Shetland sheepdogs

sheltie puppy PUPPY APTITUDE TESTING sheltie puppy


Choosing the right home for each puppy based on drive, energy levels, confidence, dominance, sensitivity etc

Getting a dog or puppy on impulse is rarely a good idea.  Remember that dogs, like cars, were designed for a particular function. You need to decide what you want, a sports car or a minivan, a Fox Terrier or a Newfoundland.  

When the various breeds were originally developed, there was a greater emphasis on the ability to do a job, such as herding, guarding, hunting, drafting, etc., than appearance.  If a particular breed interests you, find out first what the dog was bred to do.  There are so many different breeds to choose from and if there is a secret to getting that “perfect puppy”, it lies in doing your homework. 


The well-trained dog begins with some idea of what role the dog is expected to play in your life and then selecting a dog that is suitable for the job.  Following are some of the reasons for selecting a dog:

Playmate for the kids
A special activity, such as hunting, herding, breeding, showing, or competing in performance events
Status symbol (not wise)
A combination of the above

Some dogs are able to fill all of these expectations, while others have more limited talents. 

Getting a dog for a status symbol usually means one of the guarding or rarer breeds, and often these represent some special challenges.  If you want a rare breed, first find out why it is such a rare breed and if there are any potential drawbacks. 

Conversely, one of the most popular dogs and number 1 in American Kennel Club registrations is the Labrador Retriever.  The reason is simple - it is a good multipurpose dog that can serve as a companion and playmate for the kids, is naturally protective, generally enjoys good health, makes a good guide dog, and with little time and effort can be transformed into a well trained dog.   

You also need to take into account your own life style and circumstances.  For most of us this means a dog that can satisfy our need for companionship, is easily trained and doesn’t require a lot of upkeep.


Everyone has his or her own preference and there is an enormous choice, from the four-pound Yorkshire Terrier to the 100kg Mastiff.  Many dogs come in different sizes, such as Poodles, or Schnauzers.  Other have a smaller version that is similar in appearance, such as Collies and Shelties, or Dobermans and Miniature Pinschers, or German Shepherds and Corgis, or Greyhounds and Whippets, the “poor man’s race horse”.   

Breeds with long hair require more upkeep than those with short hair.  Pretty obvious when you think about it, but often completely overlooked when selecting a puppy or dog.  Some breeds, like Briards, Poodles, Wirehaired Dachshunds and Terriers don’t shed, a most desirable feature.  On the other hand, unless you are willing to learn how to groom your dog, it means regular visits to the grooming parlour, visits that are not cheap. 

Some breeds, such as terriers and some of the herding dogs, bark a lot more than others.  If you live in an apartment such a dog would not be a good choice.

In selecting a dog or puppy be aware of the time factor.  How much exercise does this particular breed require and are you in a position to give it to your dog?  Some breeds require less exercise than others, but many require 2 daily 20-minute walks, at a minimum, and some, such as the Sporting breeds, much more.  Just letting the dog out in a backyard is not sufficient. 

In the selection process you need to remind yourself continuously that your dog is going to be with you anywhere from 8 to 16 years.  And, the older he or she gets, the more important regular exercise becomes. 

How much time do you have available to devote to training that cute little bundle of fur? If you have little or no more that 10 to 15 minutes a day, then you need to select a breed that is easily trained and doesn’t require much exercise.


Some of the tests we use were developed as long ago as the 1930’s for dogs bred to become Guide Dogs.  Then in the 1950’s, studies on puppies were done to determine how quickly they learned.  These studies were actually done to identify children’s learning stages. 

Later on in the early 60’s more tests were developed to determine if pups could be tested for dominance and submission.  These tests determined that it was indeed possible to predict future behavioural traits of adult dogs by testing puppies at 49 days of age. Testing before or after that age, effected the accuracy of the test, depending on the time before or after the 49th day. 

Present day, we have what is now known as the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test, or PAT. 

PAT uses a scoring system from 1-6 and consists of ten tests.  The tests are done consecutively and in the order listed.  Each test is scored separately, and interpreted on its own merits.  The scores are not averaged, and there are no winners or losers.  The entire purpose is to select the right puppy for the right home.

The tests are as follows:

1. Social Attraction - degree of social attraction to people, confidence or dependence.   
2. Following - willingness to follow a person. 
3. Restraint - degree of dominant or submissive tendency, and ease of handling in difficult situations.
4. Social Dominance - degree of acceptance of social dominance by a person. 
5. Elevation - degree of accepting dominance while in a position of no control, such as a veterinarian or groomer. 
6. Retrieving - degree of willingness to do something for you.
(Together with Social Attraction and Following - a key indicator for ease or difficulty in training)
7. Touch Sensitivity - degree of sensitivity to touch and a key indicator to the type of training equipment required.
8. Sound Sensitivity - degree of sensitivity to sound, such as loud noises or thunderstorms. 
9. Sight Sensitivity - degree of response to a moving object, such as chasing bicycles, children or squirrels.
10. Stability - degree of startle response to a strange object.

During the testing make a note of the heart rate of the pup, which is an indication of how it deals with stress, as well as its energy level.  Puppies come with high, medium or low energy levels.  You have to decide for yourself, which suits your life style.  Dogs with high energy levels need a great deal of exercise, and will get into mischief if this energy is not channelled into the right direction.

Finally, look at the overall structure of the puppy.  You see what you get at 49 days age.  If the pup has strong and straight front and back legs, with all four feet pointing in the same direction, it will grow up that way, provided you give it the proper diet and environment in which to grow.  If you notice something out of the ordinary at this age, it will stay with puppy for the rest of its life.  He will not grow out of it.



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