Puppy Testing for Performance Homes

 puppy.jpg One of the big discussions to hit the lately has been the issue of Puppy testing. Have to admit, I never really would have thought this necessary. Shouldn’t a puppy be the dog that you want to live with? You pick the puppy that you connect with on some level and be happy with the dog you got. Agility to me is just one aspect of life, not the summation, so pick the dog you like.

But then I got to thinking about it. Some people have NO clue what to look for in a puppy so have some sort of standard to go by might be helpful to them.

So there yah go. 🙂 Volhard put together a Puppy Aptitude Test. Now it doesn’t tell a person how to interpret the results, or what makes or breaks a good dog. Generally speaking you want a dog want a dog who is too much or too little in the testing. A Dog that scores high on everything might be a bit too dominant for most dog people to handle. A dog that scores low on everything might end up being a fear biter and just too scared to deal with life on an everyday basis without some serious training with a light hand. You want a dog middle of the pack. My tendency is to like dogs that have just a enough dominance to handle a “NO” or a light whack on it’s butt without taking lots of offense (can bounce back from correction), but biddable enough to want to listen.

Breeders often use tests such as Volhard or scott and fuller or Sheila Booth. Suzanne Clothier is apparently working on some sort of testing as well. They use them to show new owners at that point what the puppy’s strengths and weaknesses are. Gives the new owners knowledge that they can use in training this puppy.

All that the tests really show is where that puppy is at that particular stage in life. It does not show what that puppy will become through training. Most any dog with a good trainer has the capacity within to become a well trained companion, suitable for a lot of things in life. Not all dogs end up happy with all the different dog sports available (which is one reason why there is so much variety to choose from), and some dogs will always just be happiest at home with their people.

Pick as best you can a structurally sound dog, then pick the dog you really like. Just pick your dog. Hope that it has the temperament you can live with and the ability to do the dog sport you want it too. If not, just enjoy the dog for who it is. That’s the best you can do for that dog. 🙂

Additional thoughts:

  • Structure is, I think, the most important for a working dog. It can’t work for years if it’s not well put together.Yes, I agree 100 percent that you must start with sound structure as without it, despite all the intelligence and training put into a puppy you may well at some point down the road either be stopped by the dog’s inability to meet the physical demands of your chosen performance dog sport OR many times the dog’s owner
    will either not recognize this and continue to push the dog to do things it is not physically capable of doing — or at least it is no longer capable of doing them.
  • If you want to mine the scientific literature regarding puppy testing (largely focused on police and guide dogs) then I recommend delving into Google Scholar. A quick search in Google Scholar on “puppy temperament” revealed several interesting and recent articles.
  • I do think an inquisitive dog is nice, but, I suppose that all relates back to what type of performance dog you want. Different people different ideals?
  • In other words, if you want success in agility, first and foremost the dog has to be put together correctly. Slipped hocks, feet that go in all different directions a topline that looks like the Grand Canyon will all work against you (notice that I didn’t say that it eliminates that dog from agility because many many agility dogs run on heart and not body). But then after that you need to find the temperament that suits yours. Do you want a needy dog that will wait for your every word, do you really want that free thinker, do you want a dog that can repeat behaviors or one who offers behaviors on his own? Do you want the dog that will challenge you at every turn?
  • There are no wrong answers here but just an insight into what you are getting for a companion. All of these temperaments have their own challenges once you start training them – you may not want to fight some of those battles so that dog should not be the one you select.
  • We use two panels from an xpen, one side against a wall, an opening at the other side with the panels forming a V. Pup is placed in the V, breeder is a few feet on the other side when s/he calls the pup. We time how long it takes the pup to find the opening. We then do the exercise again, hopefully the pup does it quicker. Problem solving is a great asset, the ability to learn even better. The barrier I use (depending on the breed and the size of the pups) is high enough that they can’t get over it without a lot of work. I’m basically looking to see if they can “think” and find their way around the barrier.
  • One thing I did with my pups was put them on a blanket and drag them around to evaluate their sense of motion and whether it was concerning to them or loads of fun. Do they attempt to jump off and run away, do they jump off and attack the blanket, or do they hang on and have fun? Also a wobbly board of some kind. I also pay attention to how they interact with water, rain or a pool or sprinkler
  • might be useful for agility evaluation:
    –drive: Volhard measures retrieving as well as whether or not the puppy will follow. But what about how hard the puppy will push/struggle to get to a treat or toy (lightly hold the puppy back and tempt with the toy or
    treat in front)? –tugging: get a toy, drag it on the ground and see how easily the puppy is stimulated by it and then how hard the puppy fights to keep the toy as
    you tug on it.

Some things I like to see in a puppy are:

1 A puppy that prefers to play with me than its littermates.

2 Lots of energy and enthusiasm (with an “off” switch when nothing is happening).

3 Curiosity about new things (not timid, but but not totally foolhardy)

4 Resilience ie the puppy bounces back quickly after a slightly unpleasant/scary experience.

5 A puppy that really likes me that I like a lot too (the X factor). .