetting may involve both on and off leash segments, especially depending on where it is occurring. You will need to know that many dogs have ‘leash reactivity’, and feel uncomfortable not being free to move while other dogs are off leash. This will affect their behavior. If other dogs are off leash it is preferable that the prospective handler's pet also be off leash.

Many dogs view direct eye to eye contact this as an act of aggression by a human. In this situation, you are forcing a stressful situation on them. The way they react can be with stress reactions or with submissive ones, or on the more problematic side with defiant or aggressive reactions. Ideal responses would be turning their head away or averting their gaze, or lowering their tail. If they respond with a growl make a note in your evaluation.

 

In dogs, you can see signs of stress in their actions, such as:

  • Uncomfortable approach or noticeably hesitant approach

  • Discomfort making eye contact

  • Anxious behaviors such as dropped rear and tucked tail

  • 'Escaping' by trying to hide or move way

  • Growling, or whining

 

In people, you can also identify stress in subtle gestures. If the prospective handler grips the leash tightly, tenses up, or attempts to stay within a short distance of their pet while off leash, you can make assumptions about the handler's confidence in the situation. Pets can be very attuned to their owner's mental state, thus having a stressed out handler can influence a pet to exhibit protective or nervous behavior as well. If a prospective handler seems to be nervous, ask them about it politely. Talking about the issue will let you learn about the pet or handler's shortcomings in various situations and can also help them relax.

 

When you are testing the pet's response to touching your goal is not to hurt or aggravate the pet with the tests, your goal is to determine how safe they are when getting pet by strangers. When touching, focus on doing so in a way that a child might do so, such as playing with their ears, squishing the pads of their paws, playing (not pulling on) with their tail. When being "overbearing" your goal is merely to appear large and close to determine how the pet deals with proximity and may act in a crowd. You can do this by bending over while petting or (with the handler's permission) hugging them. When putting your finger in the pet's mouth, you do not need to force it or trick them into opening their mouth. If the pet turns away or resists, that is normal. Look for any signs of discomfort, such some of moving away from the touch, verbal signs of distress, losing eye contact, and record it if the reaction occurred as a result of very minor touching or petting (such as reactivity to having their ears touched)


 

Evaluating Behavior Command Control: 

The evaluator should advise that we conduct this step to understand general control of the pet, but not displaying certain behaviors does not disqualify the dog from joining Paws-to-Share — rather, this should be framed as helping us determine what types of visits a dog can join on, and what types of facilities a dog will be able to visit. The evaluator should also advise that in addition to heeding individual commands, key among the evaluation is our evaluation of a handler’s general ‘control’ of their pet.  Finally, this is also a good opportunity for the evaluator to differentiate how Paws-to-Share differs from traditional Therapy Groups — allowing certain behaviors that would disqualify a dog from joining a Therapy Group at Paws-to-Share, but limiting where the dogs can join (for example, a dog who jumps might still be appropriate to join on school visits, but would be disqualified from joining on senior visits, due to fall/bleed risk).

Request the handler exhibit the commands:

  • Come

  • Sit

  • Sit-Stay

  • Drop

  • Don’t Touch

  • Lie Down

  • Don’t Jump (again, if a dog jumps this is a disqualifier for senior center visits)

  • Off (moving from a physical spot)

  • No Licking

  • Leash Heal

  • Housebroken? (need to trust handler’s response)

  • Any other tricks?

 

Evaluating Physical Condition of the Dog:  Although this is a subjective section, the evaluator should record the seeming health, grooming and energy (high, medium and low) level of the dog.

 

Size/Weight of Dog:  Ask the handler for the weight of their dog, and the evaluator should bring a tape measure to measure the height of the dog, feet to top of head when standing.

 

Evaluation of Aggressive Behaviors:

This is critical: aggressive behaviors include growling, baring teeth, biting, and to a lesser degree, humping/mounting (note, humping/mounting is often dominance behavior, so the evaluator will have to make a subjective decision on how aggressive this behavior is). Aggression is something that needs to be measured throughout the vetting. The behavior is most likely to occur when the pet interacting with other pets in a social, off leash setting and when testing food and toy reactivity. In all cases, aggressive behavior with a human is unacceptable (some leeway for humping). There are exceptions for pet to pet aggression, but any such behavior should be noted.

 

The exceptions to an aggressive behavior disqualification are defensive aggression and "play" aggression. Both of these can be acceptable, which means that the evaluator will need to make a judgement decision on both what kind of behavior it is as well as if it poses a threat to other dogs, people, or poses a risk for Paws-to-Share.

Determining Defensive Aggression:

It is important for the evaluator to differentiate social versus defensive aggression — if a dog displays any of the aforementioned behaviors in reaction to another dogs initiated aggressive behavior, the evaluator must separate the pets. The two pets should be prevented form interacting and special attention should be paid to future social activity by conducting the evaluation away from other aggressive dogs. Ideally, the evaluator should keep an eye on the pet and diffuse situations before they occur, most notably: herding/cornering, (overly) aggressive playing, aggressive actions by other dogs (including humping)

Play Aggression:

During play, pets can exhibit behavior that appears very aggressive and sometimes even scary, such as "clawing/pawing", bared teeth, barking, and even biting. It's important that the evaluator be able to differentiate between playing and aggression. There are signals that animals use to convey play to other animals. In dogs you can observe:

  • "Bowing" - dogs will enter the downward dog pose, sometimes for just a split second, to convey that they want to play

  • Sneezing - similar to "bowing", sneezing can convey that they do not mean any harm

  • Tail wagging

  • Relaxed muscles

  • Occasionally exposing their belly

  • Willingness/ability to look away from the "fight"

If either of the pets are exhibiting any of these behaviors, consider separating them:

  • Whimpering or yipping, indicating pain

  • Either pet attempting to escape

  • Raised hackles, stiff body

  • Multiple pets surrounding a single pet

  • Very low warning growls

Evaluation of Reactive Behaviors: 

Whereas dogs might not display these aggressive behaviors directly, they may demonstrate reactive behaviors around food and toys.  As part of the vetting process, handlers are requested to bring treats and favorite toys.  Conducting this evaluation outside of a dog park, the evaluator should check for reactivity in two steps:

  1. Present a treat/toy to the dog, and allow them to freely take it. 

  2. Present a treat/toy, but withhold it and attempt to put your hand/finger in their mouth (if safe)

 

The evaluation should include how aggressively to dog grasps the food. If no reactive behavior is observed the treat should be freely given.  This process should be repeated with a favorite toy. When testing the toy, pay attention how aggressively/excitedly the pet grabs the toy and make a note if it seems to be dangerous. Some dogs are neither food or toy motivated, and a lack of interest can be accepted as lack of reactivity.

 

 

Handler Evaluation:  Whereas the majority of the vetting is on dog behavior, it is also important to evaluate the comfort level of the handler.  Critical aspects of this evaluation include how well the handler:

  • Engages with other humans

  • Comfortably the handler engages with their pet

  • Comfortably the handler engages with other pets

  • Comfortably the handler lets others engage with their pets

  • Whether they handler cleans up after their pet and otherwise behaves responsibly

Determining whether a handler is well equipped for working with Paws-to-Share is based solely on the evaluator's ability to judge their character. Aside from the above, you should be looking to see if they are responsible, polite, and caring towards their pet. If the prospective handler cannot exhibit these traits, you will need to consider if they will be an asset to you or simply cause you additonal work. In general, most pet owners will have these traits and the evaluator can focus on determining how capable they are, as opposed to whether or not they are fit to join.

 

Final Steps

After completing the evaluation, if the evaluator should advise the handler if their pet has been approved (may be deferred) and if there are limitations on what types of visits their pet can join. If they are approved, the evaluator is to advise them on the next steps, which the handler will not be responsible for paying for. If the handler has not provided copies of vet and vaccination records at the time of vetting session, that they must be provided before any more steps will be taken.

Completion/Clearance of a background check will be one of the following steps. If they will be providing their own transportation to the visits, they will need to provide (if not already done so): their current California Driver’s License, current California Car Registration, and up-to-date Proof of Insurance. You may need to let them know travel costs are not covered by Paws-to-Share. If a handler has been determined to be appropriate to join on Learn4Life High School visits, they will need an additional background check and a LiveScan (includes both a Department of Justice and an FBI check).  If approved for these visits, also the handler must clear a TB test and verify that they are providing regular flea and tick treatment (form will be provided).

 

Complete the process internally by:

  • Completing the online Vetting Form which must be completed within 24 hours of the vetting session.  All sections of this form must be completed, including a note to detail the evaluation and, most importantly, what visits types the pet is qualified for.

  • Upload the completed vetting form to DropBox, at the following file location Logistics > Completed Vetting Forms

  • Upload of the Confirmation Documents to DropBox, at the following file location Logistics > Confirmation Documents (before uploading the evaluator must create a file for the handler)

Evaluations cannot be done by the Territory Manager until they have done at minimum 2 vettings independantly but with supervision, and have been approved by their direct manager. Each online Vetting Form should be sent to Territory Manager's direct manager until they are approved to proceed indpendantly. Prior to any vetting, the direct manager should be contacted to ensure comfort and familiarity with the process, and a call should be made at the end of the vetting to discuss the events and recieve feedback. These rules should be followed until both parties feel comfortable but should be done as needed.

Checklist/Walkthrough (explanation and information not included)

Ask the prospective handler questions pertaining to the pet's ability to interact with people and other pets:

  • Does the dog shy away from some kinds/types of people? Types of people to mention:

    • Young children?

    • Seniors?

    • People in hats?

    • Men/Women?

  • Is the dog uncomfortable with certain types/sizes of dogs?

  • Has the dog been around people using wheelchairs and/or walkers, and if so, is the dog comfortable around them?

After the initial questions have been addressed, the evaluator should then proceed to confirm the responses if possible. Ensure that the handler is comfortable during each testing activity. Have the dog be off-leash during this evaluation (if allowable), and if the owner is not comfortable with their pet being off leash or with a specific test be sure to note this in your vetting form.

  • Have the handler have their dog approach other dogs—if this happens outside of the park, conduct what is known as a fence test - letting the dog approach the fencing of the park and engage with other dogs through the fence

  • If various sizes and breeds are present, have the pet engage pets of different sizes, energy levels

  • Have the handler introduce the pet to variety of other humans in the park

Advise the handler you will be engaging the dog physically, and what might be considered somewhat aggressive ways, such as making strong eye contact, engaging in rough touch, touching all over, and maintaining a close and somewhat overbearing proximity. Before taking any action, ask:

  • Are there any spots the pet is uncomfortable being touched?

  • Is the pet sensitive to any of the above?

  • Can one put their finger in the pet's mouth safely?

Test the pet on touching and proximity by doing the following:

  • Approach the pet from the front and make direct eye contact.

  • Touch the pet all over paying attention to ears, head, nose, rear, belly, chest, tail, and paws

  • Vigorously pet them

  • Attempt to put your finger in the pet's mouth, touching their gums and teeth

  • Appear large around them by crouching over them (non-threateningly)

Request the handler have their pet exhibit the following commands (if known):

  • Come

  • Sit

  • Sit-Stay

  • Drop

  • Don’t Touch

  • Lie Down

  • Don’t Jump (again, if a dog jumps this is a disqualifier for senior center visits)

  • Off (moving from a physical spot)

  • No Licking

  • Leash Heal

  • Housebroken? (need to trust handler’s response)

  • Any other tricks?

Ask the prospective handler about the pet's energy level and observe, categorizing as high, moderate, or low.

Ask the prospective handler the weight of their pet, and measure the height of the pet, from paws to top of head when standing.

Check the pet for aggressive behavior with treats/toys.

  1. Present a treat/toy to the dog, and allow them to freely take it. 

  2. Present a treat/toy, but withhold it and attempt to put your hand/finger in their mouth (if safe)

Take notes on any aggressive behavoir during the test.

Evaluate how well the handler:

  • Engages with other humans

  • Comfortably the handler engages with their pet

  • Comfortably the handler engages with other pets

  • Comfortably the handler lets others engage with their pets

  • Whether they handler cleans up after their pet and otherwise behaves responsibly

Conclude the vetting when the pet has been suffiently tested and observed.

(If approved) Advise the handler on the next steps, letting them know they will not be responsible for paying for the tests and forms.

Collect any forms brought, and provide the Flea and Tick form for HS Visit applicants

Complete the process internally by:

  • Completing the online Vetting Form within 24 hours of the vetting session and upload the completed vetting form to DropBox

  • Upload the Confirmation Documents to DropBox,