“Ideally, all puppies should be sold according to the following somewhat utopian scheme. The breeder, after a conversation with the buyer, decides whether he wants his puppy to go to this man. Then, having learned about the home conditions and the nature of the work of the future owner, the breeder chooses the puppy that, in his opinion, best meets his expectations. Unfortunately, we don't live in a perfect world. Too many breeders produce puppies just for the money, with no interest in their fate.”(1)
Breeders are increasingly using temperament tests before giving puppies to new homes. Personality tests are undoubtedly gaining more and more popularity. But are they reliable? Is it possible to determine the future character of a puppy with a test taken at seven weeks of age?
At this point, I will refer to research conducted by Erik Wilsson and Per-Erik Sundgren at the Swedish Dog Training Centre. These studies were conducted on a sample of over six hundred German Shepherd Dogs aged approximately 7 weeks. Then they were repeated at the age of about 6 months, and the results of both studies were compared. The compared results were not convergent.
Why do we see such differences between the results of tests carried out at these two different stages of a puppy's life? Well, first of all, the behavior of an adult dog in 20% is genetically determined, while in 80% it depends on the influence of the environment. A dog's personality is greatly influenced by the environment in which it lives. It is these conditions that will shape his temperament as an adult dog. The same puppy, placed in the hands of two different families, will develop differently. Secondly, some temperamental traits become apparent much later than 7 weeks of age, as the dog itself develops.
But let's look at it from a different angle. In the 1940s, only 9% of training dogs were fit to work with humans. It was a huge failure because such trainings are very time consuming as well as require significant financial resources. Currently, however - using scientific research, using puppy selection mechanisms and personality tests, this percentage has increased to 90%, which is a significant success.
So, do puppy temperament tests make sense at all? Yes - as long as we remember that the test results show certain predispositions of the puppy - the outline of his personality, general tendencies - and not the character of the dog in the future. Thanks to the test results, we are able to choose the right dog-guide team. They are also a guide for further work with the puppy.
Many breeders use personality tests for puppies in order to choose the right home and destiny for them as a family dog, guard dog or police work dog. They are also widely used in kynotherapy.
Currently, there are many different personality tests based on different scoring and assessment principles. The most famous are personality tests according to:
- Volhards (PAT)
- Pfaffenberger (for blind guide dogs)
- ATTS-The American Temperament Test Society's
- Humhrey and Warner - for puppies of working German shepherds (the oldest, greatly simplified, therefore not considered reliable)
The first one is especially recommended by the Polish Kynotherapy Society.
Author: Edyta Gajewska
(1) John Fisher "A dog's eye", National Agricultural and Forest Publishing House