Category 1 – Unruly, non-aggressive based behavior problems: These dogs can be put through a training program by utilizing less experienced volunteers under the supervision of more experienced volunteers/workers.
Category 2 – Animal and dog aggressive: these dogs can be trained by more experienced volunteers/workers under the supervision of a trainer. The source of animal aggression (fear based, prey based, dominance-based, etc.) can be discovered by fitting these dogs to comfortable basket muzzles and doing supervised training in socialization sessions with other dogs. These problems are fixed or managed more easily than most people think with a little bit of effort in these sessions. A classroom or other enclosure is used for this.
Category 3 – Aggressive toward humans that are outside of the dogs’ trusted human “pack”: A majority of the long-timers in animal shelters are in this category. These dogs are generally easily trained in controlled obedience with a handler the dog trusts. All adopters must understand and sign a contract to abide by all rules, which includes having these dogs always wear a comfortable basket muzzle when the dog is first introduced to a new visitor in the home. Rules can be more strict on a case by case basis with overkill in safety practices being preferred over taking a chance. Support classes for this category of dog, where owners meet and practice socializing with their dogs (wearing muzzles) are a good idea.
Category 3 dogs are appealing to some owners who want a dog to watch their house as they sleep or want to have some degree of controlled protection from their dogs if they felt threatened.
Category 4 – Aggression toward human “pack” members, but a bite is usually easily avoided because of growls or dog uses very inhibited bite/minimal force: These dogs are generally dominant aggressive that show normal cycles of aggression, most food aggressive dogs can also be put in this category. Besides control work that directly addresses their issues, training that there are boundaries in the human/dog relationship are also stressed. These dogs also tend to do great after being placed on a program for a couple of months where they are trained and accustomed to taking the “back seat” in their relationship with humans. A rehab classroom set up like a home environment is especially useful for teaching these dogs the boundaries they need to succeed and also gives workers an idea as to how well the dog can or cannot behave in a home environment. True category 4’s generally do great once giving structure. Just like the lower-level categories, handling lessons must be giving to an adopter and all other precautions if the dog also displays characteristics of lower categories.
Category 5 – Aggression toward human “pack” members and bite is difficult to avoid with little to no warning mostly due to many triggers and skipping steps in the aggression cycle. Reason for a bite can be explained afterward. These dogs go through all the training of the category 4 and generally do great. Even though training will give them much improvement it IS unlikely that they will never bite someone again.
Options for category 5 dogs can vary depending on the choices of the organization and/or individual including surgical, sanctuary, and euthanasia options.