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What is the Behavior Checklist (BCL)?

The Behavior Checklist (BCL) is a method of assessing dog behavior. Specifically, it is a behavior scoring system developed by Dr. James Serpell from the University of Pennsylvania, USA in collaboration with multiple guide dog organizations, including The Seeing Eye and Guiding Eyes for the Blind. The BCL provides a way to describe aspects of behavior important for guide and service dogs (however the behaviors measured in this assessment can still be helpful for other working dog roles or even pet/breeder temperament evaluations).

Importantly, the BCL has been validated and demonstrates the capacity to measure behavior in a consistent manner that lends itself to analysis. The IWDR has developed some tools that utilise BCL scores to provide analysis on aspects of your breeding program: you can learn more about this in our Estimated Breeding Values and Reports sections.

  • The terminology to describe behavior is standardized across all users, and there are detailed definitions to help you describe the behaviors you see.
  • Data is consistent within your organization and with other organizations that use the Behavior Checklist
  • Estimated breeding values can be calculated on dogs from small organizations if they keep dog and BCL data in the International Working Dog Registry (IWDR). This assumes about 25% of the dogs are related to other dogs in the database.

In general terms the more data we gather about our dogs behavior the better. Score all dogs that you produce, even dogs that are released from your program early.

Common points during a dog’s development to assess behavior include:


Puppy testing: 6-8 weeks of age


Commonly scored while the pups are feeding, receiving husbandry, care or handling by people or during socialization activities. The GDBart puppy test is an ideal tool for use with pups at this age.

Puppy raising: 4mo-12mo

Observations can be made of the pup in the home as well as on socialization or assessment walks. Puppy raisers can also provide data to help complete the BCL.

Adolescence (In for training/IFT): 12-18mo

An ideal time to gather behavioral data is when dogs first enter the kennels or commence guide dog training. By using the BCL together with the Guide Dog Behavioral Assessment Test (GDBART) users can gather the same information as other schools using a standardized test that can be completed in as little as 10-15 minutes. The GDBART requires the availability of a room in which the dog can be exposed to a range of specific stimuli in a very specific manner. Not all BCL items can be scored using the GDBART therefore further information on things such as kennel behavior, steps and traffic will still need to be gathered on training walks to complete all BCL test items.

During training

Another ideal time to complete the BCL is around mid-point of the training cycle or when a dog is reclassified or repurposed from a program. At this time it can be completed by the trainer and / or a supervisor and will include information about things such as riding in vehicles, kennels and general willingness of the dog in training.

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