Wednesday, June 9, 2010


I love seeing that more and more of our German Shepherd Dogs are receiving many different working titles next to their registered name. It’s also encouraging to see many different health certificate numbers behind his name as well. Heck some dogs have so many titles included in their name that it takes a couple of lines just to type it all out. Most of the time, I confess I don’t even know what many of those titles mean. I do know that these dogs have worked very hard for those titles and that their owners need to be commended for the dedication that they put into bringing out the best in their dogs.

One title that has always fascinated me is the temperament test title. This is where the dog is put through a number of tests to help determine the temperament of the dog. Many owners proudly display this title next to their dogs name certifying that their dog has the ideal temperament according to the German Shepherd Dog Club of America’s standard.

I’ve read through the requirements that the dog needs to pass to receive his certificate on the parent clubs website. Because I don’t have permission to print out the test here on my blog, I will briefly give you an overview of the test. I suggest if you want to know more about it that you visit the German Shepherd Dog of America’s website for full details.

Basically the dog will be tested in different situations to see how he will react to certain stimuli. He will be tested with strangers to see how he approaches each situation. He’ll meet non-threatening strangers as well as those that are more threatening towards him. He will be tested with visual as well as audio stimuli to see his reaction and if he does have one what is his recovery time will be. He will be tested to see his reaction to gun shot noise and an umbrella opened up in front of him when he least expects it. This helps to see if the dog has good steady nerves and how he handles things either in his everyday life or when things happen out of the ordinary.

We’re all proud of the fact that we own one of the most intelligent breeds of dogs capable of doing most anything that we ask of them. My question is this to those that have put their dogs through these trials. Because the German Shepherd is such a smart dog, can’t he be trained to do these tests in order to pass and get his certificate? Now this isn’t to take away from those who own dogs with wonderful temperaments and have passed these tests. I’m just concerned more about those dogs that have been trained to pass them that don’t have such wonderful temperaments. In your opinions, do you think that some dogs that have been certified temperament tested do not really have good temperaments at all, but instead are very well trained by professional trainers? As I said, I’m not trying to take away from those dogs that indeed have wonderful temperaments and they have the certificate to prove it.

Because there is a description telling owners what their dogs will be tested on, I feel that there is no element of surprise if the dog can be trained ahead of time for all of these things. Wouldn’t it be more accurate if they changed some of the things that the dogs have been already trained for? In other words if he’s been trained to have an umbrella opened in his face, can’t they substitute this with something else?

Many years ago I had a professional trainer come to my house looking to buy a puppy. He wanted to see the pups mother. I told him that she was a very devoted and protective dog towards me. He asked me if he could check out just how protective of me she was. So I agreed. We took her out on my front lawn with me holding her on her leash. He put a black long cape over his shoulders and hid his face as he came walking towards us. Well it didn't take long for "Pepper" to hit the end of that leash with her teeth fully exposed. She was ready to "rock and roll" with this guy. He went back to the other side of the lawn and removed the cape. He told me just to keep her on a loose leash, which I did. He walked over to her and me in a friendly matter making small talk. He reached down and petted her on the head and she was no longer snarling at him. He told me, "Now that's a great mind!" She was never trained to do any of this mind you. It was just her natural instinct.

I admit I’ve never had the privilege to actually see one of these trials. It has got to be fascinating to watch. I could learn something from it, I’m sure. So as I said, I have a tremendous respect for those that work with their dogs and train them to realize their ultimate potential. I would just like to know what some of you think of the temperament test and if you think it truly measures the temperament of some dogs?

My rating: temperament testing: (3 - 4)


  1. Done right, this is a valuable test. Done by an evaluator who does not have the capability to properly evaluate this test, it is worse than useless.

    The biggest issue I see is that people think a higher numeric score is "better" - it is not. You just would not want to use a dog with a 33 score for the same job as a dog with a 0 score. Both can be passing scores. We have a breed capable of performing a wide variety of tasks and therefore a wide range of sound temperaments are acceptable. What you are really testing is the nerves - does the dog recover from increasing stress. Dogs who cannot recover from stress must fail this test. It is up to the owner/breeder to decide how to utilize a dog with a specific temperament type, but they all need strong nerves.

  2. Thanks Ruth for sharing that information with us. It's a subject that not many of us know too much about.

  3. I put a TT on my German Shepherd, Lily at the age of thirteen. And of course, I was really proud she passed. It was the first time I ever put a dog through this test. I never had seen this test done before. Just read about the exercises on line and what people told me about it. I had no idea what Lily would do with all of the exercises. Oh sure, I had an idea what she might do, but wasn’t completely sure. And I have to think, being my girl was thirteen she had already been through a lot of life so far. So maybe this gave her an advantage to the test? It also was an extremely hot-humid Texas day at the end of June. I feel it added some stress to some of the dogs waiting their turn. The evaluator was a tuff retired Marine with a growl in his voice. So he made me kind of nervous at first going through all the rules. His biggest rule to the large group that day was, “I don’t want to see any tight leashes, or anyone talking to their dogs during the exercises.” “You just walk along with your dog and let them do their thing as we go through each exercise.” he demanded. My obedience trainer always trained me to set off on a positive foot. This made no difference in whatever you were doing with your dog. If you feel positive so will your dog -- simple strategy. So when the evaluator said, forward I took off on my positive foot. The only exercise, which was the last one with the agitator (bad guy) I wasn’t sure how we did. When the bad guy came over the hill threatening us, Lily went right to the end of her leash and looked at the bad guy like, “Yes. What are you up to?!” Her hackles never went up. She never barked or growled -- Just stood at the end of the leash glaring at the bad guy. She never moved from that position for the longest time – Just kept starring at the bad guy. I thought for sure we failed this exercise. Then the bad guy tried again with his threat waving the dangerous stick in the air. Lily stood her ground, and I guess this is all she had to prove. The test was over. The evaluator stood with his two secretaries finishing my paperwork. When finished, he came over to me and said, “Well, How do you think you did?” I really had no idea and said, “I think I did okay,” with a slight concern in my voice. “Well you passed and did very good!” he said.

    Barbara’s question: In your opinions, do you think that some dogs that have been certified temperament tested do not really have good temperaments at all, but instead are very well trained by professional trainers? As I said, I’m not trying to take away from those dogs that indeed have wonderful temperaments and they have the certificate to prove it.

    Only having done this test one time, I feel, probably a person can/could practice for the test. But when the test happens in a totally strange place with all strange people and dogs it’s a good game. It gives a dog a real good challenge to its temperament. And it does say a lot about the dog. Can the dog still have a bad temperament? Well, I suppose to some degree in different situations. Each day can always be different like it is with our personalities. What happens if that dog doesn’t feel good the day he does something he never would’ve done in the test? I feel there could be different scenarios. But it certainly gives you a great example of a good tempered dog.

    Barbara, I feel that was a great story about your bitch, Pepper and her visitor that day. It said much about her temperament.

  4. Thanks Kathy for sharing with us your experience with the temperament test with one of your dogs. Wow, she was an "oldster" and she did so well. What would have happened if her eye sight failed her I wonder? Yes, my Pepper was one of my "heart dogs!"

  5. Oh I am quite sure if a dog couldn't see very well it would make a big difference. But even at this age, Lily's eyes were okay. Even at the age of fourteen she could see quite well yet thank heavens. Great comments on this subject so far. I've enjoyed reading them and always learn something new.

  6. Well Kathy if you belong to any of the e-mail lists (I send this blog to five of them) there's been comments there as well.

  7. It seems that we live in a society today that has to test and test again. Children dogs seniors, you name it. I retired from a professional occupation and had people working for me that had letters galore behind their name. That was suppose to make them capable but for the most part they couldn't pour water out of a boot if the instructions were written on the bottom. All it did was aggravate my secretaries when they had to include all those letters in the right order on their letters.
    I personally think we put to much stock in tests and while most won't probably agree having a GSD with a long line of letters behind their name doesn't mean much to me. If it does to you, revel in it but to me there are just to many variables to make tests accurate.
    How many people are going to come up to you and open an umbrella to surprise you or demand your money. What might come up to you is someone deranged but normal looking with a gun, knife or club. Who else would come up to a person with a GSD next to them with evil intentions but someone who is clearly not the brightest bulb in the box. I personally don't want a calm even tempered GSD to lay down or sit idle by and tell me - you handle it. Having them at the end of the leash isn't good either as they are more vulnerable. If they are on alert and right next to me where I can anticipate what they will do it then allows me to handle it without surprises. Any perpetrator would have a major dilemma as to whether they would have to deal with me, the GSD, or both. All I can say is those letters would not help in that situation.

  8. Very well put Bruce. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject.

  9. I have known people who trained for the temperament test because their dog(s) were very reactive (spooked) at loud, unsuspected noises (i.e., a bucket of rocks rattled at them, the gunshot, and the opening of the umbrella - all part of the TT exercises). The training to desensitize them worked, and they all passed the TT with scores that indicated the dog's temperament was more sound (or stable) than it might have been without training for the test. However, the pre-test training had additional longterm and beneficial effects in that the dogs were able to learn that these things where not a threat to them. The point I'm making is that you certainly can train for the temperament test. Many of the TT exercises are similar to the Volhard puppy apptitude test exercises, which gives breeders a good understanding of a puppy's apptitude for training and for placement with a potential new owners' lifestyles. Add Early Neurological Stimulation exercises to the puppy litter, and the puppies learn to adapt to new stimuli before their eyes are open and they can become even better tempered dogs.

    As for the value of temperament training, I think it is always good to know how your dog will react to stimuli, varied surfaces and a potential attacker. Of course, you need to factor in the possibility that a puppy may have experienced scary things at a young age that taught it to react negatively. Clearly, there are too many variables. But, as Bruce commented, I also feel it is important to have control over your dog's response in a potentially dangerous situation.

    The good news is that our breed is an exceptional adaptable working dog, loyal and loving to its family. Those are the best traits and temperament of them all.