I love doing temperament test on puppies. I also love hearing about temperament tests that have been done and the differences in how they are done and the results. Most tests are pretty much the same. Tests are done in an area where the puppies have never been before; and with someone who they have never met previously. It is amazing how quickly puppies acclimate so it must be a new place and person to get the best results.
I have seen a lot of puppies in all of my years. I have tested many and watched even more. I am always watching, closely. I think temperament testing is extremely important; but, even if a breeder, rescuer or foster does not want to temperament test, they should know their puppies. Knowing an individual puppy helps to ensure that they will go to the best suited home for them and their new family. I believe the best scenario is to know your puppies well and do temperament testing. Knowing your puppies is going to mean something entirely different to each individual breeder or person who raises a litter. The distinction will factor in with what the puppies have been subjected to. Even then, each puppy raiser has their own level of assessing results.
Day to day, small, boring and mundane activity needs to be watched as far as action/reaction readings. There is much that can be learned from watching the reaction of puppies. How do puppies act around new people, new surfaces, noises, dogs?
When I test, I like to have a bit of background. What have the puppies been up to before I came into the picture? This will help me to understand their responses. If a puppy has had a solid socialization background vs. been in a litter box their whole life, will factor largely in the test scores.
Puppies need to be on their own to get a true reading. Not just for temperament testing but simply knowing your puppies. Puppies act very differently when they have their backup pose with them. Pull them out on their own and everything changes; this is very important to understand.
What am I personally watching for when I test a litter of puppies? I am looking at sociability with dogs as well as humans and confidence.
Does a puppy want to be with people? This interaction is fairly easy to see; although I do see puppies being read incorrectly all the time. A puppy must seek out human contact and respond accordingly with body language. Puppies who have not had a great deal of human contact will display this when tested. But not all dogs desire human contact even if they have been surrounded by humans.
Some puppies may follow but aren't interested in an actual interaction. Other puppies may get under foot while following and be a biting, humping fool when you get down on the ground with them. There are so many different combination that can unfold when tested and watched extensively. But the dropped ear, wiggly butt of a puppy who desires human contact is nice to see.
As far as confidence, that is a much more difficult read; and one aspect that is misread often. Personally I like to see apprehension to new things. Depending on the startle factor of the new experience, you should allow for different levels of apprehension and see many degrees of alarm. Here is where the life experience will factor in. Knowing if the puppies are socialized or not makes a big difference in reading.
Recovery time is extremely important. When a puppy startles at new sounds and sights, it is the moment after that needs to be watched carefully. The degree of startle needs to be surveyed but the recovery time is even more important. Breaking the recovery down even further, each step and time lapse should be taken into account. But I want to see startle; this allows us to see that a puppy is aware of his/her surroundings. The different levels of startle and recovery are vast.
As far as the actual testing, there are many different tests within the test itself. I believe strongly in reading between lines as well as get initial scores and recovery time scores. There is so much more about each puppy then a number on a test can tell
The whole nature vs. nurture thing that many breeders throw out there is moot to me. Both factor extensively in the development of a puppy into adulthood. I have seen litters who are very close as far as scores in a temperament test; but, they are all very much individuals in the personality department.
I believe we owe it to our dog to see these individual traits and acknowledge them. Yes there are aspects that can be changed once a puppy goes to live in a new home. Much will be learned and unlearned. There will be issues that are easy to change and some things that are very much there to stay. Knowing each puppy as the individual that they are will give them the best chance to thrive in their life to come.
Canine temperament, personality and behavior is fascinating and diverse. It is often given little notice, under valued and pushed aside in lieu of color, pattern or number in a waiting line.
A litter of puppies is more than a box of puppies. A litter holds within it, a plethora of temperament traits and personal idiosyncrasies. Seeing the uniqueness of each takes time, knowledge and desire.