Temperament testing a puppy is necessary in order to find
a pup that will meet your needs......
Temperament testing a puppy is necessary in order to find
a pup that will meet your needs, match your personality and ensure a life-long
bond and friendship. Finding the right dog is as important as finding the
right spouse, but most people put more energy into buying a second-hand
car that they will dump in two years than into finding a dog that may live
as long as 14 years.
Whether you want a couch-potato or a National Competitor,
a good temperament test is the place to start to help you figure out which
is which. Now, there are many different temperament tests out there and
they will all help you in one way or another, but this one is the one that
works the best for us. We will stop and explain the how’s and whey’s as
The pup has what are called DRIVES. Drives are a large
part of what you are going to be testing. The dog’s drives include: Prey
Drive, Defense Drive, Food Drive, Fighting Drive and Sex Drive.
In order to determine which pup is right for you, it is
necessary to test the drives of the pup. Most owners are not looking for
extreme drives in their dogs. They want a dog with balanced drives. A dog
with balanced drives will work, play, protect and settle into family life.
If an owner wants a more extreme dog, i.e.: super-hard protection dog or
high-level competition dog, he will look for a pup with more extreme drives.
The primary drive we will test is the prey drive. Prey
drive is important because it is used to relieve the stress of training.
Think of the learning process as a pressure cooker. The more you teach
the dog, the higher the pressure will climb. Now, think of the prey game
as the relief valve…..it releases the pressure so there is no explosion
and no one gets hurt. For temperament testing, we break prey drive down
into sub-divisions: Ball drive, rag drive and retrieve drive. Testing these
sub-divisions in a puppy tells us where we can expect to see a training
problem later. For example, a pup with little or no prey drive will make
a good couch potato but will only be able to handle the stress of mild
household obedience. To expect any more of this dog would be unfair to
him and a waste of your time.
The second drive it is necessary to test is the defense
drive. A dog with a strong defense drive, when pushed, will protect it’s
territory, home, self and pack (you and your family). A dog with strong
defense drives will make an excellent personal protection dog. A dog with
little or no defense drive will show the burglar where the key to the safe
is hidden. Defense drive is tested when the dog achieves a bit of maturity
and will be discussed in a future article. For our purposes here, temperament
testing young puppies, we will focus on prey drive testing.
In addition to the pup’s drives, it is also necessary
to test it’s levels of forgiveness (pain tolerance), sound sensitivity
(nerve base) and dominance.
Checking a puppy’s level of forgiveness is one of the
most important aspects of the temperament test. A puppy with low levels
of forgiveness makes a poor candidate for almost any type of lifestyle.
Unless you are among the most knowledgeable of trainers, a dog with low
forgiveness will necessitate frequent trips to the blood bank for it’s
handler. Even if you are looking for the couch potato or family pet, forgiveness
is of the utmost importance. That will become clear the first time little
Johnny steps on Rover’s tail.
Sound sensitivity is tested in order to determine the
stability of a pup’s nerves. Picture a full-grown American Bulldog out
for a stroll with it’s owner. A bicyclist whizzes by, ringing her bell.
If this dog is overly sound sensitive, the ringing bell could send it fleeing
uncontrollably—dragging it’s owner behind it. An equally sad reaction is
that of the dog who cowers and trembles in fear. The sound sensitivity
segment of the test will give us a glimpse at the nerve base of the dog.
The dominance test is simply to determine how easily this
particular dog will let you boss it around when he’s a full-grown 100 pound
male who does not want to get off the couch. Who will be the boss of your
household…you or your dog? While the super-dominant dog may not be ideal
for the average pet owner, it could make a terrific sport dog for the experienced
Now that we’ve given you an idea of what we are testing
for and why, let’s begin the temperament test. Although much of this test
can be used for older dogs, ideally the temperament test should be given
to a puppy at 8 weeks of age. You will want to have handy the following
three items: A tennis ball, a stainless steel bowl and a dishtowel-size
rag or scrap of fake fur.
STEP ONE: Sociability
The first thing that we’re going to look for is the general
sociability of the litter from which you are choosing your pup. As you
approach the area in which the puppies are kept, what is their reaction
to you? We like to see puppies barking with glee at the sight of humans.
Tails wagging, bodies pushing against the walls of the puppy pen or kennel,
these puppies want to be with humans. Beware of the puppy who hangs back.
Indifferent to your presence or fearful at the sight of you, these pups
are not likely to bond well or grow into the partner you desire. If the
majority of the pups in the litter have an indifferent/fearful reaction
dismiss this litter….there is something very wrong here.
STEP TWO: Prey Drive
Separate from the others the pups that Step One proved
to be the friendliest and most outgoing of the litter. Take out your rag
and get the pup’s attention. With short jerking motions, drag the rag along
the ground. What we like to see are puppies scrambling over one another,
chasing the rag. This is prey drive. For the average owner looking for
a pet, a puppy that shows interest in the rag and makes an effort to follow
it along is fine. This pup will be able to blow off the stress of basic
obedience with a prey game. For sport purposes, you will want the puppy
who is focused on that rag and pursues it mercilessly until he gets his
bite. This dog is more likely to be able to blow off the greater degree
of stress involved in sport training with a higher drive for a more intense
prey game. This prey drive is also instrumental in teaching bitework to
the dog. Intense prey drive is fine for the house pet too, as long as you
have plenty of time and energy to play with your dog.
After the first two steps of the temperament test you
may have the litter narrowed down to two or three puppies. From this point
on, conduct your temperament test individually, completing one step with
each pup before moving on to the next step. This allows relaxation time
for each pup between each step. If you have only one pup to test, leave
at least 15 minutes between steps in order to be fair to the puppy.
STEP THREE: Sound Sensitivity
Step three is the test we do to check the puppy’s sound
sensitivity and nerve base. This test should be done on a hard floor or
pavement. Take the puppy to a quiet area. Engage the puppy in play. With
the puppy’s attention focused on the gave he is playing with you, have
a friend drop the stainless steel bowl on the ground 3 or 4 feet behind
him. The proper reaction range varies from total indifference to a mild
startled reaction to an investigation of the object….all followed by a
swift recovery. Recovery is gauged by the puppy’s willingness to return
to the game you had been playing. What we do not want to see is a fear
reaction and failure to recover. If the puppy runs away and refuses to
engage in play, or if the puppy is shaking and quivering and cannot be
distracted from it’s shocked state, this is not the puppy for you.
STEP FOUR: Prey Drive and Retrieval Instinct
In this simple test, just roll the tennis ball lightly
away from the puppy. A pup with good prey drive will chase after the ball.
A puppy with a good retrieval instinct will bring the ball back to you.
Retrieval skills are important for everything from Frisbee games to retrieval
exercises in advanced obedience routines. While retrieval skills are not
crucial for the pet owner who doesn’t mind chasing Daphne around the park
in an attempt to reclaim the tennis ball, they are necessary for high-level
obedience. Keep in mind that with persistence, this is a skill that can
STEP FIVE: Dominance
After a few minutes of light play, roll the puppy over
onto his back. With your hand on the pup’s chest, hold it down for a minimum
of 60 seconds. We do not wish to see either of the two extreme reactions
to this test. The first poor reaction is that of the puppy who just lays
there silently submitting with no struggle or sound. The second poor reaction
is that of the puppy who attempts to blow into you in an all-out attack,
refusing to submit to you.
The following are the desirable reactions:
For the pet:
Puppy should wriggle and whine, making his unwillingness
to be on his back very clear. After a few moments the puppy will submit,
falling into a relaxed state.
For the Sport dog:
Puppy will wriggle, snarl and bark. This pup lets you
know in no uncertain terms her disgust with the position she is in. After
a few moments, she will submit, falling into a relaxed state.
As you can see, in both scenarios, you are the victor.
When your bulldog is a 100 pound, muscle-bound dog who does not wish to
take a bath, you’ll be glad that you had done this test.
STEP SIX: Forgiveness
In our opinions, forgiveness is crucial requirement for
any puppy. Once again, engage the puppy in play. When you are certain the
pup is focused on the game, take her paw and pinch her on the fatty edge
of the webbing between her toes. DO NOT be wishy-washy about this pinch!!!
You must pinch the puppy swiftly and with enough pressure to make the puppy
yelp. The proper reaction to this test is, as you may have guessed, forgiveness.
When the pinch is over, the puppy should forgive you quickly, wither by
re-engaging in play or licking your face and allowing you to pet it. The
puppy that runs away from you and refuses to return is not going to be
a good dog for most people. Nor is the puppy who tries to kill you in retaliation
(an attempt which can be awfully cute in a 15 pound puppy, but awfully
un-cute in an 85 pound dog). If the idea of pinching a puppy is distasteful
to you, remember—the pinch lasts but a moment, but that puppy will grow
up to be a big dog who will be playing with your children for his lifetime.
Forgiveness is crucial for obedience training, protection training and
practically all phases of a dog’s life.
This concludes the temperament test. While no test is
100% accurate at predicting future behavior of your puppy, it has been
our experience that this test will increase your odds of purchasing a pup
with a stable nerve base, good trainability and a willingness to love,
be loved and bond with it’s family.
When selecting your new puppy, keep in mind the goals
you have for her as a full-grown dog. Gauge the importance of each step
of the test accordingly. Aside from Step 6, this temperament test should
be used as a guideline, not a law book. If your pup does great on all phases
of the test, but will not retrieve the tennis ball, don’t worry!!! This
is still a great pup!
Take your time, research the breed, call many trainers,
call many breeders and ask many questions. Do your homework and you will
be rewarded with a puppy that will fit your lifestyle and personality perfectly.
Good Luck and Good Bulldogging!!!!!
Eileen Jawoworski and Richard Quinn, Topline American Bulldogs, ®2000