Tuesday, March 11, 2014


The idea of giving a puppy a few simple tests has gained popularity in the dog world. The best known series of tests is called “Volhard testing,” named after the couple who standardized their own testing techniques to identify a dog’s personality. However, there are any number of similar canine tests aimed at the same goal: devising a yardstick to be a reliable predictor of a puppy’s current and future personality.
The reasoning behind such tests is the practical purpose of finding out a puppy’s “dominance level,” or how headstrong he is by nature. An extremely bold dog is going to be a handful to train, while at the other end of the spectrum the very shy puppy—who can be startled by his own shadow—will be difficult to train for different reasons. The tests also give a sense of a puppy’s level of interest in people, which will affect his trainability and how easily he’ll become a member of your family
Age for Testing
           Seven weeks—forty-nine days to be exact—is considered to be the ideal age for a puppy to be evaluated away from the litter. Except for a small amount of learned behavior, a seven-week-old puppy is thought to be a clean slate, meaning that testing at this time is supposed to give a true reading of his nature.
Take a moment to watch the whole litter without interacting with them. Are most of them uncomfortable with you being there—are they barking or running away? That would be such a bad sign that you should just walk away from the whole litter, since it indicates that this is a line of breeding that turns out suspicious dogs or that this breeder hasn’t socialized the puppies. In either case, it makes it an uphill situation for you and that puppy—and why load the dice against yourself going in?
 Puppy-testing Scenarios
            There are many variations on how puppies may respond to any of these “pop tests,” but I include only two ends of the spectrum: anything in between is your judgment call. But in the case of very dominant or very submissive dogs, you can predict that they will behave almost the same way in every situation. The independent dog will ignore most of what you’re doing and go her own way; the very shy dog will tremble, pee and/or cringe submissively. Avoid both these extremes, because otherwise you could have a lifetime of extra effort dealing with the simplest issues. You can try some or all of these experiments, but don’t get too serious about them. Unless a puppy is consistently off the chart at either end of the spectrum (in which case you have to hope there’s someone out there who will love her), you can do a fine job raising any puppy.

           Common wisdom is that you should avoid any personality extremes in a pup: not the laid-back puppy, but not the most forward and pushy one, either. Other than that, try some of the little tests that follow—“Pop Tests for Pups,” you might call them—and see which appeals to you as a way to get to know a puppy quickly.

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