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Temperament Testing: What does it mean and why, as a puppy purchaser, should you care?

Temperament testing in puppies is a valuable tool when your breeder assists you in choosing your puppy from its littermates. It should be used by all breeders to truly evaluate their puppies. Anyone wanting a puppy for a specific job should take it seriously. Temperament testing gives good insight to a puppy's training ease, social tendencies, and so much more.

For me, as a dog behaviorist/trainer and breeder, I use it to help evaluate each puppy to help better match them to their forever homes. I use several methods of temperament testing. I have combined and tweaked some of the most popular testing styles (including Volhard and some others) and have created my own temperament test which reflects my experiences and beliefs. My form of temperament testing is sensitive to the Standard Poodle only and is not intended to be used for other breeds.

I try to administer this test at 5.5-6 weeks of age, give or take 3 days. Another important point to remember: temperament testing should take place with a person unfamiliar to the puppies and in an area they’ve never been. It is also crucial that the test be administered on a one-on-one basis. This allows for uncertainty from the puppy, showing his/her true personality in foreign situations with a stranger. Of course, being a breeder, when I have my pups evaluated, I can typically guess how each will score. But, sometimes I am surprised. They are comfortable with me and “perform” for me. Whereas with a stranger, they have to really think and react, rather than perform for someone they know well.

We go through several test activities that will give us insight on the puppies personality. This includes social tendencies which measures the puppy’s social behaviors towards people. Example: Does the puppy shy from strangers, or does it emit confidence and come running up to greet the person? It shows me the level of confidence or lack of confidence when approached or called by a stranger. The next part is what I call "Follow Up Pup" This one measures the puppy’s willingness to follow a person when asked. Then, we assess the degree of overall Dominance as well as Social Dominance. Next test is that of Elevation. This measures the degree of accepting dominance when forced by a human. Then, important to many, is the test of Retrieving willingness. Another very important one is Touch Sensitivity which helps us to measure the degree of sensitivity to touch which can assess the puppy’s willingness to enjoy or avoid physical affection. Next is Sound Sensitivity and then Sight Sensitivity. 

It’s hard not to become emotional when picking a puppy - they are all so cute, soft and cuddly. Remind yourself that this dog is going to be with you for many, many years. Don’t hesitate to step back a little to contemplate your decision. And please, please, please, never pick a puppy based on color alone!

Please note: if you are getting a puppy from us, we will go over the interpretations of each puppy's scores and communicate results with you. If you would like to know more about how the scores are interpreted and what they relate to in a pup's personality, let us know!

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