PUPPY TEMPERAMENT TESTING

Deb Jones & Judy Keller
June 7, 2004

What is temperament?

The relatively permanent behavioral characteristics that you inherit from your parents.

There are two specific characteristics that are highly determined by genetics:
Level of shyness/outgoingness and level of physical activity.

These are both extremely important for those who want a show/performance prospect.

So do both parents contribute equally to temperament?

Genetically, yes. Each parent provides 50% of the offspring’s genes.

However, the mother also provides the early environment for the puppy.

Her temperament is passed on not only through her genes, but through her behavior while the puppy is with her. She is the puppy’s first adult role model.

Can you breed for temperament?

As much as you can breed for any characteristic.

You have recessive genes, partial dominance, polygenic traits, etc. to consider.

So, you could have two parents with excellent temperaments but they won’t necessarily pass those on to all of their offspring.

You could also, by chance, have two parents with poor temperaments that produce offspring with decent temperaments.

As with any characteristic, there will be lots of temperamental variability in any litter.

However, chances are good that many of their offspring will inherit their desirable traits.

What is the purpose of temperament testing?

To predict possible adult behavior.

This is especially important in show/performance dogs.

If you are spending time, money, effort to train a puppy, you want to make the best choice possible.


What is the ideal age for temperament testing?

Seven weeks / 49 days.

Any earlier and the nervous system is not developed enough for accurate responses.

Any later and experiences/learning interfere with ‘pure’ nature.

How accurate are temperament tests?

Very mixed scientific evidence.

Many show NO connection between testing & adult behavior.

There are a number of different tests. Not all tests are equal.
Poor testers.
Poor testing conditions.

Personally, I have found temperament testing to be very useful, if done properly.

What is our test looking for?

We are looking at factors that suggest a stable temperament.

Looking for a puppy that has resilience, the ability to bounce back from unpleasant events.

In order to perform well under a variety of conditions in highly distracting situations, this factor (resilience) seems to be key to a dog that can have long-term success in the show ring.

A dog without resilience will become overly stressed and that may lead to some level of avoidance or aggression.

Our test exposes the puppy to a series of stimuli designed to provoke a response.

The level of response and speed of recovery is rated on a scale of 1-3 (3 being the best).

The results of each of the 10 tests are added up for an overall score.

Things to keep in mind while testing…

Breed behavioral characteristics.

Any puppy could be having a bad day. If in doubt, retest on another day.

Puppies should be well rested and relaxed before the test.

Taking puppies into a new environment for testing is ideal.

Treat each puppy exactly the same throughout the testing procedure.


THE AKC STANDARD FOR SHETLAND SHEEPDOG TEMPERAMENT

The Shetland Sheepdog is intensely loyal, affectionate, and responsive to his owner. However, he may be reserved toward strangers but not to the point of showing fear or cringing in the ring. Faults – Shyness, timidity, or nervousness. Stubbornness, snappiness, or ill temper.

For the Papillon:

Happy, alert, and friendly. Neither shy nor aggressive.

For the Belgian Tervuran:

In his relationship with humans he is observant and vigilant with strangers, but not apprehensive. He does not show fear or shyness. He does not show viciousness by unwarranted or unprovoked attack. He must be approachable, standing his ground and showing confidence to meet overtures without himself making them. With those he knows well, he is most affectionate and friendly, zealous for their attention and very possessive.

 

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