Temperament testing is a form of assessment that many breeders use to evaluate a puppy’s behavior in regards to certain personality traits. Puppies are introduced to a variety of stimuli in a controlled environment to see how they react. Typically the evaluation is conducted somewhere between week 7-10, depending on the breed. Smaller breeds are usually tested closer to the 9 to 10 week mark.
Temperament traits include both stable traits and adjustable traits. The stable traits are typically hard wired. It is difficult for a breeder to change these traits in the puppies for the most part. The puppy evaluation simply identifies these stable traits so puppies can be matched with families that will meet their unique needs. On a side note, a responsible breeder should only breed even tempered adult dogs in the first place. Temperament is to a large degree inherited. It would be unethical for a breeder to intentionally breed an unstable dog. Adjustable traits are those traits that a breeder can adjust to some extent through proper socialization and a well planned curriculum.
The stable traits I test for include:
- Energy Level
- Prey Drive
- Human Focus
The adjustable traits I test for include:
- Nerve Strength/Resiliency
- Touch Tolerance
- Sound Sensitivity
- Sight Sensitivity
Not every puppy is born with the same temperament. Just like humans, puppies possess individual traits that make them unique. As a breeder, I like to know how my puppies score on both stable and adjustable traits. The stable more fixed traits are mostly set, but knowing where each puppy scores helps me place them in homes where they will succeed. For instance, if I have a puppy that scores high on energy level, I probably wouldn’t place that puppy in a home with a senior that suffers from mobility issues. All puppies usually have a lot of energy but the puppy who scores high on temperament testing for energy is probably less likely to calm down once the puppy stage ends.
A breeder has more of the upper hand when it comes to adjustable traits. If puppies are raised on a well put together puppy curriculum the adjustable traits can be tweaked to some extent. For example, a puppy that is highly sound sensitive and afraid of noises can possibly be desensitized if the breeder uses a developmentally appropriate sound desensitization program. To take it a step further, if the puppy who scores high on sound sensitivity is still sound sensitive when puppy evaluations are administered, the breeder can use this information to place this puppy in a home where his or her needs will be met.
The temperament testing results aren’t a tell all. The results are simply a snapshot in time that helps the breeder get a more in-depth look at the puppy’s emerging personality. There is so much more that goes into the overall equation when it comes to a puppy’s adult temperament. Genetics, adequate socialization, life experiences, a nurturing home environment and proper training play an important role in the puppy’s emerging personality.
In the end, puppy temperament testing is just another tool in a breeder’s tool box that helps set both the puppies and the future owners up for success. I love giving my puppy families a general idea of what specific traits each puppy is displaying before they choose which puppy is best suited for their family dynamics. I also love that temperament testing gives each puppy a voice. The puppies cannot speak for themselves, but they can give us a glimpse of who they are if we watch closely. Every puppy deserves to be heard. I have made a promise to my puppies that I will be their voice. I will do everything in my power to match the puppies with families that will give them the very best life has to offer!