Ok, so you have finally choosen a good breeder, gone to the shelter or rescue organization and found a dog or two you like. What next?
In this entery I am going to briefly describe some attributes to look for in your potentially new best friends personality and temperament, as well as how to test them.
Once you’ve found a dog or two that you are considering after your research, lifestyle assesment, and everything menchioned in the last blog entery, you’ll want to test wether the dog you’ve picked out is dominant, aggressive, submissive, or a mixture of the three. In order to do that, you have to give the pup/dog a temperament test. Below I describe a simple test that will tell you instantly what you are dealing with.
First you will want to get the pup/dog on it’s back. Once accomplished, hold it there for about 5 to 10 seconds and then praise. What happened? How hard was it to get the dog/pup on it’s back? The answers to these questions will tell you in a nutshell what kind of temperament the subject has.
Did the dog/pup roll over really easily and seem tense? If yes, you have a submissive dog/pup.
Did the dog/pup roll over upon approach, seem tense, and then urinate? If yes, this is a highly submissive animal that may be fearful.
Was it really difficult to get the dog to roll over on it’s back? If yes, then this dog/pup is dominant.
Did the dog struggle and nip while on it’s back or while trying to but him in the position? If yes, this is a highly dominant dog/pup and may be aggressive.
Was it fairly easy to get the dog/pup over with some guidence and the dog/pup seemed calm? If yes, then this dog may be even tempered.
Did the dog remain still while on it’s back, seem calm, and get up immediately after the test for a pat? If yes, this dog is even tempered.
Some key points to examine while giving this simple test are this: Rolling over is a sign of submission. Dominant dogs will not roll over easily,and extremely submissive dogs will roll over when approached, or as soon as your hand gets in petting range. The highest form of submission is rolled over and urinating. Basically when dogs do this, they are saying, " Your are the boss, I am not worthy, I won’t fight you, please be happy with me!" Dogs that urinate while rolled over often have confidence issues that may take a lot of time and energy to overcome. On the other hand, dogs that refuse to roll over are basically saying, "I am the boss, not you. You will listen to me, I do what I want when I want, and you can’t do a thing about it!" These dogs can become very possesive of toys, food, and even people. Again, these kinds of dogs take a lot of time and energy to balance.
You’ll probably want to find a dog that is somewhere between extremely dominant and extremely submissive. You want the dog to be submissive with you, and well socialized with other dogs. These kinds of dogs are often hard to come by in shelters, but they do pop up in them now and again, and usually get adopted very quickly.
Dominant dogs can be great companions as well, but like I said, you have to put a lot of time and energy into training. They are often trained easier because their confidence level is so high, however, the behavior problems you have will counter this. Dominant dogs can become aggressive in their extremes, however, most dominant dogs are not aggressive. They are usually described by people as "stubborn." Dominance is displayed by straiting (posturing) the body to seem taller and bigger, and lifting the tail straight up. Dominant-aggression is similar execept the dog will bear teeth, raise hackels, raise and point ears forward, and growl. These dogs will charge in attack mode. "Red-Zone" dogs are dominant-aggressive dogs that simply want to kill. Rabies will cause dogs (among other animals) to become "red-zone." With the exeption of rabid dogs, "red-zone" dogs can be cured with the right methods.
Submissive-fearful dogs can be great companions too, however, they are harder to train because their confidence levels are low. Some even take a really long time to warm up to you enough to begin training. Extremely submissive-fearful dogs can become fear-aggressive easily. Fear is displayed by tucking the tail all the way under and curving/lowering the body. Fear-aggression is similar, execept the dog will bear it’s teeth, raise it’s hackles, flatten it’s ears, and growl. These dogs simply want to flee the situation.
A well balanced dog makes an awsome companion. These dogs are easily trained, eager to learn, willing to please, and very loyal. They are submissive, yet confident. A dog that is well balanced will seem content and display it by leveling the tail to the body, and relaxing body. When they approach you they will lower their heads in submission as well as keep the tail wagging level to their body, or wag it low. These dogs do not raise their tails high, nor tuck them completely under ( unless bred to have such a tail). These dogs seem to smile, and you feel a calmness when around them.
Remember, these are simply guidelines for testing a potentially new family members temperament and personality. They may not apply to all situations. All dogs are different.
Another great way to test the dogs personality is to play with him. See if he will fetch for you. See if he has any training giving some simple obedience commands. Keep in mind that dogs at shelters may not act themselves while you are there playing with them. They have been in kennels the majority of the time they’ve been there, so they’ve got an extreme amount of energy built up.
If push comes to shove, and you just don’t feel comfortable in evaluating temperament on your own, you can always hire a private trainer/phsycologist to do the evaluation for you.