K9 Corner

Published 8:14 am Tuesday, August 22, 2017


A reader called asking what she should do with her new pup that wasn’t behaving at all like she had anticipated.

I gave her suggestions, but she had already tried most of them. Her weeks old puppy is turning into a “Cujo,” she said.

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This reader had done the homework I recommended, but she didn’t know that there are temperament tests that responsible breeders will perform on young pups in order to better place them with new owners.

Here is how these tests work. The pup is evaluated by two strangers so the results will be valid. The animal is tested on social attraction, confidence, dependence or independence. How the pup reacts when an evaluator walks away from him, his reaction when being gently restrained also tells about the puppy’s personality. The restraint test shows the degree of social dominance, some pups will try to bite if rolled on their backs or held in a down position (a submissive posture for canines).

Will the pup allow you to gently stroke him from the head to back while he is standing? Does he jump on you, snap or growl or does he roll over and lick at your hands? Some dogs panic if they feel they are not in control. Therefore, the test of lifting the pup off his feet can result in a fearful freezing to a relaxed pup, to one that struggles fiercely, snapping and growling.

Other parts of this temperament test include: retrieving, touch sensitivity, sound sensitivity, sight sensitivity and the degree of structural soundness since a dog that is not structurally sound will need a home that will cater to his disability.

For the caller with the pup with a poor attitude, it might be possible to train the animal in self-control, but such a pup should not be placed with a family with young children. The owner will have to be ever vigilant for a number of years since a pup with such a dominant personality will continually test the owner and the other family members to see if they are still the leaders. One dog I am familiar with had such a dominant attitude.  It took five years before she stopped testing the owners.

Not all individuals of a breed behave the way the standard says they will. It is best to read about the breed’s normal temperament before going to a kennel to look at puppies. Once there, if the breeder has not performed a temperament test, do not pick the most aggressive or the most timid, go for the ones that seem happy with their siblings, playful and curious about you, the visitor. The one with the gorgeous coat or perfect markings may not be your favorite if it turns out to have a poor temperament.