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Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Topa/Oken Puppies; 7 Week Puppy Testing

Lutsen's front end structure is assessed

Misquah is going through the elevation test

Grand Marais participated happily

Items needed for the test

 The below is a reprint and revision of a post I made in 2007 after testing the Tuloon/Bazil puppies. It describes all of the aspects of the testing we choose to give. I am finding, however, that Hedlund Husky puppies test very different than many puppies and the test results, as described, are becoming less applicable. At the same time, I can appreciate the process and look upon it as more valuable information to add to the pot when coming up with a training plan for each individual.

The current litter tested more true to the adult personality trait of the Hedlund Husky of being aloof until a bond is made. Most were not the least bit interested in the tester and therefore didn't actively participate in the testing. The aptitude test produced varied numbered scores from the puppies and the leader test indicated that Grand Marais and Gooseberry (Irish) were the Group 1 puppies of the bunch, with the most natural aptitude to lead while all other puppies tested as Group 3 puppies due to their general lack of interest in the tester. It was interesting to note that when one might expect eye contact from these pups during the test, they gave it, but not to the tester. They stretched their necks from whatever position they were in to make eye contact with me, as I sat quietly at the other end of the room. Their bond was with me and they "perform" for me. If their new owners make the effort to bond with their puppies, and they are being placed in homes that will do everything possible for this to happen, I have confidence that these puppies will do anything asked of them.


At seven weeks of age is when puppy aptitude testing and leader testing is done. According to a piece written by Gail Tamases Fisher and Wendy Volhard called "Puppy Personality Profile; The specifics of testing procedures, scoring and interpretation of the results of PAT". EEGs have demonstrated that at 49 days, puppies have the brain waves of an adult dog but are as yet minimally affect by experience and learning. It goes on to say that "While they have learned to use the inherited behaviors which make them dogs, they have not yet had a range of experiences to influence the test results, so we are able to test a virtually clean slate. At 49 days, the tests will reveal the raw material of the puppy's individual temperament. Thereafter, environmental experiences may influence a puppy's response, and we cannot be certain we are getting a true reading of his behavioral tendencies."

The test needs to be performed by a stranger to the puppies and in an unfamiliar area. The test has eleven exercises to be performed in the presence of the puppy. They are as follows:

  1. Social Attraction. The puppy is placed four feet from the tester. The tester then calls the puppy. The purpose is to determine the pack drive or degree of social attraction to people, confidence or dependence.
  2. Following. The tester stands up and slowly walks away encouraging the puppy to follow. Th purpose is to determine pack drive and the puppy's willingness to follow a person.
  3. Restraint. The tester crouches down and gently rolls the pup on its back and holds it down with light pressure with one hand for 30 seconds. The purpose is to determine the puppy's fight or flight response and the degree of dominance or submissive tendency and ease of handling in difficult situations.
  4. Social Dominance. The puppy sits or stands on a crouching tester's left side and the tester gently strokes it from the head to back. The purpose is to determine the puppy's pack drive and degree of acceptance of social dominance by a person.
  5. Elevation Dominance. The tester cradles the pup under its chest with both hands, fingers interlaced, palms up and gently lifts the pup two feet off the ground and holds him there for 30 seconds. The purpose is to assess the fight or flight response and the degree of accepting dominance while in a position of no control.
  6. Retrieving. The tester crouches beside the pup and attracts its attention with a crumpled up piece of paper. When the pup shows interest, the tester tosses the paper no more than four feet in front of the pup, encouraging it to retrieve the paper. The purpose is to assess the puppy's prey drive and the degree of willingness to do something for you. Together with social attraction and following, a key indicator for ease of difficulty in training.
  7. Touch Sensitivity. The tester locates the webbing of one of the puppy's front paws and presses it lightly between his index finger and thumb. The tester gradually increases pressure while counting to 10 and stops the pressure when the puppy pulls away or shows discomfort. The degree of sensitivity to touch is a key indicator to the type of training equipment required.
  8. Sound Sensitivity. The puppy is placed in the center of the testing area and an assistant stationed at the perimeter makes a sharp noise, such as banging a metal spoon on the bottom of a metal pan. The purpose is to assess prey drive and the degree of sensitivity to sound. Its also a rudimentary test for deafness.
  9. Sight Sensitivity. The puppy is placed in the center of the testing area. The tester ties a string around a towel and jerks it across the floor two feet away from the puppy. The purpose is to assess prey drive and the degree of response to moving objects such as a bicycles, children or squirrels.
  10. Stability. An umbrella is opened about five feet from the puppy and gently placed on the ground. The purpose is to assess the fight or flight response and the degree of startle response to a strange object.
  11. Structure. The puppy is gently set and held in a natural stance and evaluated for structure.

According to the same piece referenced above, "The PAT is based on a six point scoring system. Each procedure is scored separately and is interpreted separately. The results are not totaled or averaged. " The behavior of the puppy is assigned a number.

They go on to say that they "...view the scoring system in a circle. High numbers are no better or worse than low numbers. Dogs do not pass or fail the PAT, they indicate behavioral tendencies."

"....a dog scoring mostly ones is extremely aggressive and dominant; mostly twos is very dominant and can be easily provoked to bite; mostly threes is active and slightly dominant; mostly fours is submissive and very willing; mostly fives is extremely submissive and shy; mostly sixes is independent and unaffectionate."

The second test is based on a piece written by Mel Fishback called "Puppy Selection for Work and Training". It involves placing a collar and leash on a puppy for the first time and with leash in hand, just walking away from the puppy to see how they react.

Group 1 puppies crane their necks for a second then immediately rush to your side or head out in front of you. These puppies are the most level headed pups and those that will be real learners and make the best leaders.

Group 2 puppies take a bit longer to figure out the idea of a collar and leash and might resist, make noise, throw themselves on the ground but within a few minutes get the hang of it and come right along. With specialized training, Group 2 puppies can make excellent leaders.

Group 3 puppies will fight the leash and object in a passive way. They will eventually come along but not in a very happy or excited way. These puppies make better team dogs than leaders.

Group 4
puppies actively resist the leash and are somewhat defiant in doing so. According to Mel Fishback, puppies in Group 4 are quitters and will not make good working dogs.

Having listed all of the test items, I must say that I take all of this puppy testing with a grain of salt. It is but one moment in the life of a puppy. While I do think it is good information to have so that individual training can be done according to the results, I don't think that this test dooms a puppy to that specific group or that specific behavior for the remainder of their lives. I believe that with patience, time and attention, all puppies can grow up to be working members of a dog team.

I have had puppies test in Group 4 of the leader test, screaming and throwing themselves on the ground and flailing about, and grow up to have very strong work ethics that also work in lead position. These puppies do require extra attention and specialized training but it is done. Amaruq, an Inuit dog, was a case in point. He did exactly what I described during this leader test. Also, when hooked up for the very first time in the team, he threw himself on the ground screaming as he was dragged a ways. All he needed to know was that he was alright and safe. He needed confidence. Obedience and agility classes did this for him and the last season before he died, he was in double lead with Tuloon and has happy as can be.

Another Group 4 puppy is our sweet little Zala. She actively refused to move forward when the leash was tugged. She has grown up, with proper training, to be one of our leaders. She is most definitely a bit goofy with an independent streak but she holds the line tight and is a trustworthy leader.

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