Puppy Central’s Puppy Aptitude Test

 

Easy 12 Step Puppy Aptitude Test

When you spot a cute puppy, it can be so hard to not act on impulse and make the immediate choice to bring that puppy home to be part of the family. However, deciding to bring home a puppy based sheerly on how it looks would be like buying a new vehicle based on looks alone without knowing anything about the engine. While people these days often choose a dog because they like how it looks, most don’t consider dogs were all bred for specific purposes and traits.

What we know as the beloved canine companion now is an animal that most often had a job to do in history. Something like a bully breed may have been carefully selection-bred to achieve an excellent property guardian. A small terrier probably has historical breed roots as a hunting dog. And the list could go on and on. These traits and characteristics are always something to consider when getting a new puppy because they can affect everything about how the dog behaves, how obedient it is, and how much it wants to be your companion.

Things to Consider When Choosing a New Puppy

It is always best to have an idea of what it is you desire from a canine before you choose a certain puppy or breed. The families that end up best-suited with the dog they choose are those that picked that canine based on a combination of what they wanted and what the dog could provide. You may want a dog because you want a companion, a playmate that will be protective over your children, a guardian for your property or livestock, or even to be a hunting mate.

Certain dog breeds can fulfill many roles because of their even temperaments and trainability. However, some breeds are more fitting than others to fulfill roles. All of this has to be taken into consideration when you pick out a puppy. A few other things that must be considered include:

  • Exercise needs – Some dog breeds need far more exercise, which means they may need room to roam, frequent trips to a pet park, or otherwise.

  • Grooming needs – Naturally, some dogs are considered low-maintenance when it comes to grooming and some dogs require routine groomer visits for hair and nail trims, baths, and more.

  • Nutrition needs – Nutrition needs can vary from one breed to the next. Some dogs need a diet naturally higher in protein, for example, to thwart the risks of certain diseases.

  • Health concerns and breed-related diseases – All dog breeds have certain health concerns or proneness to certain ailments and diseases. Get familiar with these upfront to avoid unexpected problems.

  • Costs associated with care, including vet care, food, supplies, etc. – A dog can be a major financial commitment, and some dogs require more investment than others.

  • Standard breed temperament and personality traits – Breed temperament and personality traits should be well understood before making a commitment, and these can vary greatly from one breed to the next.

  • Time requirements for training or care – Some dogs need more hands-on attention, and some dogs are going to take up more of your time for care, grooming, etcetera.

While all of these things have to be examined, the puppy aptitude test is another excellent resource to help you make sure you end up with a dog that is right for your home, family, and life.

Why Puppy Aptitude Tests Are Important

Throughout history, puppy aptitude tests have been used to help predict the future behavior and temperament of dogs. Relied on by breeders, veterinarians, and even everyday people, these tests utilize specific actions and scaled grading systems to determine various traits of the puppy. At a young age, puppies have very little learned behavior, which means the reactions portrayed during testing or more genetic-based. Genetic-based traits can be more prevalent over the course of a dog’s life than learned behaviors, and these traits can affect everything from trainability to the ability to be a good companion canine.

Bringing a puppy home to be a member of your family is a huge decision. Dogs can have life spans that range anywhere from 8 to 15 years or more, so you are making a long-term decision about an animal that will be part of your everyday life. The puppy aptitude test is a sort-of introductory examination to help you make sure you are going to have a dog that you are pleased with down the road. Too many dogs end up in shelters or even euthanized because owners make hasty decisions about bringing home a puppy that has not been properly tested. As many as 3.3 million dogs enter shelters annually and more than 600,000 are euthanized.

Puppy Central’s Puppy Aptitude Test Explained

Puppy Central’s Puppy Aptitude Test was developed using longstanding knowledge of puppy behavior, the historical methodology for testing, and several other factors. Our test is carefully designed to give individuals seeking a dog a simple way to determine if a certain puppy is a proper decision.

Our 12-part test involves assessing a number of traits and attributes of the dog. Some of the things tested in the process include:

  • How the puppy reacts to certain types of stimuli

  • How the puppy interacts with humans

  • How dominant or submissive the puppy is

  • How self-confident the puppy is

  • How perceptive to training a puppy is

Once the test is complete and scores are calculated, prospective puppy owners have a good look at what type of dog the puppy may grow to be.

Tips to Perform the Puppy Central’s Puppy Aptitude Test Successfully

In order to get accurate results from our puppy aptitude test, you must follow a few rules. First and foremost, the puppy should be around seven weeks old to see a more accurate score. Before seven weeks of age, a puppy’s neurological system is not fully developed, so it can be hard to accurately judge their reactions as they may vary. Beyond seven-weeks old, puppies have a fully mature brain just like an adult dog. Ideally, the test should be done somewhere in the seventh week of life, but anywhere between 7 and 12 weeks of age is fine.

Keep in mind that testing beyond 12 weeks of age is also not ideal because most puppies have collected a series of learned behaviors by this point. In other words, the puppy aptitude test is most telling by examining natural, almost involuntary behaviors and reactions, and not those the dog has already learned by interacting with humans.

A few other tips to remember during Puppy Central’s Aptitude Test include:

  • Test in an area that is unfamiliar to the puppy. If testing at the breeder’s location, ask the breeder if there is a room or spot where the puppy has not been. You don’t need a large space for the test. Something as small as a 10-foot by 10-foot area will suffice.

  • Separate the puppy from other dogs and people. If you need someone to record scores while you test, make sure that person is sitting at a distance from the puppy or even in a spot out of sight. The scorer should be completely unintrusive throughout the test, and they should be in a position in which they won’t have to move.

  • All puppies should be tested individually. When puppies are tested with another puppy around, it can drastically affect their behavior and scores.

  • It is best if the individual performing the test is completely unfamiliar to the puppy. If you’ve had prior interaction with the puppy, it can be better to have someone else present the puppy doesn’t know to perform the test while you keep scores.

  • Perform the aptitude test when the puppy is alert, lively, and before they are fed. A puppy that’s tired and has a full belly may not be all that responsive.

  • A test should never be performed when a puppy is not feeling well. For example, some puppies experience general malaise after vaccinations, even up to a day or two after, so you don’t want to test immediately afterward.

  • The first response is the only one that truly counts. Avoid the desire to redo a step in the test to elicit a different response. Each time part of the test is done, the puppy is learning, and this can change their initial behaviors and reactions.

  • The breeder should not be the scorer. You may have full trust in a breeder, but a breeder trying to sell you a pup is not an unbiased person that should be doing the scoring. It is best to bring along a third-party that has no interest in selling a puppy to you just to ensure you see proper scoring.

Things to Be Attentive to During the Test

During the puppy aptitude test, you should be watching the puppy to collect the proper reaction scores. However, there are also a few other things that you want to pay attention to and take a mental note of these things. Dogs tend to have highly telling stances that can be indicative of what they are feeling. For example, a lowered tail can be a sign of aggression, and a tucked tail can be a sign of fear. Other things to watch include:

  • Eye contact

  • Hair standing on the back

  • Ear positioning

  • Overall stance

  • Head positioning

Puppy Central's Puppy Aptitude Test

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Puppy Central’s Puppy Aptitude Test

Puppy Central’s puppy aptitude test is designed to be as simple and straightforward as possible. You do not have to be an experienced dog trainer or breeder to perform the test and achieve an accurate result. Simply record a score (1 through 7) to coincide with the puppy’s reaction while administering a certain test. If you do not see the exact reaction listed, pick the reaction closest to what the puppy portrayed. All scores will be tallied at the end of the test to give you a reliable look at what you can expect the puppy’s behavior to be as it gets older.

1. Social Interaction Test

For this initial test, you should be waiting in the test room, and the breeder or puppy owner should bring the puppy into the room, sit them down, and then leave the room. It is a good idea to kneel down, sit, or otherwise make yourself small and not look like you’re leaning toward the dog. Do whatever you would normally do to coax the puppy to you. Call the pup, gently clap your hand on your leg, or make encouraging noises. Avoid making drastic movements and keep your hands close to your body as you coax the dog toward you.

Assigned Score

Puppy’s Reaction

1

Charged at you, jumped on you, held tail high and stiff, growled, bit or nipped at you

2

Charged at you, held tail up, pawed at you, sniffed feet, or licked at your hands

3

Came to you with tail up and wagging and sniffed you

4

Came to you easily, tail up or wagging, sniffed or licked you, stayed near you

5

Came hesitantly, kept tail down, didn’t stay near you

6

Refused to come to you at all but looked at you

7

Turned away, whined, pawed at door to get away

2. Human Dominance Test

The human dominance test is examining how the puppy reacts when you obviously are in control of the situation. While there are a few ways you can do this, a simple firm, continuous stroking from head to tail can work. Sit or crouch beside the puppy as you stroke, or crouch with the puppy propped on your bent leg with their hind legs still on the ground. Keep a friendly personality going by talking to the puppy in the process. Rate the reaction using the scorecard below.

Assigned Score

Puppy’s Reaction

1

Was jumpy, tried to bite you, or growled

2

Pawed at you and struggled to get away

3

Tried to snuggle closer to you or climb in your lap to lick you

4

Wiggled tail, rolled over on the back to expose belly, squirmed excitedly

5

Sat still for petting, but cowered on the ground in fear

6

Whined while petting and left soon after you started

7

Ran away, whimpering or growling, cowered as far as possible from where you were

3. Following Response Test

Puppies can be natural followers when a human is around or they can more be apprehensive. This simple test involves you initially being near the puppy, and then standing up and walking away in the opposite direction. Make sure the puppy physically sees that you are walking away, and it is fine to talk to the puppy and gently coax it to come to follow you. During this test, avoid turning around and leaning toward the puppy; stay standing and slowly walk away.

Assigned Score

Puppy’s Reaction

1

Ran after you immediately, got under your feet, nipped at your feet, growled or barked

2

Followed you right away, got under your feet

3

Followed you, or walked beside you

4

Followed you, wagging their tail or holding it high

5

Followed you, but kept tail down and avoided lifting their head

6

Followed you, but was hesitant to do so and required a lot of coaxing, held the tail down

7

Turned to run the opposite direction of you

4. Gentle Restraint Test

With the puppy on the floor and you crouching beside or in front of it, roll the dog gently onto its back. Use your hand to put just a slight amount of pressure against the puppy’s upper body with your palm. Your aim here is to hold firmly so the dog feels you are in control, but not so firm that the puppy can’t actually get away. You want to try to hold the puppy for about 20 or 30 seconds and monitor their response.

Assigned Score

Puppy’s Reaction

1

Immediately struggled to get away, growled at you, bit you

2

Struggled after a few seconds, growled

3

Struggled after about 10 seconds, but did not growl and maintained eye contact

4

Settled at first, then struggled after about 20 seconds, but did not growl and wagged their tail

5

Didn’t struggle at all and maintained eye contact

6

Didn’t struggle at all but looked away

7

Didn’t struggle at all, but whimpered in fear

5. Human Trust Test

This portion of the test is examining how readily a puppy can find trust in you. Slip both hands under the puppy’s chest and lower stomach using both hands, lift the puppy from the ground below, and then cradle it carefully in your hands about 24 inches off the ground for 20 to 30 seconds. Remember, hold the puppy firmly as you do this and watch for their reactions.

Assigned Score

Puppy’s Reaction

1

Flailed arms and legs, tried to get away, bit at your fingers, growled

2

Struggled to get down to the floor almost immediately; whined but did not bite or growl

3

Struggled and whined after a few seconds, but then settled down

4

Didn’t struggle at all; seemed comfortable the entire time

5

Didn’t struggle at all but whined a bit

6

Didn’t struggle at all and held their body rigidly

7

Not struggle, but froze stiff with arms and legs outstretched and seemed terribly alarmed

6. Sensitivity to Human Touch Test

Touch sensitivity tests on puppies gauge how quickly a dog will react to your touch, even if it’s a bit unfamiliar or slightly uncomfortable. Dogs have slight webbing between their digits. Find this skin between the puppies digits and use two fingers to apply gentle pressure, gradually increase the pressure for about 10 seconds or until the pup pulls their paw away from your hand.

Assigned Score

Puppy’s Reaction

1

Immediately growled, tried to bite you, and continued pursuit of hand even after you have pulled away

2

Reacted after a second or two, pulled paw away, growled, stepped away

3

Reacted after 2 to 3 seconds, pulled paw away, stayed beside you

4

Did not react until somewhere between 4 and 5 seconds, pulled paw away, licked hand

5

Reacted after 4 or 5 seconds, pulled away paw, eyed you suspiciously and walked away

6

Reacted after just a few seconds, whined, tucked tail

7

Immediately yanks paw away, whimpers, and tries to get away

7. Sensitivity to Sharp, Unexpected Sound Test

For this test, you are going to make a sharp and unexpected sound and watch for the dog’s reaction. The sound can come from a clip on your phone if you have a loud enough speaker, but it may be better to have an assistant with a metal spoon and pan or something similar near the room or testing area to make a noise.

Assigned Score

Puppy’s Reaction

1

Immediately barked or growled and started charging in the direction of the sound

2

Obviously heard the sound and approached the direction it came from; tail up but cautious

3

Heard the sound, paused, and then approached the location of sound with tail up

4

Heard the sound, paused, looked for your reaction, approached sound with tail wagging

5

Looked for your reaction but did not approach the sound, tail still or tucked, may have hidden behind you

6

Immediately hid behind you

7

Yapped in fear and did not respond further

8. Sensitivity to Unexpected Moving Objects Test

Preferably, this portion of the test should be staged before the puppy enters the room. You will need a small string tied to the edge of a towel, the leg of a stuffed animal, or some other object that can lie immobile and non-threatening at a corner of the room. You are looking for the puppy’s reaction to something happening within the space you are in unexpectedly. So, at some point when the puppy is not expecting it and you’re watching for a reaction, quickly and suddenly yank the string so the object it is tied to jumps across the floor. Only move the object one time, and then take note of the pup’s reaction.

Assigned Score

Puppy’s Reaction

1

Immediately attacked or pounced on the moving object, growling, barking, and biting

2

Ran to the object, growling, but did not pounce or bite the object

3

Growled or barked, seemed slightly taken aback, went to investigate or came to you

4

Jumped, but then went to investigate with tail up and wagging; may have looked for your reaction

5

Jumped and cautiously investigated with tail down

6

Jumped back, whined, did not investigate; may have hidden behind you

7

Ran yapping to the corner of the room with tail tucked; did not investigate

9. Stability When Exposed to New, Potentially Scary Objects Test

Umbrellas work really well for this portion of Puppy Central’s puppy aptitude test because they can be opened up to be rather large and can take up a lot of space. However, if no umbrella is available, you can try something like a large balloon, a box fan, or even an expandable training tube. Distract the dog while someone else places the object in the room with you and then leaves. Monitor the pup’s reaction to the new, potentially scary object.

Assigned Score

Puppy’s Reaction

1

Puppy charged the object, growling, barking, hair maybe standing up

2

Growled and barked at the object, approached it, cautious but still growling and barking

3

Eyed the object suspiciously, barked, growled, or grumbled; looked for your reaction

4

Eyed the object, tail wagging, came to you or went directly to the object for a sniff

5

Whined, tail down; did not approach object but looked at you

6

Turned away from the object, tucked tail, refused eye contact with you or hid behind you

7

Yapped, whined, and struggled to get out of the room

10. Retrieval Test

Many dog breeds have this ingrained desire to retrieve items that are thrown or tossed out of reach. For hunters and farmers a long time ago, this was a useful trait for a dog to have, and even small pups can portray retrieval capabilities. To perform the retrieval test on a puppy, you will need something small enough that they can easily carry the item in their mouth. A squishy dog toy works well. Show the toy to the puppy, allow the puppy to smell and chew for a moment, and then take the item, toss it, and encourage the dog to retrieve the item.

Assigned Score

Puppy’s Reaction

1

Darted after the tossed object, grabbed it, and ran in completely opposite direction; will not give the item back

2

Chased the object, picked it up, stayed with the object; does not return to you

3

Chased the object, picked it up, brought to you but didn’t give it back

4

Chased object, picked it up, and brought it back to you; let go easily

5

Chased object, sniffed it, returned to you

6

Started to toward the object, but stopped on the way and gave up

7

Barely acknowledged the object; does not retrieve and stayed in the same place

11. Food Aggression Test

Testing for food aggression is optional but easy enough to include in the puppy aptitude test. With the breeder’s permission, provide a small treat or a handful of dog kibble to the puppy. Leave the food on the floor before the puppy, back away, and allow them to retrieve it. Once the pup starts chewing or eating, get closer and reach toward the treat or food with your hand. Record the puppy’s first reaction to this.

Assigned Score

Puppy’s Reaction

1

Immediately growled and tried to bite you; may continue to go after your had after pulling away

2

Growled a bit but did not try to bite you; continued eating

3

Did not growl, kept eating, but eyed you suspiciously

4

Did not growl, snap at your hands, bite, or fuss; continued eating with tail up or wagging and not watching you

5

Continued eating but dropped their tail or stopped tail wagging

6

Stopped eating but stayed near the food source

7

Immediately backed away from food or dropped treat and retreated or turned away from the food source

12. Responsivity to Human Affection Test

It’s no secret that dogs can be super affectionate, but some dogs are more affectionate than others. Likewise, puppies will respond in different ways to your affection and doting attention. The response can be a measure of how perceptive the dog will be to being your friend. Sit on the floor and pull the puppy into your lap or hold it in your arms. Rub the puppy, scratch his belly, rub its ears, talk to it, snuggle close. Remember, most dogs don’t like to be held tightly, so that shouldn’t be part of your affection, but a little gentle snuggling is okay.

Assigned Score

Puppy’s Reaction

1

Squirmed to get away from you right away, nipped at your face and hands, growled or barked

2

Wriggled away, growled and barked

3

Squirmed slightly but then settled down to enjoy the attention

4

Didn’t struggle at all; seemed comfortable and receptive the entire time, licked your face and hands

5

Didn’t struggle to get away at all but whined a bit and seemed unsure about the attention

6

Didn’t struggle, stayed rigid, whined, head down, tail tucked

7

No struggle, no response, quiet, shaking

Examining the Aptitude Scores and What They Mean

Once the puppy has completed each step in the aptitude test, add the scores together from each test together to get a final score. Here is a look at how the scores break down.

Puppy Scored Between 12 and 30

Puppies that get scores on the lowest end of the scale between 12 and 30 are generally canines that require a bit of caution before taking one home. Most often, these puppies have a strong desire to be the dominant leader of the pack, and they will maintain that personality even as a member of a human family. While aggressive tendencies can be common and the most pressing concern, puppies within this end of the scale can also be extremely stubborn and difficult to train. These dogs do not look to humans for direction and prefer to do their own thing, on their own terms. Additionally, 12-to-30 scorers can be high-energy dogs.

All puppies within this score bracket are not “bad apples” that don’t deserve a home. The puppies just need an owner that is qualified to properly handle and train the dog, can afford obedience training, and does not have small children or other pets in the house. Some people look for dogs with dominant traits because they can be good watchdogs. However, portraying dominance and protective behavior are two completely different traits. Yes, a dominant dog is going to have a watchful eye in its environment, but the dog with the lowest scores in this test can be so territorial that you are perceived as a threat in their environment as well.

Puppy Scored Between 31 and 68

Between 31 and 68 is generally the sweet spot you are looking for as a prospective dog owner. A puppy within this range is going to be more friendly and eager to please you, which means the puppy will rank high on the trainability and obedience scales. Dogs in this range are usually intelligent, attentive to their owner, and affectionate enough that they will be open to giving and receiving love.

The best puppies tend to have a combination of traits, but they are not too extreme in either dominance or submissiveness. Scores within this range usually mean the dog will grow to have a more even temperament than some other canines. Temperament is ever-important because it typically predicts what kind of personality you can expect for the long-term. An even-temperament dog adapts well to diverse environments, bonds well with human owners and house members, and is generally content.

Puppies in this range are excellent options if you have children because they tend to be less sensitive to things that would bother other puppies like loud noises or slight mishandling. Likewise, these puppies tend to do fine in multi-pet households. Puppies scoring here can also be absolute star students in obedience classes, pick up housetraining quickly, and are bound to become a watchful, doting companion.

Puppy Scored Between 69 and 84

Puppies that get a cumulative score between 69 and 84 can be more fearful and apprehensive overall. These dogs tend to be the least dominant in their litter, may have been picked on by other puppies, and may be afraid of human interaction. Dogs that fall within this range can have a harder time developing a sense of trust with a human owner, which can make them harder than many to train and not a good pick for a first-time dog owner.

While picking a puppy from this score range is not completely bad, it is best to only pick a puppy in this range if you have a lot of patience to work on training and fostering the ever-important sense of trust. Likewise, these dogs work best for an owner that can be present more often because they can be prone to anxiety and scared of more things than most canines. As an adage, a puppy within this range can be a bad choice if you have small children because just a bit of mishandling can heighten their fear of human interaction.