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Temperament Testing

Important Things To Know


  • Every adult dog has their own Personality. Personality is different than Temperament. 

  • Temperament Tests can help inform us of a puppy's gut response to different situations and stimuli from a young age, but it is not a crystal ball for their adult personality. 

  • Personalities are formed from nature AND nurture. 

  • Temperament Testing gives us an idea of the "nature" part of the equation, while the puppies are in a young formative period of growth and development. 

  • Temperament Evaluations are useful for Breeders, Trainers, and Puppy Parents when used as a guide. It helps answer assessment questions like: Where is this puppy on the scope of development, and what are the areas that need more development or exposure right now?  At school, my human children are constantly being tested so the teachers can assess where each student needs help. Just because an assessment score in counting in kindergarten is low does not mean the child will never be good at math. It merely tells us where to focus our efforts with that child. Temperament Testing for puppies is much the same.  

Temperament Evaluation Example

Pups are put through a series of exercises, and based on responses are given a score of 

1 (lowest) through 5 (highest). At Poppins Puppies, we evaluate weekly, beginning at 4 weeks.  This is a useful tool for us as the caregiver, to know what each puppy needs. 

Recovery from Startle Response                                                     

(A loud sound, an umbrella opening in their face. 5 is a quick recovery, where the puppy almost immediately returns to its normal state, and 1 is a slow recovery, where the puppy is scared and stays scared for awhile.)

Approach of Strangers                                                                      

(5 would be running straight to a stranger without abandon, 3 is observing without fear, then calmly approaching, 1 is huddling in a corner, no eye contact, tail tucked and trembling)

Fear of New Stimuli/Adaptability 

(A new sound, a new toy, a ride in the car. 5 is high fear, 1 is very low fear)


Energy Level

(5 is high energy, 1 is low. All puppies swing between "the zoomies" and being passed out asleep, so this score is in relation to other puppies of the same breed and age)


(Score of 1 means distracted easily, 5 means observant of what is being asked of him. This only counts for first 60 seconds - as all young puppies will lose ability to focus quickly)

Physical Response to Human Touch

(Score of 5 means they melt into your hands. They lean their weight into your body, and their muscle tone relaxes under your hand. They relax and submit when flipped upside down with tummy up. 1 means they resist, lean their neck away from human, growl, cry, or tremble to get away)

  • It's important to note that there are developmental stages which can influence scores.  For example, most puppies go through a "fear period" at about 4 weeks and then again at 9 weeks.  However, some puppies may begin this period early or late, which would cause them to score differently than they would a few days later. Temperament Testing Results are thought to be most accurate when done above 7 weeks of age, but we at Poppins Puppies are constantly assessing temperaments so we know what each puppy needs during their time with us. 

  • In a study of temperament testing, one set of new owners (GROUP A) were given scores for their new puppy, along with training tips for these specific temperament traits.

  • Another set of new owners (GROUP B) were given new puppies, without temperament scores.

  • After a year, the 1 year old dogs were again taken through Temperament Testing. 

  • Those puppies from GROUP A who were initially scoring high on negative traits like timidity or fear, were no longer showing these traits. Puppies from GROUP B were still scoring similarly to their initial scores. 

  • In other words, Temperament Testing is best used as a guide for humans. Temperament Testing is a tool we can use as puppy parents.  They are babies, and are constantly learning and growing. We are given the great responsibility of raising a little life, and providing ways for them to learn to function best in this human/canine world for their own happiness. Temperament Testing gives us information about where to focus our efforts.  

  • Some breeds have more extremes in temperaments.  Roughly 90% of our Cavapoos at Poppins Puppies test similarly, with almost identical scores.  This may be due to the temperaments of the parents we choose to breed (nature), and is probably also in large part due to the experiences we provide them with during their first formative weeks (nurture). 

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