I was wondering what trainers generally look for when selecting a service dog puppy?
Although there are formal temperament tests out there (this is probably the most well known: http://www.volhard.com/pages/pat.php
), I conduct my own assessment based on what I want the dog for and look at things like:
Noise phobia (what happens if I drop something on the ground and it makes a noise?). I look for very quick recovery. An inital startle response is allowed.
Body sensitivity (can it handled being touched all over) - Yes
Submissiveness (roll on back and watch for reaction) - Will calmly accept being rolled over without displaying extreme submissiveness ie tail between legs, urinating.
Inquisitiveness (take pup out of environment, put object in, put pup in and watch reaction) - a great reaction is a confident approach and investigation of the item.
Retrieve (throw a toy - does it bring it back, run away, play with it on that spot or ignore it) - see below.
What sort of reaction does it have around food (any aggression, normal puppy competition, mechanical eating) - loves to eat but not food aggressive.
Response to different people (skin colour, sex, height, facial hair, hat, glasses) - takes it all in it's stride.
Character (bold, outgoing, shy, fearful, nervous, calm, easygoing?) - happy, easygoing, carefree type dog without being dominant or frantically trying to climb all over you.
These are just some of the things to consider along with socialisation, parents, environmental exposure and birth home environment. For those that select dogs for other people, all this is matched against the type of tasks the dog may do and the person the dog is being matched to.
After a while you get a feel for it and can tell right off if a pup is worth looking more into or not.
What is your ideal reaction with retrieve and what test do you use for testing a puppies retrieve?
When testing for the retrieve I do a cold test and then an interactive test if required. For a cold test, the pup is loose in the testing yard. I then throw a familiar toy off to the side of me (away from the pup) and watch the reaction. I am looking for a pup that may have an initial startle response but then goes over to investigate. A confident apprach is desired. If the pup brings the item to me with a little encouragement and backwards walking - great. If there is no reaction to the cold test (ie pup just looks at the toy and doesn't move towards it) I give the interactive test. This is where I get the toy and initiate play with it, getting the pup interested in it and perhaps even grabbing for it. I then throw the toy away from us as per the cold test and look for the same response.
Do the results you look for vary depending on which breed you are evaluating?
I only look at German Shepherds and White Swiss Shepherds for no reason other than personal preference.
Have you experienced success with puppies that have all responded a particular way to a certain part of the test?
Yes. I have four dogs. All were selected using the above test with desired results geared towards their future working roles (physiotherapy aid, canine product model, assistance dog, truffle detection). All have done very well in their different fields. It certainly helps to know their baseline (default) behaviours when exposed to different stimulus as you can incorporate that into training.