Temperament Testing FAQ

Q. Why do we test the Temperament?
A. To live in a social community, for instance, a family, a dog requires a flexible repertoire of behavior, which implicates specifically the ability to find his social rank. Some of the behavior a dog shows are learned and some is genetically given. Some of the behavior which is genetically given can, of course, be influenced by proper training. It can either be encouraged, or it can be softened. Therefore, the information gained from a Temperament Test will help all three involved parties: the owner, the breeder and the club. The owner will find out if there might be situations he and his dog has to work on. There might be special training necessary, or the dog has an extraordinary talent which should be encouraged. The breeder will learn about the puppies he/she has bred and can use these results and the information to better plan the next litter: to better find the matching mate for the next litter. The club will learn if we are still on the right track with our breeding management.

Q. Is a judge able to see if a particular behavior is inherited or learned?
A. Yes!

All of our judges have a great deal of experience. They have seen hundreds of hovawarts. Quite often judges in Europe are lucky to see a particular dog several times during his life. They see the dog as a puppy, as a young dog and again as an adult dog. They can compare behavior with close relatives, such as parents and siblings (full and half siblings). In Europe, it is quite common that a whole litter is presented at a Temperament Test, or, at least, the majority of the litter.

Q. What is tested?
A. The Temperament Test examines the activity, the fear or aggression disposition, and the dog’s ability to deal and cope with stressful situations while undergoing this evaluation. Especially the last point is mandatory in today’s environment, considering our need to involve the dog in our activities and social gatherings. For quite a while now the hovawart is no longer merely a” Guardian of the Estate”, but has to “stand his ground as a companion dog” for his humans in all kinds of situations. For this task he needs to have skills to solve conflicts, the ability to manage stress, and have a balanced social behavior.

Q. What is “desired behavior” in hovawarts?
A. The Temperament Test emphasizes the ability of a dog to play repeatedly, even when under stress. A dog only plays when he sees "a free field." If the dog plays in a certain test situation he demonstrates that the pressure imposed on him earlier during the test did not disturb him significantly. Moreover, “playing” is an important means for the improvement of social relationships, plays a great part as a motivational tool while learning skills, and is an excellent tool to release tension. Furthermore, the behavior test requires the dog to react to challenging situations with curiosity, thus overcoming fear or defensive behavior. This curious behavior enables the dog to cope with strange and potentially scary situations and to solve the conflict. A dog that does not have this ability will probably be prone to react to these environmental stimuli with fearful reactions and defensive behavior. A high threshold for fear and aggression is mandatory today for every dog. We strive for an active and curious dog whose high tolerance level is not based on a phlegmatic temperament.

Q. How is a Temperament Test administered?
A. You and your dog enter the ring where your dog is being measured (height and length) by an assistant. Then his appearance will be evaluated. This will be similar to a conformation show evaluation. Your dog will be touched by the judge to examine its bite, tail and, for males, the testicles. After this you and your dog will play. Please bring your dog’s favorite toy! At the end of the game a friendly stranger will take over and play with you and your dog with another toy. After having played you will put your dog on a 30feet leash and walk with him and the judge along a course/trail where different stations/test situations are set up. During this walk, the judge will guide you and will tell you what to do. At some stations you will have to drop the leash, at other stations you will have to hold on to the leash. After having walked through the course, you and your dog will play one more time with your dog’s favorite toy. During the whole test, your dog will be the only dog in the ring or along the course!

Q. How will my dog be evaluated?
A. There will only be a pass or fail mark. Even if your dog does not do well in one exercise/station, he can still pass! The overall picture counts! However if your dog shows extreme aggression or fear, or if you can’t control your dog, your dog will not pass.

Q. What is the minimum age for participating?
A. To participate your dog has to be a minimum of 12 months on the day of the test. However to qualify for breeding status, the minimum age is 18 months. But feel free to participate as often as you would like. You can take part with your one-year-old dog for practice and then do the test for breeding status again at a later date.