First Day Assessments


A few years after starting her career in pet care, The Petropolitan’s Founder, Hailey Seidel, visited the world’s largest animal rescue – Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Located in the desert of Southern Utah, just a few hours from Las Vegas, Best Friends provides temporary and permanent housing for over 1,600+ animals across 3,500 acres…it’s a truly spectacular place.

Hailey spent four days at the Sanctuary touring, volunteering, and observing their dog rescue operations team.  She attended puppy and adult socialization sessions focused on making the dogs as confident and adoptable as possible. Volunteers visiting Best Friends are able to take a different dog back to the hotel every night, for a break from the rescue and a sleepover, to prepare them for life in an adoptive home.

Hailey observed the intake of dogs who were being surrendered into care and watched as they were evaluated for adopt-ability.  Dogs were assigned a green, yellow, or red rating based on their score on a thorough evaluation. Volunteers observed and scored each dog’s response to different medical and behavioural tests in order to assign the dogs a rating and safely place them into group habitats with other dogs while they waited for adoption. 

The evaluations included:

  • Exposure and reaction to strangers,
  • Recall and arousal,
  • Reactivity to other dogs and people,
  • Medical exam and handling,
  • Reaction to crutches, vacuums, wheelchairs, dropping loud dishes, puffing umbrellas, opening trash bags…all kinds of things!

The dogs that rated green were the ones who were most adoptable.  They passed the most tests and likely left the shelter with an adoptive family the fastest with the least amount of stress.  Those who scored yellow needed some behavioural or medical support but would be placed for adoption into the right home and may be re-evaluated as a green dog during their time in care.  Those who were assigned to the red category would live out their lives at Best Friends in solitary care, deemed unsafe for adoption due to bite history or public safety.

Among the yellow dogs, you would find twenty of the dogs seized from Michael Vick’s dog-fighting property in 2007. While most were able to be adopted into loving homes with time, two were court-ordered to live out their lives at Best Friends. Lucas, Vick’s Grand Champion, loved life at the Sanctuary and passed in 2013. Meryl was eventually able to live with male dogs and developed a close bond with a mix named Buddy, a Hurricane Katrina survivor. When Hailey visited, these two dogs could be observed by visitors through double fencing but were still only allowed to be handled and cared for by consistent Sanctuary staff and behaviourists.

When Hailey left the sanctuary, she knew her purpose in pet care was to nurture the development of as many “green” dogs as possible.  She wanted to create teams and environments where dogs could experience a variety of people, places and things. Dogs could learn to navigate challenges with confidence and reduced stress when confronted with new experiences. In your dog’s day-to-day life, the work we put in together helps your dog navigate vet visits, travel, car and airplane rides, meet and greets with strangers and other dogs, reduce overall anxiety and increase happiness and confidence for their lifetime.

What was observed at Best Friends is reflected in The Petropolitan’s first-day assessments.  On your dog’s first day, a care provider evaluates both your dog’s history and their experience on the evaluation day.  They observe things like:

  • Were they being social and engaging with other dogs?  Or did they keep to themselves?  How did they react to other dogs engaging with them?
  • On walks, were they nervous or excited? Did they check in with the handler?
  • Did they give themselves rest periods or play, play, play?
  • How responsive were they to various events and stimuli?
  • Were they confident in group play?  Or were they timid and withdrawn?
  • Do they have an immediate and reliable recall?  Or did they need some convincing to come to a handler?

These observations are recorded and scored on our First Day Evaluation. We strive to take special care in reviewing areas where your dog can grow and develop at home and in our care. We love talking about the things that make each dog amazing, like areas where they demonstrate a high level of confidence and skill!

Just trying daycare for the first time can be a big challenge for most dogs! While some dogs waltz right in and pass with flying colours, others need more time to build confidence before trying again or may be indicating that it’s just not their jam. We seek to foster growth for every dog with our enrichment activities, parties, field trips, walks, playgroups, and play equipment! We’ll always celebrate with you when your pet works through a fear, tries something new, or we see them do something as simple as relaxing away from home for those who struggle with anxiety! Each dog’s milestones are unique, and we’re so happy to be along for the journey with each and every one of them!