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The PBRC website is a virtual shelter and resource for owners and caretakers of American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and pit bull mixes.

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Temperament Evaluation

The temperament tests below can be used by future owners, shelter employees and volunteers to evaluate adoption prospects. For additional information on evaluating temperament in a potential rescue dog, click here.

You should be able to come up with an evaluation of the dog's temperament from these easy tests. Not all dogs will fit exactly into each category, but you should be able to get a good idea of how adaptable this dog is. A dog may show a lack of interest in a small area or may even be a little shy in another...this does not make it a bad dog, but a dog that bites and growls and snaps is should definitely be avoided.

Do not hesitate to consult a professional if you have any doubts or are unsure of your ability to complete the evaluation.

Tips on Selecting a Dog
On your very first visit to the dog source, it is wise to leave the children at home. The initial visit should be as objective as possible

Don't make a same-day decision. Remember, think about it like buying a car, not like picking up a candy bar in the supermarket check-out aisle.

Don't get a dog as a "surprise" for someone else. Imagine how you would feel if someone else surprised you by choosing a new roommate for you. A dog is a very personal choice.

After you have surveyed the situation, bring entire family to meet a dog to make sure the dog fits in well with everyone. Some places will even allow you to bring along an existing family pet.

Know the general breed traits for which the breed (or breeds) was selected for over the years (hunting, fighting, chasing vermin, herding) -- these instincts will be very strong in a purebred dog.

Ask about the dog's background. Try to determine the dogs' experiences with humans and other dogs.

Always temperament test the dog to know what you are getting. Use the Puppy Temperament Test for dogs under 5 months and the Adult Temperament Test for dogs over 5 months. (See the charts below!)

Tips for Testing a Dog
Always observe a dog for awhile before interacting with it. Compare the behavior of the dog you are looking at to other dogs.

Before doing a temperament test on a grown dog, you should take some precautions. If the dog makes no attempts to be friendly, is agitated, has a stiff stance, or is hyperactive, do not attempt to evaluate the dog. Where the chart says stop, make sure to stop.

Temperament test only one dog at a time. Remove that dog away from other dogs to a quiet and neutral environment.

Make sure the dog has had a chance to do its business before testing and don't test at right before or after meal time for best results.

Remember to be realistic about the type of temperament that will fit into your household. Most people, especially first-time dog owners, want a responsive, adaptable dog.

Temperament Test for Adult Dogs
Before doing a temperament test on a grown dog, you should take some precautions.

Always evaluate in the presence of another adult.

If you have no background information about the dog at all, you must proceed with caution and stop if the dog shows any signs of resistance. If the dog makes no attempts to be friendly, is agitated, has a stiff stance, or is hyper-active, do not attempt to evaluate the dog.

Be sure to end the test with the dog as soon as shows signs of being aggressive in any way.

You will need a collar, a leash, a chair, a few dog toys, a 4-6' long rope, a 3' stick or a broom, a piece of paper, canned dog food and a bowl for these tests.

 

Symbol Types Comments
 ok.gif (287 bytes)
  • Responsive
  • Adaptable
  • Bonds well to humans
  • Good dog for first-time owner
     yield.jpg (3761 bytes)
  • Nervous
  • Shy
  • Fearful
  • Unpredictable behavior
  • Will require experienced owner willing to work with the dog and help him/her come around. May not be ideal for a home with young children.
      stop
  • Aggressive
  • Dominant
  • Unpredictable
  • Usually not good dogs around children. Not good adoption prospects or will need help from professional animal behaviorist.
     oneway.jpg (2737 bytes)
  • Independent
  • Stubborn
  • Not very responsive to training. May be difficult for first time owners.

     

    '
    ok.gif (287 bytes)
    Responsive
    yield.jpg (3761 bytes)
    Shy/Nervous
    stop
    Aggressive
    oneway.jpg (2737 bytes)
    Independent
    Put the dog on a leash.  Test the dog's reaction to the outside: Take the dog outside. Try to find squirrels, birds, cats, and other people to expose it to.  Call the dog over to look at something. Does the dog walk near you but show a curious interest in these other things? Does the dog cower and run the other way?

    Does the dog bark furiously and lunge at everything it sees?
    END TEST

    Does the dog act very uninterested in  the things you show it but very interested in everything else it finds? 
    Come inside, but keep the dog on a leash.  Sit in a chair and neutrally observe the dog. Does the dog lick or nudge your hand? Does it look at you as if to ask for attention?  Does it wag its tail?  Does the dog cower and avoid and interaction?

    Does the dog mouth you?  Does it jump up on you roughly?
    END TEST

    Does the dog strain at the end of the leash toward some distant smell or noise?
    Talk in a high-pitched, squeaky voice to the dog for 30 seconds. Stop and suddenly go neutral. Does the dog respond to your change in behavior? Does the dog avoid interacting with you?

    Does the dog jump up, mount, or mouth you?
    END TEST

    Does the dog not seem affected by your change in behavior?
    Test the dog's reaction to toys: Use toys to get the dog excited and playing for 30 seconds.  Stop and suddenly drop the toy.  Does the dog play with you, but also respond to your change in behavior? Does the dog avoid interacting with you?

    Does the dog jump up, mount, or mouth you?    Does the dog take the toy and try to run off with it?
    END TEST

    Is the dog unable to change in response to your change in behavior?
    Test the dog's prey drive: With the dog on a leash, have another person run by several times, dragging a toy behind and making a "hissing noise".  Is the dog more focused on the runner than the toy?  Does the dog wag its tail? Does the dog act afraid of the runner and the noise?

    Does the dog whine and strain to go after the runner?  Does it bark uncontrollably?
    END TEST

    Does the dog ignore the runner and the mouse?
    Toss a crumpled piece of paper on the ground.   While the dog is sniffing it, yell "Hey!  Give me that!"  Use a long stick or broom-handle to take the piece of paper away.  Does the dog stop immediately and come back to you as if to "apologize"? Does the dog cower and try to run away?

    Does the dog grab the paper and try to run off with it?
    END TEST

    Does the dog not react at all to your yelling?
    Pet the dog in a stroking motion from head to toe several times.  Observe the dog's reaction closely. Is the dog accepting and willing to be petted and examined? Does the dog sink down under your hand?

    Does the dog remain very stiff?  Is the dog sensitive about any parts?   Does the dog utter a growl?
    END TEST

    Is the dog completely uninterested in your petting?
    Test the dog's responsiveness to food: Give the dog food in a bowl and fill it with canned dog food. Before the dog finishes, use a long stick or broom-handle to pull the bowl away. Does the dog wag its tail and look expectantly at you? Is the dog too scared to eat?

    Does the dog lift its lips, bite at the stick, bark, growl, or jump up on you to get the food back?
    END TEST

    Does the dog act very uninterested in food at all?