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What you need to know about temperament testing

By HELEN PALMER

K9 Corner

Puppy temperament testing seems to get mixed reviews depending on which article you read. However, those in favor of the testing appear to have the lead. At least most of the breeders, shelters, foster homes and rescue groups I’ve spoken with perform some form of temperament testing before selling or adopting out the pups or dogs.

The American Temperament Testing Society (ATTS), a non-profit organization, was founded in 1977 and licenses temperament tests.

It is recommended that the pups be tested only once and that at the age of seven weeks, before the fear imprinting period. The breeder should arrange for an evaluator whom the pups have never seen. For shelter and rescues, the testing uses most of the parts of the ATTS tests, but these dogs do not earn the TT (temperament tested) title.

Depending on the tests used, the pups (dogs) are individually evaluated on their reaction to a stranger’s encouragement to come and follow, the ability to retrieve and their display of dominance when petted. Other tests evaluate sight, sound and touch sensitivity.

The scores rate each animal as ranging from aggressive through dominant, adaptability, submissive, extremely submissive and independent. Other personality traits include what type of stimulation; the intensity needed to produce excitability and how long it takes the dog to recover and go on to the next test.

These scores help the breeder or shelter personnel to work on the weak areas of each animal’s personality to better prepare it to go to a new home. If the dog or pup flinches at the sound of a pull toy, it will need gradual exposure to increasingly loud noises so that it will be able to tolerate a vacuum cleaner or a lawn mower by the time it leaves for its “forever” home.

A dog that moves away from the evaluator, resisting petting, will need more gentle handling and stroking by the caregiver/trainer so it will not be a problem when being groomed.

Some breeds have specific tendencies, such as retrievers wanting to play fetch with a paper ball and other toys and not wanting to move on to the next test.

Other breeds are aloof by nature. These breeds show strong tendencies toward independence, lack of interest in coming or following, and disdain petting. These dogs will need greater amounts of socialization both with the family and outside the family environment.

The greatest value of temperament testing is the perception the breeder or rescue group has of the personality of each pup or dog. With this information, these people can recommend the submissive animal to the quieter person, while suggesting the active, dominant dog or pup to a more athletic person.

Those people hoping to place their animals in good homes say that they also gain an insight toward possible specialized training such as those dogs suited for service dog training. Our local shelter in Boyle County has placed several of their Mutts with Manners graduates in a special service dog training school for our wounded warriors returning from the war.