Module 6

Module 6 explains behaviour and mental well-being. It covers these topics: intake considerations, behavior evaluation, in-shelter care, behavioral modification and mental well-being: environmental enrichment. 

In Module 2, you learned about the grading system for self-assesment/audit. You will use that knowledge in this module. Remember:
C = Requirements in code are met
NI = Requirements in the code are not completely fulfilled and need improvement
U = Conditions are bad to severe and unacceptable



Intake Assessment and Evaluation

When conducting an intake, obtain as much behavioural information as possible. Complete a behavioural assessment of each animal upon arrival to a facility: 
  • Is it fearful?
  • Is it shy?
  • Is it aggressive?
  • Is it submissive?
Document all your findings.

Behavioural Evaluation

Develop a plan for individual animals that are displaying behavioural problems, as well as for well-adjusted animals to ensure they remain that way. Always do another full behavioural assessment on any animal prior to it being rehomed. Use a standard form for evaluations that is scientifically developed with the help of a veterinarian or animal behaviourist.


  • Is there sufficient space to walk, sit and lie down to full length?
  • Is there a separate space for urination and defecation?
  • Is there a spot for food and water?
  • Is there a clean and dry spot for resting?
  • Is there room for enrichment within the kennel or cage?
  • Are animals in compatible groups?  

Signs of Boredom

  • digging
  • vocalizing, barking and whining 
  • excessive licking and cleaning
  • tail chasing
  • pacing, agitated 

Signs of Depression

  • lack of appetite
  • constant sleeping
  • hiding
  • lack of interest in toys
  • unwilling to play

Causes of Negative Behaviour

  • lack of exercise, enrichment
  • constraints on environment 
  • constraints on animal-to-animal interactive activities
  • lack of sleep area that includes a hiding area
  • fear
  • pain-induced, medical conditions

Addressing Bad Behaviour

Vocalizing can be an animal’s way of socializing, however dogs, in particular, can develop behaviour problems when they are isolated from humans or other dogs.

It is important that attendants avoid encouraging undesirable behaviours, such as yelling to keep dogs quiet.


Develop individualized treatment strategies to change an animal’s behaviour. Use practices that follow scientific principles of animal behaviour. Teach an animal new skills with positive reinforcement.

Behaviour - Self Assessment
C =
Intake records are complete, behavioural assessments are done.
NI = Not all animals have a record of behavioural assessment.
U = No record of behavioural assessments have been done. 



Mental Well-being: Environmental Enrichment

Appropriate levels of enrichment must be provided.
Benefits  of Enrichment
Enrichment stimulates the senses, the brain and encourages exercise.

Mental State - Well-being
Animals that are deprived of the requirements for general health and well-being will be in a state of distress, affecting their mental state and well-being. The animal that is receiving proper care and attention will be more relaxed and will display normal behaviours. 

Mental State – Hunger

Does the animal have enough feed? Is it provided with feed to satiety (until it feels full)?

Mental State – Thirst

An animal that is deprived of water will be thirsty and that thirst will affect the animal’s mental health. It may vocalize or display physical signs of dehydration.  

Mental State – Fear

Is the animal confined with a compatible mate or is the other animal aggressive or a natural predator? Animals that are mixed with incompatible kennel mates can also become fearfulThey may stop eating, become depressed or injured. 
Mental Well-being and behavioural considerations for long-term stays include:
  • enrichment
  • exercise
  • alternative housing
  • larger rooms
  • different evaluation
  • regular assessments with resolutions

Key Message

Daily observations of animal behaviour is important to ensure the animal is receiving the best possible care to ensure good mental health and well-being while in the facility. 

For more information, please contact the Animal Care Line, or call 204-945-8000 (in Winnipeg); 
1-888-945-8001 (toll-free).