How can you find that perfect companion? It often starts at the basic level of what makes up your dog’s personality. Resulting from negative publicity associated with certain dog breeds and recent breed-specific dog legislation, temperament testing for dogs is gaining in popularity. One such organization, The Temperament Test Society (www.atts.org) provides dog people a means for evaluating temperament and provides insight into their dog’s behavior. How is this insight achieved? Personality and temperament evaluation is done through administering the ATTS Test on a dog.
According to the society, “testing can have an impact on breeding programs and in educating owners about their dog’s behavioral strengths and weaknesses as well as providing a positive influence on dog legislation.” ATTS states that, “temperament testing evaluates an individual dog’s temperament through a series of tests that measure traits including stability, confidence, shyness, friendliness, aggressiveness, protectiveness, prey instincts, play drive, and self-defense instincts, and ability to distinguish between threatening and non-threatening situations.”
So what exactly comprises a dog’s temperament? Temperament is defined as the general attitude a dog displays towards other animal and humans; it is the combined inherited and acquired physical and mental traits that influence the dog’s behavior. Much of a pet’s temperament is hereditary. An equally important contributing factor is the dog’s environment including the actions of the pet parent. Both of these factors can directly impact a dog’s behavior.
In some instances, animal behaviorists, pet parents, breeders, trainers, and animal shelters/rescue organizations integrate temperament testing as a way to assess the temperament of an individual dog. This type of testing helps to identify each dog as a candidate for adoption, therapy or assistance animal work, search and rescue, or other purposes. Temperament testing helps serve as a predictive tool of how the dog might act and react in various situations and provoked circumstances.
It is also interesting to note that certain countries such as Germany require temperament testing be performed on certain restricted breeds. In the wake of deadly attacks by dogs, German state governments have banned or restricted many dog breeds. Potentially dangerous dogs can be owned, imported, bred, and sold if they pass a temperament test and are free of aggressive actions for three years.
What Does Adult Temperament Testing Involve? Ideally, the tester should be a canine behavior specialist trained in temperament testing. He or she should not be someone familiar to the dog and two people should be present at the test for safety and objective observation. A wide variety of testing exercises are conducted including length of time for responsiveness, reaction to certain stimuli, reaction to eye contact, reaction to sudden movements, reaction to being touched or approached, response to food and toys, and overall reaction to the evaluator.
During the evaluation, personality traits are observed and noted. Observations are noted on the certain reactions such as whether the dog is timid, confident, active, hyperactive or calm, dependent or independent. The dog’s interest level is also noted in regards to people, moving things, and the overall area. Many professionals feel that puppy socialization, handling and training of the puppy, and the everyday environment that the pet parent provides is more important than puppy temperament testing.