Volhard's Puppy Aptitude Test

The author & publication is unknown, but the article is reprinted without permission for your personal use. The actual Puppy Aptitude Test is presented in the attached figures that I   have tested my dogs on. I  find it a very good  test to help you place the  puppies to  the suitable owners and  family  environment.

Wendy Volhard has trained and exhibited Landseer Newfoundlands since 1967. Together with her husband Jack, she has earned 22 titles on nine Landseers, six of which were bred by the Volhards. Five of their dogs have at least one Highest Scoring Dog in Trial and Wendy exhibited the first Newfoundland to Obedience Trial Championship points.

Her special interest is canine nutrition, a subject on which she has lectured in this country, Canada and England. She also made a film, called PUPPY APTITUDE TESTING which was named Best Film of Dogs for 1979 by the Dog Writers' Association of America. This film and the film PUPPY TRAINING is available through the NCA Audio-Visual Committee.

Training, according to Wendy, for whatever purpose, must be fun for both handler and dog, a message she emphasises in the training workshops she gives with her husband. In a four-part series entitled MOTIVATING YOUR DOG FOR COMPETITION published in the March, April,
May and June issue of OFF LEAD magazine, she shares some of her experiences and insights. A two part condensation of this series is being reprinted in NEWF-TIDE by permission of OFF LEAD. Reprints of the complete series are available from the Volhards.


This trait is s an inherited tendency which in the excitable dog makes him extremely responsive to external stimuli. Field trial retrievers are selected for this trait because they need to be constantly aware of the hunt, the fall of the bird, etc.

The inhibited dog shows more self control. This dog is more easily trained to react only upon certain cues.Campbell cites the Schutzhund German Shepherd as an example.

The balance between excitability and inhibit ability is a poised, assured dog. The extreme of excitability would be a wild uncontrollable dog. The extreme of inhabitability would be the withdrawn, rigid and lethargic dog

This trait is the inherited tendency to react to stress by biting, freezing or running away. The dog with passive defence reflexes can be induced to bite only with difficulty or under extreme duress.

The field trial retriever has been selected for passive defence reflex so as to avoid killing wounded birds, etc. On the other hand, the Schutzhund Shepherd has been selected for active defence reflexes so he can easily be trained for protection. This is combined with his tendency towards inhabitability and allows the owner to train the dog to attack only in specific situations.


The dominant  dog is the one which would grow up to be the pack leader if he and the other puppies had been left to  grow up on their own in the wild.  He shows the behavioural tendency to dominate. This trait is expressed by biting, growling, mounting, direct eye contact, walking with head up, tail up, hackles up etc. The dominant dog will have first pick of the food, places to sleep etc. Dominance has been selected for in Fox Terriers, originally bred to drag foxes from their dens.

As Campbell points out, the dominant dog may challenge this human master and need consistent, firm, calm handling. Lack of leadership on the owner’s part with such a dog will result in the dog’s assuming leadership. A dog’s attempts to lead in today s hectic, complex society usually result in responses such as over-protectiveness, nervousness, refusal to obey, and interfering with owner‘s interactions with other people.

Submissiveness is evident in the dog which accepts leadership. This is expressed in behavioural terms as nudging with the nose, pawing, tail down, ears down, lack of fighting, crouching and rolling over on the back, lack of eye contact, submitting to command. This dog can be influenced easily by the leader. This trait has been selected for in Spaniels who were originally bred to crouch while hunters shot or netted the birds.

The submissive dog generally responds to training and readily accepts a human leader. The extremely submissive dog on the other hand, which reacts to the slightest stress by crouching or tail-tucking may be difficult to train. A lot of encouragement and very gentle handling is needed to build confidence and to help it adapt to the stresses of living in the average household.


The independent dog is not interested in human beings. He may be poorly socialised or a loner. This dog may work or hunt well on his own. This trait was selected for in Basenji, for example, a dog which originally hunted along with a bell around its neck; the human followed the sound of the bell to the game.

The socially attracted dog shows interest in people, enjoys being petted, follows human beings easily, and in general wants to be where they are. Poodles have been selected for this trait. They are turned into people and make good pets for this reason, which may explain why they have been number 1 in registrations for the last 18 years.

It is obvious that the combination of traits or tendencies with which a puppy is born will go into its temperament. The particular combination will result in a dog more suited for some things than others. For example, just because the dog has active defence reflexes doesn’t mean he will be a good guard dog.

If he is highly excitable and very independent, this dog may respond to any and all stimuli, be unresponsive to training, and also bite under the slightest stress.

In addition, Humphrey and Warner in their book "Working Dogs" suggest two other important inherited characteristics.

Sound Sensitivity:      The sound sensitive dog shows excessive fear, crouching, urinating, running away when confronted with a loud or sharp sound; the dog may overreact to gunshots, shouted commands, etc.

Touch Sensitivity vs. Insensitivity:     The touch sensitive dog will be difficult to train with the standard training collar because the correction-snap sets off the dog’s defence reflexes Biting, freezing or running away).

The touch insensitive dog shows little response to physical stimuli. A mighty yank on the training collar yields little, if any response. Touch insensitivity was selected for in the pit-fighting dogs in order for them to continue fighting despite severe wounds.

What is communally called a "hard" dog is often a combination of dominance and touch insensitivity. This dog shows a strong tendency to lead, and will be difficult to train. When the owner attempts to assert himself through a corrective snap on the training collar, the dog doesn’t respond because it cannot feel the collar. To get results, the owner will have to resort to more forceful methods of correction, or use a use a different stimulus.

Environment plays a tremendous part in developing a dog’s potential. As  Dr  Michael  Fox  puts it in "Understanding your Dog”.

“Genetic factors are transmitted by inheritance, but the traits themselves are modified by interacting genetic and environmental factors. Training and early experience greatly influence these traits."

In the light of research on dogs done at Bar Harbour by Drs Scott and Fuller, it has been determined that the influence on temperament occurs much earlier (3 - 12 weeks) in dogs than previously suspected.  The early environment and learning of the puppy is the most important in these critical stages of the dog. The environment and experiences have the most lasting impression on the dog.

A traumatic event in these periods may forever influence the dog. The effect may be modified through training but the dog may never reach its potential had that traumatic event not occurred.

The following is a brief synopsis of the critical stages of the dog as revealed by the research of Scott and Fuller.


1 - 3 weeks (1 - 20 days)

The puppy needs warmth, food, sleep and his mother. Neurological very primitive, the puppy responds by reflex and essentially it is unable to learn.

4th week (21 - 28 days)

The puppy needs its mother most at this time. It is a period of extremely rapid sensory development. Neurological the brain is suddenly able to receive messages: the circuits are "turned on". Weaning should not take place at this time: the puppy is extremely vulnerable.

5th - 7th week (29 - 49 days)

The puppy needs his mother and littermates. Dogs removed from the litter at this period tend to be unable to socialise with other dogs, may fight, refuse to breed, etc. Contact with humans and gentle training is beneficial and helps the pup set the stage for more intense contact with humans later on.

7th week (49 - 56 days)

This is the ideal time for the puppy to transfer his loyalty to his new owner. Mentally he is able to learn whatever any adult dog can learn, his brain is neurologically complete. However, physically he will not be able to do the task of an adult dog. For example, he can t jump one and a half times his height with the dumbbell in his mouth, but he can learn the exercise if it is scaled down to his size. Socialisation and training should continue on a regular basis. Bonds formed at this time are extremely strong.

8 - 10 weeks (57 - 70 days)

This is the fear imprinting period. Any traumatic experience such as shipping, ear cropping, severe punishment, etc. may have a lasting effect on the dog. New experiences must be non-fear producing. Proper training and socialisation should continue.

11 - 16 weeks (71 - 112 days)

The puppy continues to learn from his experiences. If left with other dogs, he may become imprint only to dogs: taking his leadership from them and never developing a strong relationship with human beings. Lack of socialisation such as found in wild animals. Lack of exposure to other environments and exploration may result in "kennel syndrome" where the dog is unable to cope with any change from his routine environment.

Clarence Pfaffenberger was able to put the critical stages of puppy development into practical application in the breeding program of Guide Dogs for the Blind. He used Scott and Fuller’s research and supplemented it with specially developed puppy tests to pinpoint the potential guide dogs in a litter at approximately 8 weeks of age. Through planned breeding, careful attention to development, and puppy testing he raised the percentage of successful guide dogs in the breeding program from 9% to 90%.

An experiment of Clarence Pfaffenberger’s, for example, demonstrates the importance of early socialisation. After testing the population of 154 puppies who were all trained later for guide work he found: "of the puppies who had passed their tests and had been placed in homes the first week after the conclusion of the tests, ninety percent became guide dogs; those who were in the kennel more than one week and less than two weeks faired almost but not quite as well; those left in the kennel more than two weeks but less than three, showed only about 57% guide dogs; of those who were in the kennel more than three weeks after the tests, only 30% became guide dogs”. (“The New Knowledge of Dog Behaviour”). The break in socialisation between testing and placing at this critical point (after 7 - 8 weeks) resulted in dogs who could not take the responsibility for a blind master, while their litter mates whose socialisation had not been interrupted, succeeded at the task.

By using Campbell, Pfaffenberger and Working Dogs, the Volhards developed a system for testing puppies which would:

1)  indicate the dog’s basic temperament and

2)  indicate the dog with the most obedience potential.

All of Campbell’s tests are included since these are indicators of how the pup will adapt to living with human beings. Most of the dogs in the U.S. today are first and foremost family companions, a fact which seems to have been largely ignored by breeders of show, field trial, and guard dogs.

There are three tests which are from Pfaffenberger to indicate the aptitude the puppy has for obedience work. Pfaffenberg describes a number of other tests indicative of aptitude for guide work where it is critical that a dog be able to make intelligent decisions in response to unexpected situations. If he is guiding a blind master, his master s life may depend upon it. This ability is not a matter of life and death in the obedience ring, although exhibitors sometimes seem to think so. One test is from Working Dogs, where in 1934, a test was suggested for touch sensitivity in the German Shepherd. A  slightly modified version is included in the Volhard tests.

The results is called the Puppy Aptitude Test (PAT) since it indicates which pup has the most aptitude for the desired task or purpose. The test is administered in a standard fashion to minimise human error. Condition under which testing takes place are as follows:

1)  Ideally, puppies are tested in the 7th week, preferably the 49th day. At 6 weeks or earlier the puppy’s neurological connections are not fully developed. (If the test is conducted between 8 - 10 weeks, the puppy is in the fear imprint stage and special care must be taken not to frighten it).

2)  Puppies are tested individually, away from dam and litter mates, in an area new to them and relatively free from distractions. It could be a porch, garage, living room, yard or whatever. Puppies should be tested before a meal they are awake and lively and not on a day when they been wormed or given their puppy shots.

3) The sequence of the tests is the same for all pups and is designed to alternate a slightly stressful test with a neutral or pleasant one.

4)  There is less chance for human error, or the puppies being influenced by a familiar person, if the tests are administered by someone other than the owner of the litter.  A friend of the owner, or the prospective buyer can easily learn to give the test.

5)  I found it helpful to arrange the tests in a concise chart form following the order in which they are given.  In addition, since I found it difficult to use Campbell’s scoring code, 1I simply gave each response a number. While testing numerous puppies, the Volhards found that a number of puppies showed responses not on Campbell’s test.  These observations are included in the test with an apostrophe in order to differentiate them from Campbell’s original tests. The Pfaffenberger tests were also given a number so that all scores can be compared and a chart was devised for checking a puppy s total performance at a glance.

6)  Also included in the Obedience Aptitude Tests is a section on structure. Over 60 breeds conform to what "conventional body type", that is 45 degree angulation front and rear. The greater the deviation from this norm, the less efficiently the dog will be able to perform obedience exercises.      Other impediments to efficiency are HD, cowhocks, east-west feet, crossing in front or rear when gaiting.

A simple guide to follow for puppies at this age (7 - 8 weeks) is "what you see is what you get" notwithstanding the all too familiar assurance, “Don’t worry, he’ll grow out of it". Be particularly wary of the statement, "he’s not much of a conformation dog but he’ll do fine in obedience".

This could mean the dog is perhaps mismarked or has light eyes but is structurally sound. However, often it means the dog has a serious structural fault. This dog will be unable to take the strenuousness of training and competing in the obedience ring. If you feel that evaluating structure accurately is above your head, seek competent help.

7)  Last but not least, the prospective puppy testor must have a chance to observe the parents of the litter, preferably both parents but at least the dam. If the sire and/or dam have characteristics which are not desirable there exists a good chance some, if not all, of the puppies will have inherited these undesirable traits.

The safest and easiest thing to do when faced with parent dogs of undesirable temperament is simply to look for another litter of pups whose sire and dam more closely conform to your ideals. If you must have a pup from this litter pay particular attention to the test scores of the litter and do not select a pup which shows any tendency towards undesirable traits.

Dear Guest,

This is the results of all my puppies that have done the puppy test .  I hope you find it very interesting and your comments would be appreciated and what you think of the test.
All puppies were done at 07h00 and were not fed before the test. The test was conducted by a experienced Rottie Judge and breeder who has tested more than 20 litters. The observation and point system for each dog was done by dog friends who have been involved in breeding and showing for more than 10 years. In this point system I did not give my score as I felt it would be the best way of remaining unbiased.

Horst Kranz


Zulu (H litter) 3 3 3 3 2 3 4 3 1
Topaz (H litter) 3 3 2 3 2 3 2 3 1
Flash (E litter) 3 3 2 3 4 5 3 4 3
Sabrina (E litter) 3 3 3 3 4 2 3 3 3
Flicker (E litter) 3 3 2 3 3 5 1 4 3
Emma (E litter) 3 3 5 3 3 1 1 3 3
Exchecker (E litter) 4 5 3 3 3 6 1 4 3
Earl Barry (E litter) 3 3 3 3 3 2 1 4 5
Faust Barry (F litter) 3 3 2 3 2 2 4 3 1
Florintyna (F litter) 4 6 4 3 2 3 4 4 1
Fabio (F litter) 3 3 3 4 3 1 4 2 3
Falcon (F  litter) 3 3 4 6 3 1 4 3 3