Searching For the Perfect Puppy? Do Temperament Tests Work?

Thanks Fan Pop for the Photo

First of all, there is no such thing as the perfect puppy!  I hate to burst your bubble, but they just don’t exist.  Rin Tin Tin and Lassie don’t exist especially not in puppy form!  I bet both dogs (or dog actors) were naughty little puppies!

Dogs and puppies (especially puppies) live to please themselves and need to be taught to care about humans and the things that we humans care about.

And, ALL puppies are naughty so if you aren’t ready for some accidents, some of your most precious things chewed up, some screaming, some scratches and some nipping then I would tell you to consider an adult dog!

For more information on that and what breeds I like best with kids and families read my article “Which Are The Best Dogs for Kids; and Which Breeds Aren’t”

First Things First!

Assess your lifestyle!

Getting a dog to “make” you exercise is like getting a size 2 wedding dress if you are a size 14… it just doesn’t make any sense.  Chances are a dog is not enough to force you to do something and if you feel forced you will resent the new pup or dog and not bond appropriately.

Although all puppies need exercise (for help with exercising your puppy click here)  not all puppies need AS MUCH exercise as another.

For example anytime you see a breeder or a posting for a dog saying he/she comes from WORKING lines, it means that puppy is going to have an unbearable amount of exercise!  I guarantee it!!!  It doesn’t matter if it is herding, hunting, Service Dog work, police dogs or whatever type of work they are referring to… “Working” dogs or puppies means EXCESS energy.

Think about it Sloths Don’t Work!!

Thanks to for the photo

Is this not the cutest sloth ever? Thanks to for the photo

If you want a sloth puppy avoid dogs that have been specifically bred to do a job of some sort.  Instead stick to breeds of dogs that are known for being sloth-like in real life.  Bassett hounds are one of my favorite “sloth breeds”!

The important thing is finding a dog that fits your personality NOW not the person you would like to be someday!

If you are active, find a dog breed that loves hiking and biking and running so you can have company!

Never, Ever, EVER

Chose a puppy or a breed based on looks or outward appearance; this has NOTHING to do with a dog’s trainability or temperament.

When I got my first Malinois I hated the look of the breed, they were too small and their heads and faces were too sharp for my desire.  I liked big headed dogs like Rottweilers, but I liked the workability and temperament of the Malinois for what I was looking to do (they don’t usually make good pets btw).   I put aside my dislike of their appearance and chose the breed for how well it would fit my personality and 15 years later I am still an addict!


Never Choose on Looks or Protective Qualities Alone

Never Choose on Looks or Protective Qualities Alone

Beware of the breed or the pup or the dog that you get for “protection” this is not a good sole reason for getting a dog.  They say that a barking Chihuahua will keep a predator at bay more or at least as well as a large barking dog.  Predators avoid any kind of barking or the presence of a dog.

But “protection” or “aggressive” or “territorial” pups or dogs are hard to live with; these are often the breeds or pups/dogs that bite, are extremely dominant and self-absorbed and hard to train and can easily become aggressive both toward people or other animals.  I suggest avoiding these breeds unless you want to spend some time competing in these kinds of sports (which is not for a sloth-like or even just an averagely active person you need to devote HOURS each day to training just to live with one)!

So You’ve Decided What Kind of Dog You Want

Maybe you are at a breeder’s house, or someone who happens to have a litter, or you have decided to save the life of a shelter puppy!  It doesn’t matter where you are, you want to find a puppy that will fit with you and your family still.

First, they have to pass the lifestyle test and then they need to pass the health test (do your research and see what ailments the dogs that you are considering suffer from) if you don’t have the money to deal with some of the major health problems of certain breeds (back problems and surgery for Dachshunds, heart, eye and breathing problems in English Bulldogs; don’t get one!)  It is heartbreaking when you fall in love with a dog but you can’t afford medication or a $3000 surgery to save their lives and absolutely devastating to children!  For more on expenses and making sure your dog is covered in an emergency click on this article.  

Puppy Testing; Does it work?

This is quite the debate in the dog world.test

Many people are passionate for puppy temperament tests and many people think there is no way to tell what a puppy will be as an adult.

There have been many studies done over the years.  Some studies say they work, others prove that they don’t.  Some organizations like Guide or Service Dog providers swear by their puppy test and other would admit that the temperament of a puppy cannot be determined by early temperament tests.

Breeders either swear by them or will tell you that puppies are dynamic and constantly changing; but most breeders have some experience predicting what a puppy will turn out to be, especially if they are working puppies and are already showing promise!

I'm Already in Love with This Guy!!

I’m Already in Love with This Guy!!

I Guess I am Somewhere In-Between

I know that by testing puppies for certain behaviors and certain things I can weed out the ones for a propensity for things that I want or don’t want… however puppy temperament tests are not nearly as reliable as testing an adult dogs temperament or behaviors.

Predicting puppies development and evolution is much more difficult and is a bit of a crap shoot.

I have always wanted social dogs that love people, but over the years I have ended up with 3 puppies that turned into dogs that are very aloof and don’t like people however to be fair I am dealing with breeds that are known for their aloofness and protective qualities so that I can compete in the protection dog world.  But, if it can happen to me, it can certainly happen to you!

Puppy personalities change as they grow and develop socialization is critical and so is kind, fair, and consistent training and the shaping of their behaviors.

I believe more in nature than I do nurture but that is not to say the nurture is not a HUGE factor!

And I would NEVER bring a child to a temperament test (at least not my own) they would want ALL the puppies even if you don’t see a single one you are interested in (this is okay!).

So How Do You Put the Odds in Your Favor?

Simple tests will help you to assess which one will fit in your family best.

I never prefer the most dominant or pushy puppy, nor do I go for the puppy that is reserved or insecure.

People often think that picking the puppy that comes to you first and chews on your pant leg or jumps on your lap is the puppy to take, however I want to assess how that puppy interacts with the other puppies.  If he is a bully and bites or plays too rough with the other pups in the litter I tend to steer clear.

This bullying behavior often bleeds over into his life with you and he is likely to want to push you around more with his teeth than some of the more mellow puppies.

I also never feel sorry for the runt or the fearful pup… okay well I feel sorry for it but not enough to take it.  I want a social and easy to train dog just like everyone else and a puppy that is already showing signs of fear is more work than I am willing to take on.  You may be able to train it and work out this problem, but you may end up with a dog that is socially inept and scared of noises and his environment for the rest of his life.  Don’t make more work for yourself than you already are going to have with a puppy.  Pick a social puppy neither the fearful one nor the one that dominates the bunch.

Other Tricks From a Professional?

I Like this Pup's Confidence!

I Like this Pup’s Confidence!

Take the puppies one at a time to an unfamiliar safe place to see how they react to new and different environments.  Take a pen and rate the puppies on how outgoing they are in this new place.  Make sure you do the test and I often don’t let the breeder come along… (otherwise the pups focus on them) they are more than able to hide and watch!

Now clap and call the puppies.  Rate the puppies on how fast and energetically they come or if they ignore you and would rather sniff their new place.  I personally want a confident puppy that wants to come to me and hang out with people this might be a good predictor of his desire to be with and listen to people!

I also turn the pups over gently and hold them until they are slightly uncomfortable to see what they do in circumstances they can’t control. I pup that growls and tries to bite is not a good pup to bring home to a family and may come with a lifetime of control issues.

Also beware of the pup that is frozen with fear, just because the pup is laying still doesn’t mean he likes it you must read his behavior too!

A mild struggle is okay with me, I expect that but a terrified or aggressive puppy is not one I want to take home with me.

I also like bringing a toy to entice the puppy to play.  I personally like a playful and high drive puppy so playing is a good thing for me, but I want to avoid the puppy that is possessive over his toys or completely insane if I am looking for a good pet.  Also look for signs of fear or discomfort with something new.

I tarp, rocks, slick floor, stairs etc. is also a good test to see how pups deal with uncertain footing.  I am looking for a confident dog with almost no abandon for his body and a willingness to take on anything new!

I don’t pinch, pull or otherwise hurt puppies… I think that is unfair and may change the way they look at new humans for the rest of their lives.

I do however HUG them, a little too long, to see what they do.  I puppy that growls and tries to bite is not one to take home to the family, nor is the one the screams and runs away and doesn’t want to forgive you or come back for more.  Although this may seem weird and uncomfortable to the animal, it is not painful and he should realize that and recover quickly!

My #1 Test?

Be Careful Even of Puppies!

Be Careful Even of Puppies!

I test my puppies for possessiveness.  Give the puppy a pig’s ear, or rawhide or something really good but that will take him a while to chew.  Let him get engrossed in chewing and then slowly approach him apprehensively and quickly dart down with your fingers (be careful even puppies can give you a good bite) touch the item, then put some pressure on the side of his face but act like you are afraid of him.

If you walk up and just take it like you are assertive and own the world, it doesn’t give him a chance to respond nor a chance to realize you are showing signs of nervousness (which allows him time to think about threatening you).

Act like a 4 or 5 year old would, not how an assertive adult would act.

I dip my fingers down several times, I squeal like a child would if the puppy stole her Barbie, and I put some resistance on the pups muzzle.

The best response for a family dogs is a dog that drops the item and wiggles and wags over to you, allowing you to have something he desperately desires.

The worst response is a pup that growls, stiffens, or threatens to bite you.

A similarly negative response is the puppy that clamps onto the item and runs around the room trying to avoid you at all costs or becomes fearful.

If the pup doesn’t chew on the item long enough to be engrossed or doesn’t chew the item at all it is hard to determine what he might do.  A bowl with a little canned dog food might work for puppies that are not willing to chew (again watch your fingers).

Most of the Time

I tell the breeder what I am looking for and let him or her help me pick.  A breeder or human mom or dad knows these pups much better than you ever will in a temperament test that lasts only a few minutes; and he/she wants to make a good match.

So even though I may test the puppy anyway I still want the advice of the person that knows the puppies the best.

Do Temperament Tests Work?

Sometimes it works great, other times it doesn’t; however it does usually help you to narrow down your choices and gives you a better idea of what you are in for when training these pups!

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  1. marilyn Casella Gomes says:

    Thanks for the the information – very good I am looking for an apple head calm chihuahua. Ours recently passed away after 14 wonderful years. He was beautiful, calm – didnt run after toys – just was content to allow us to gaze upon his lovely eyes. Oh well – dont think I can replace our little one. Thanks Marilyn Casella Gomes, Alburtis Pa


  2. Kelly says:

    Hi Chet,

    I recently (4 days ago) lost my 8 year old chihuahua to a heart condition. It was unexpected and I can’t stop crying. However I’m really concerned about my other chihuahua because they grew up together and now she’s alone and looking for her friend.
    When is a good time to bring another dog home and what other small breed would be good? I have an apple head t-cup chi. She’s not the tiny ones, but weighs 5 lbs. she’s 10 years old.
    All she wants to do is sleep, I’m thinking that’s depression.
    Can you give me any thoughts on this?
    Thank you.


    Minette Reply:

    I would recommend finding another Chihuahua for her to play with prior to getting another dog.

    I adopted a puppy about 3 days prior to finding out my dog had cancer and I felt bad each time the puppy irritated my older dog and I felt horribly guilty.

    Make sure they want to play and are in a place that they would enjoy another dog instead of getting one and finding out your older dog is resentful, scared or bullied by it.


    Kelly Reply:

    Do you think another older or younger dog would be better? Mine is depressed, like me. Is it too soon? Not soon enough? I don’t know what to do.


    Minette Reply:

    Try play groups with an older dog, but I know from experience if you have good intentions but your old dog resents it you will feel bad.

    Make sure this is what your dog wants first!

    Kelly Reply:

    There are no play groups here. Can’t take her out cuz it’s below zero. So we’re stuck at home.


  3. Noel Stiles says:

    I am a 75 year old male. I have owned many dogs over the years from Maltese to Great Danes.
    My current dog is a Boston Terrier. He is one of the family like all of my other dogs. I was taught at a young age that a puppy must be fed with me holding on to his or her food bowl. I can take his food away without him or her showing any aggression. Because of this behaviour any young child venturing too close to the dog`s fool bowl will not be at risk of a bite. All of my dogs have sat for their supper and will not touch their food until I tell them to do so. This includes our totally deaf Boston Terrier. We love him to bits.


  4. Hi. I have a 10 month old Rhodesian Ridgeback mix. I have a crate for him (not to big and not to small). He sleeps in it at night. I tried putting a blanket in the crate for him but he would just chew it up! I even put safe toys in it but he would just chew up the blanket. I have spent a lot of money trying to find something that he would not chew up. I just bought a kennel pad. In the middle of the night I heard RIPPP! He ripped it up! He can’t be bored I put in his favorite toys in it. How can I stop him from doing this? It would be mean to make him sleep on the hard floor of the crate. Help!


    Minette Reply:

    He is bored!!!

    Give him more exercise before bed… much, much more and don’t let him sleep for an hour or two before bed.

    Most dogs prefer the crate bottom, but even if he is not one of them, it is a serious risk if he swallows any piece of his blankets and they get stuck. That is thousands of dollars of surgery.

    If my pups can’t have a blanket I don’t worry about it, I just give them exercise so they crash hard!


  5. Paula says:

    Very good perspectives for assessing a future pup. I have 4 JRTs, ages 13 – 17, so I won’t be acquiring a pup until most, if not all, have passed on. For now, I am packing my “New Puppy Kit” with as much info and ideas as I can glean. Will be looking for a performance dog as well as a super good pet…a tall order, so I read, check out lots of dogs and dream about that next awesome dog.



  6. Dear Minette:I´ve written to you before and you have helped me a lot.Now I have a big problem and dont know what to do. I have 4 doberman,2 males and 2 females,and had 2 little french poodles too.They got along well for about 4 years.The doberman have been trained but anyhow they are quite hard to live with sometimes because they´re big and noisy.One of the female dogs is in heat now. She never was agressive before neither toward people or other animals,but yesterday out of nothing,,she and the other female dog killed one of my little french poodles.I couldnt stop them,and I´m so broken hearted.Now I dont know what to do,I just cant give them up and my family is terrified.The vet told me it was and accident but i dont think so.Please can you give me any advise on this? Help! I love them very much,but I dont want to go through anything like this again.Looking forward to your reply.thank u.Patricia


  7. amy says:

    When we went to the breeders home the puppy we picked out was very loving and sweet. Of course I didn’t do any of the tests because I didn’t know anything about them, but the puppy was loving and content until about four days at our house when the nipping started. She will sometimes growl, but mostly when she is picked up and doesn’t want to be. That is really the only time she has become aggressive. In your above post she does show signs of not being a good family dog, but I’m not sure how much that is just because she is a puppy. I’m not sure it matters though, we’ve got her and there is not way to turn back. Do you have some advice for me?


  8. Shan says:

    Some good suggestions. We have have had several dogs from breeders. We watched them all play,yes, but the deciding action for us was they climbed into our laps and picked us. We have never been sorry. Every one has been a loving, friendly, bundle of joy in our lives. I believe God showed us which one was for us. He is never wrong.


  9. Kelley says:

    Fascinating stuff & very helpful: I’m going to be getting a female Wire Fox Terrier puppy.

    I live with my sister & her 2 Pomeraninans (a 6 yr old male & a 4 yr old female, both fixed). The male is VERY energetic & the female more relaxed. My concern is the Wire pup may view the female Pom as prey. Are my concerns well-founded?

    Any advice for future Fox Terrier owners would be of great help.

    Thanks! 🙂


  10. Jessica says:

    My dog used to snarl and run away when i did this the first time but then after a period of time he got used to it and hasn’t done it ever since. Thanks!


  11. harry says:

    Dear all,

    Sorry for asking out of topic question, please let me know what kind of breed of puppy in the top picture ( the puppy with the blue background )?

    Many thanx n waiting for the answer from all of you . . .



  12. Marlene says:

    I wish I had this info two years ago when I got my Soft-coated Wheaton Terrier. She’s a VERY ACTIVE dog, is very loving & affectionate but is a jumper & a barker. It’s difficult to have people come to visit even my grandchildren.

    I have tried various obedience classes but am still have problems with her jumping & barking. Please help


  13. lindsey says:

    i love them so much


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