Today was a big day for the puppies! Turning 7 weeks old means going through the testing exercises and matching up our observances of the puppies with test results to help determine which puppies will be the best fit for each family.
We use the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test.
I look at these testing exercises more in a general way then as someting set in stone. After all, they don’t predict the very individual aspects of a dog. I always think of temperament and aptitude tests as a snap shot in time. They are observations of behavior of that exact moment. They do give a broad idea of a puppy’s potential in various areas. For example, if a puppy has no interest in interacting with people…it probably is going to be a more independent dog. Could the puppy be having an off day? Sure. Could there be other factors involved? Absolutely. But such evaluation can be helpful to give us a more educated guess of a puppy’s personality. As another example, the startle reaction. If a puppy hears a loud noise and runs off cowering and shaking…you can pretty safely think that the puppy will need a great deal of socialization and positive reinforcement to overcome innate anxiety.
As a Standard Poodle breeder, we have people looking for that special dog that can do it all and still be the perfect companion. We get requests for service dog prospects, therapy dogs, hunting dogs, agility and obedience dogs, greeters, show dogs, grooming competition dogs and of course just happy, easy going companions to go on walks with and bark to alert us of danger.
Let’s say you were looking for a service dog prospect, all of the testing exercises included in the Puppy Apitude Test can be good general indicators to help find a puppy that may do will with training to be a service dog.
You want the puppy to retrieve a wadded up piece of paper tossed about two or three feet away and bring it back to you. This is the single most important indicator of willingness to please you and work with you. A dog that will retrieve for you as a puppy will be willing to be trained. You want the puppy to leave you, get the paper, and bring it back to your lap. A puppy that leaves your lap, grabs the paper and drops it on the way back to you is an acceptable response as well. But one that goes after the paper, picks it up and no matter how much coaxing you do does not bring it back may not be the ideal candidate as a service dog. Puppies can be “taught” to retrieve but when you find a 7 week old puppy willing to bring the paper back usually is an excellent indicator that the puppy can do any kind of “work” – service dog, hunting dog, obedience, aglity, etc.
(2) Quick recovery from startling experiences
Making a loud noise (usually with a metal pot or pan) near the pup. The puppy can startle but should recover quickly and perhaps show some curiosity. Pop open an umbrella and set it down. Again, the puppy can startle but should recover quickly and perhaps even investigate the umbrella. Attacking either item isn’t a good response. If the puppy doesn’t recover quickly it may never have the steady nerves to be a service dog or a good all round pet dog.
Since we raise our puppies with noise and loud startling noises as outlined in the puppy culture protocol, they naturally have a quick startle recovery. Some may take a few seconds more to recover but so far we have never raised a puppy that was slow to recover from a startling experience since we began to incorperate this into our puppy rearing routine when they are about three weeks old.
(3) Order in which the puppies greet you
For a service dog, you really don’t want a puppy that runs up to you first and then turns and runs away. A puppy that comes up to you a little later, possibily with a little caution but then crawls into your lap and doesn’t leave would be best. The first puppy will usually be a more independent thinker and have his own ideas about things. The second puppy will bond easily with you and be more likely to follow your moods and stay by your side. If a puppy doesn’t interact with you at all or does a quick “drive by” or nips your hands, is not a great prospect for a service dog.
Individually take each of the puppies that are doing well and go to a spot they haven’t been before. Speak softly to the puppy and begin walking away. You want the puppy that quietly follows you because he will follow your lead in life. Often, puppy that follows but bites your pants or ankles or the puppy that hides or runs away is not going to do well as a service dog.
Pinch gently between the puppy’s toes. If the puppy gives you a dirty look and then goes away, this pup is a poor prospect for service dog work. It will tend to get offended easily and then not work for you. You want the puppy that snuggles up to you or perhaps licks you in response to the toe pinch. This pup will forgive you when you get manic or angry and will help you when you need it.
(6) Prey drive?
A puppy with high prey drive is in reality, easier to teach to “focus”. MUCH easier. However, the issue of drive isn’t one of distractability but of requiring greater handler presence and skill. Dogs with high prey drive can drive a lot of people crazy. But if you understand what drives are and aren’t before assigning them to specific traits, you will understand what I am talking about. A puppy with high prey drive requires a handler/owner with the skill, experience and energy it takes to keep up with a drivey dog.
I will post the scores of the testing exercises for the puppies tomorrow. In the mean time, why not look over Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test and see what we do and score the puppies on.