HomeNewsNov 22, Puppy Temperament Testing: How to Pick the Perfect Dog

    Nov 22, Puppy Temperament Testing: How to Pick the Perfect Dog

    by Janice Jones    |Last updated 11-22-2021

    Puppy Temperament Testing is Part Two
    in our series of How to Pick the Perfect Puppy. 
    You are ready to choose the perfect puppy, but not exactly sure how to
    go about it. 

    Well, this article will
    cover behavioral traits and little tests you can do to help determine if the
    puppy is right for you.

    If you have not read our first article
    in this series, picking the Perfect Puppy: Health Issues, we recommend you check it out before proceeding.

    I am going to assume that you have:

    1. Picked the breed of your dreams or are
      at least looking at just a couple breeds
    2. Found a breeder you feel you can trust
      and work with
    3. Done a little background research on
      the breeder and dog breeds
    4. Ready to visit and pick out a puppy

    Puppy Temperament Testing Overview

    There is no such thing as the universal
    perfect puppy.  A perfect puppy is
    healthy, and his personality fit within your lifestyle and is compatible with
    your personality. 

    Therefore, in other
    words, to find your perfect puppy, you must know what you can and cannot live
    with in terms of personality traits of dogs.

    Dogs and puppies within a specific
    breed have similar traits based on their breeding history. 

    Some for example are more likely to dig
    (those dogs that were breed to burrow into holes to search out vermin), chase
    (those that were used for hunting small prey), run (breed for hunting and
    chasing) bark (guarding) and so forth. 

    These are all characteristics that are seen in small breed dogs.

    Once you have determined the breed of
    your choice, the next step is to determine which puppy within the breed will be
    the best match for you and your family. 

    is a wide variety even within littermates when it comes to temperament. This is where puppy temperament testing comes into play.

    There will be shy and bold puppies, active and
    lazy puppies, and those that are smarter or faster.  There are those that are more independent and
    those that are clingy. 

    Some dogs love to
    be with other dogs, whereas others want only human companionship.  Some puppies want to be around other puppies
    but most want to be a part of a person’s life.  

    Anyone who has raised a family knows just how
    different each child is even though all the siblings share similar genes.  Dogs are no exception.

    By the time a puppy is seven weeks old,
    you will be able to determine real differences within the litter. 

    At this point, the puppies may still all look
    alike, but their personalities have begun to emerge.  This is a good time to look at the litter to
    determine which behaviors might be more desirable to your situations. 

    Decide what is best for you before doing any
    formal or casual puppy testing.  For
    this, you must first look at your own situation:

    Puppy Temperament Testing:  Ask Yourself these Questions:

    Are you:

    • A First time puppy owner or lifetime
      dog lover with experience in training (Some puppy behaviors might be more difficult
      to overcome for a first time buyer.
    • A person who wants a show potential
      ? (Some show potential puppies might have
      characteristics that would be less desirable in a companion dog.   
    • Someone who wants a puppy just for a
      pet or companion
    • Experienced Dog Owner (There are behaviors that can be corrected with training but may always be
      present at some level.)

    The Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test (PAT)
    is a formal Puppy Temperament Testing System that can be done on puppies at the age of 7 weeks of age. 

    This is a system of tests, each scored
    separately with the purpose to find the right puppy for the right home.  It is based on a variety of criteria and
    tests certain canine drives such as the prey drive, pack drive, defense fight
    or flight drives. 

    To perform this test,
    you would need to have two people present who are unfamiliar to the puppy and
    done in an area away from the other litter-mates. 

    The PAT is observing and puppy temperament testing ten different areas of

    Social Attraction:  How confident the puppy is when interacting
    with people

    Following:  The willingness of a puppy to
    follow a person

    Restraint:  How dominant or submissive a puppy is when
    being handled

    Social Dominance:  The degree a dog will accept a person as the
    dominant leader

    Elevation Dominance:  The degree to which a puppy will submit to a
    situation where he is not in control such as at the veterinarian or groomers

    Retrieving:  The puppy’s willingness to
    do something for a person

    Touch Sensitivity:  The puppy’s degree of sensitivity to a
    human’s touch

    Sound Sensitivity:  The puppy’s degree of sensitivity to sound

    Sight Sensitivity:  The puppy’s degree of response to a moving

    Stability:  The puppy’s startle response

    If you are not interested in formal
    testing, you can still look at a variety of behaviors that will give you a good
    indication of what the puppy might be like as an adult. 

    Remember, that ultimately, less desirable
    behaviors can be altered by proper training, but even the seemingly “perfect”
    puppy needs training and socialization to maintain and improve their behavior. 

    We have tried to simplify the Volhard
    Test so you can use some of the methods when you visit a litter of puppies.  If the puppies have just awoken from a nap,
    give them some time to awaken fully before coming to any conclusions. 

    Puppies that just wake up are still a little
    groggy.  (They are not the only ones).  Remember, if you want something more accurate
    you will want to use The Volhard Test.)

    Steps to follow in Puppy Temperament Testing

    Before choosing one puppy to evaluate, watch
    all litter mates interact with each other and with you or other people in the

    Which ones like to explore on their

    Which ones are the first to come to you
    or the breeder? 

    Which ones want to play with their littermates
    but do not seem interested in the humans? 

    Listen to see which puppies yelp the
    most when littermates nip them, which ones are quiet? 

    Which ones seem a little too
    aggressive, always wanting to be on top and vying for pack leader

    Which puppies seem a little too submissive?  Along these same lines, which ones seem to
    have the most self-confidence and which ones seem shy.

    Which ones seem to crave attention from
    humans and stick around for petting?

    Which dogs have gentle mouths and which
    ones have not learned how to inhibit their bite?  Send out a cry when a puppy bites you and
    observe his reaction.

    Volhard Test: Puppy Temperament Testing

    Choose one puppy to evaluate further.  The following come directly from the Volhard Test.

    Social Attraction

    Watch how the puppies interact with you.  Which ones come up to you immediately?  Which pups are curious, but may not be the first to jump on you?  Which ones are more interested in doing something other than coming to you?  Observe the tails:  are they up or down?


    Slowly walk away from the puppies.  Which ones follow you?  Do they follow with tails up or down?


    Roll each puppy over on his back and gently
    hold for 30 seconds.  Do they struggle
    fiercely, struggle a little then relax, do not struggle at all.

    Social Dominance

    Crouch on the floor and gently stroke him from head to tail.  Let the puppy sit or lie down while you gentle stroke his back as you crouch down. 

    Does the puppy jump up at you, bite, or growl, cuddle, roll over, or moved away.  See if he licks your face.

    Elevation Dominance

    Pick up each puppy and hold him or her above your head for 30 seconds.  Does the puppy struggle fiercely, or does he struggle but maintain a relaxed body.  Perhaps he does not struggle at all but holds onto a rigid body stance.


    Crumple up a piece of paper or use a puppy toy if available.  Throw it out in front of you no more than 4 feet and observe what the puppy does.

    Touch Sensitivity

    Pinch the soft webbing on one of the puppy’s front paws, gradually increasing pressure until the puppy shows sign of discomfort.  Does the puppy show discomfort immediately or does it take a while before the puppy reacts in pain.

    Sound Sensitivity

    Clap or bang an object loudly and observe the puppy’s response.  Does the puppy listen, try to locate the sound then bark and run towards it? 

    Alternatively, does the puppy just listen and try to figure where the sound is originating.  Some puppies will hide or show no curiosity at all. 

    Sight Sensitivity

    Use a toy or rag and move it around the puppy quickly.  Does the puppy run towards it and bite at it?  He may try to put his foot on it to stop the motion. 

    Some pups will look with curiosity with either tail up or down, but not respond and others will run away and hide.  

    Startle Response

    Open an umbrella and place it on the ground.  See what the puppy does.

    Puppy Temperament Testing:  What does it all Mean?

    According to Volhard, six different dog
    personalities emerge from the responses to these little scenarios using the above criteria for puppy temperament testing:

    Pack Leader and Potential to Aggression

    Self-Confident Pack Leader “wantabe”:  Need for the Potential Show Dog

    Quick Learner, active, social, but
    quite a handful

    Perfect Puppy, easy to train, quiet,
    great for elderly couples, first time dog owners and families with children

    Potentially Shy, fearful, submissive


    first time dog owners should choose a dog that learns quickly, is easy to train
    and sociable.

    will find self-confidence plus and shy dogs a challenge but not
    necessarily out of the question.

    show dog owners
    will want a pack leader or pack leader want-a-be  because they have the self-confidence to do
    well in the show ring.

    recommends that one stray away from the independent type of dog.

    all personalities represented in a litter: 
    No.  Not in my opinion, but that
    also depends on the breed.  You are most
    likely to see mostly two, three, four, and five. 

    according to Volhard, the perfect puppy for the first time buyer using their puppy temperament testing model looks something
    like this: 

    • They
      come up to you readily with tail up
    • They
      follow you with their tail up
    • They
      struggle a little when restrained then settle
    • They
      cuddle up to you and try to lick your face
    • They
      enjoy a game of retrieving an object
    • They
      do not cry immediately when pinched but do feel it within about 5 to 6 seconds.
    • They
      show curiosity about sounds and try to find where they originate
    • They
      show curiosity to new sights and try to investigate

    Your Take Away from Puppy Temperament Testing

    Remember, it takes both your heart and
    your head to choose the right puppy for you. 
    Do not be swayed only by one or the other. 

    Remember too, that nothing here is
    written in stone.  Puppies that might be
    somewhat shy at the breeder’s house turn out to be outgoing and friendly when
    they become part of a loving family.  Active
    pups may settle down. 

    Assertive pups
    with your loving touch and training turn out to be the perfect dog for
    you.  Independent dogs may be perfect for
    those who need a little personal space.

    Finally, the perfect puppy can only
    grow into the perfect adult dog with the right socialization and training.  Likewise, a less than perfect puppy can
    become the perfect adult with the same attention to training.

    Puppy Temperament Testing Pinnable ImagePin for Future Reference

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