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A lot of people spend more time picking out a new pair of shoes or making a shopping list than they do selecting a puppy – a living, breathing, very unique being who will be a special member of the family for many years to come. Uncle Matty likes to remind people, “Picking out your dog is one of the few times you can actually select your own relative!”

If you’ve never had a dog before, and even if you have, you need to do your homework. Read books about breeds and behaviors, and watch dog videos. Visit breeders and dog owners to expand your knowledge. Attend multi-breed dog shows. Consider your lifestyle. Are you an active family or more sedate and passive? When you have decided on the size and breed or mixed breed that’s right for you, there is still work to be done.

All dogs are unique. They have different personalities and attitudes, as many dog owners learn when their second dog is the same breed as the first, yet the personalities are entirely different. Puppies within the same litter have very distinctive and uniquely different personalities.

You Need to Temperament-Test Your puppy

Hopefully, you will do this before picking out the new canine member of the family. But if you already have your puppy, it is also important to conduct these easy, yet revealing personality tests that can help you understand and better communicate with your dog. Knowing who your puppy is will tell you a lot about who he will become. It also provides important insight into communication during training. For example, yelling commands or anything to a shy dog is not going to help the shyness. A more quiet approach will generate better results without making him afraid of both you and your voice.

Six Basic Personality Types

Your dog’s ability to learn is affected by his personality and your choice of solutions to problems as well as the way you use your voice should be based on temperament or personality. For the following, there are six basic personality types. Remember, dogs are unique and complex, so they may often have reactions that match more than one personality.
  (1) Responsive – this dog wants to be a people-pleaser. He is eager to learn and is a quick study. Handle him in a normal manner and be very generous with your praise. Leash, voice and  corrections can be vigorous but don’t overdo it – no more than necessary. This is still a puppy.
  (2) High Energy – can be challenging because this dog is easily distracted and very excitable. You need to muster up extra patience while being firm and determined when you handle him. Subdue the praise so you won’t over-excite this little one and have to start all over again.
  (3) Strong-Willed – or should we say "this dog has a mind of his own" and can be resistant to teaching? You must exercise patience and be persistent in the process. Eventually he will “get it.” In the meantime, be firm and somewhat assertive and loud with your voice. Most important - lavish on the praise when this doggy does what you want him to do.
  (4) Shy and Insecure – this timid little one needs  sensitivity and kind patience. He may be timid or fear-ridden; afraid of noises and sudden movements. Strange people, strange places and new situations are troublesome. Use a soft tone of voice and use a leash but no leash corrections or shake cans. Love, affection and quiet enthusasm is important.
  (5) Calm and Easy Going – lives life at a slower pace than most dogs and could be called lethargic or sedate. Commands should be firm but loving and lavish praise is essential. Patience and tolerance will get the job done better than harsh tones of voice and harsh corrections. No shake cans. Leash corrections in a gentle manner only as a last resort.
  (6) Aggressive – this unwanted behavior is primarily “Dominant” or “Fear” based. A dominant aggressive dog is frighteningly dangerous and can be menacing and controlling as they guard their territory including those who live in the same house. Don't confuse dominant aggression with protection! Early training Is essential if behavior modification is possible. Fear aggressive dogs can be just as frightening but they are ruled by their own fears. If you know the dog is aggressive or temperament testing indicates any aggressiveness, DO NOT TEST. Go immediately to the GRRRR! section of this Training Center for vital information.

These tests are easy to administer and they reveal a lot about the puppy you are thinking about bringing home – or the puppy who is already part of the family.

Temperament/Personality Testing is featured in Uncle Matty’s best-selling puppy book, I Just Got a Puppy. What Do I Do? Published by Simon & Schuster, 10th Anniversary Edition, 2002.

Sociability Test:
Is your puppy a social animal? Friendly? Responsive to people? The results of this test will help you deal with your dog when visitors come and when you and your dog encounter strangers away from home.
Noise Response Test:
Is your puppy afraid of noises? This is important to know because it can lead to other problems. A noise-shy dog can become a chewer or may dart into the street in front of harm's way when a loud noise occurs.
Hand-Shy Test:
Has your puppy been hit or punished by a hand or rolled up newspaper? Hitting can cause biting and viewing your hand as a threat. You need to know this so you won't frighten your puppy with movements of the hand.
Dominant-Subordinate Test:
Knowing whether your dog is dominant or subordinate helps you communicate.  One type is not better than the other. A dominant dog may be outgoing, independent and tend to be protective. A subordinate dog may be very affectionate and attentive but too clinging and timid.  
Physical Sensitivity Test:
This test is designed to determine your puppy’s tolerance for pain and discomfort and can help avoid a biting dog. A puppy with low pain tolerance is not recommended for families with children.