Thursday, April 23, 2009

ATTS Temperament Testing Opportunity

The Great Danes are having their Specialty here at the Chattanooga Choo Choo in October and are doing ATTS Temperament Testing on October 21 and they are opening it up to all breeds. To sign up, go here.

This is an event I can highly, highly recommend. It gives you such a great insight into your dog’s reactions under stress. It’s fun, it’s easy (no training involved!), and if your dog passes, you’ll get to put a TT Temperament Tested) after their name. I had Spencer tested, and it was very interesting. I hope I can test Scout at this event.

For more information on the test, go to the American Temperament Test Society web site:

For more information on the Great Dane Specialty in October, go to their web site:

I can't remember if I have every blogged about this before and since I'm not one who tags her posts, I can't go back and check easily. Spencer passed the test and the test administrator was very impressed. His first words to me after the test was, "Now that's a dog I would want with me in a dark alley!"

My friend Bev wrote the following about her experience with her Belgian Tervuren Cris. It gives a good sense of the test and is doggone funny to read too!

A while back, a snooty woman at the Delta Society suggested that a temperament test may be required in addition to the CGC in order to get my potentially ferocious Belgian Tervuren into their pet therapy program. Aside from being extremely annoyed with her obvious prejudice against any dog that weighed over 20 pounds, I was intrigued by the description on the ATTS (American Temperament Test Society) web site. The test evaluates a dog's reaction to a variety of stimuli, but the scoring is specific to the dog's breed. For example, a Rottweiler would be expected to react differently to a threatening stranger than, say, a Poodle. This was good news to me, since my dog's complete disregard of anything other than the sheep that were penned 20 feet away would hopefully be construed as appropriate for his breed. And so it was!

At the orientation, we were told to be walking posts. Any form of interaction with the dog - direction, encouragement, praise - was forbidden. The test was not about obedience or manners. It was designed to monitor the dog's reactions absent of human intervention. We were told about the history of the test, and about the European version, wherein all dogs of some breeds are required to be tested, and are euthanized right there at the end if they do not pass!

So the first test was the neutral stranger. Cool. We've done this before. Only not with sheep 20 feet away. Cris didn't even notice the woman until she was about to leave, upon which he zoomed over and ran around me three times, effectively pinning my arms to my sides and hobbling my legs with the leash. Then he looked at her expectantly as if to say, "There, she's out of the way. How about you and me taking a crack at those sheep?!" The woman grinned and walked off, and the Chief Tester said, "Untangle yourself and move on."

And so we walked to the next station, which was the friendly stranger. This was supposed to simulate your typical dog nut gushing "Oh, what a pretty doggie!", bending over the dog and getting all in his face while ignoring me, the supposed leader of our 2-Pack. Cris immediately leaned into her and rolled her his best patented forlorn look. Roughly translated, it said, "You look like an intelligent human. Let's ditch this loser and go get us some sheep, ok?"

The third station is supposed to test alertness and curiosity. A stranger behind a blind loudly rattles some chains in a metal bucket, then steps out and puts the bucket directly in our path. Most of the dogs prior to Cris weren't wild about this one, and either ignored or avoided the bucket. Cris went right up and stuck his head into it. Note to self: check all containers for poison, sharp objects, rattlesnakes, etc., before the dopey, but appropriately curious Terv buys himself some big trouble!

Chuck, my Rottweiler friend, had the next station. He was supposed to fire three shots out of a 22 caliber pistol, but local ordinances prohibited the wanton discharge of firearms, so he just slammed two pieces of wood together three times. Cris was the only dog up to that point that actively went to investigate the source of the racket. Extra points!

Next, a supposedly rude lady opens an umbrella pretty much right in the dog's face as we stroll by. Cris reacted by going behind the umbrella and drooling on the lady. To my mind, he was just trying to con another human into getting him at those sheep, but the station evaluator seemed to think he was avoiding the umbrella. I had to talk to the umbrella, stroke the umbrella, do everything but French kiss the umbrella until Cris came over to see what all the sudden umbrella obsession was about. It was a strange moment.

Then we had to walk over a 12-foot metal grate and a 12-foot piece of plastic. Cris never noticed the change in footing because a butterfly had crossed our path and needed to be chased. Happily, the test wasn't about obedience, so we were allowed to proceed to the final 3 stations.

Here was the crux of the biscuit. A strangely dressed man with a horsewhip comes reeling and howling from behind a blind about 40 feet away. Then he approaches aggressively to within 30 feet. Then he comes to within 20 feet and whacks the whip against the ground 6 times. Then he reels off, but turns around once more and bangs the whip against the ground one last time before staggering off to the blind. I had no earthly idea how Cris would react, but most of the dogs that went before him had acted worried, and even cringed behind their handlers. The Chief Tester had said that this was grounds for failure -- showing fear was the #3 reason for failure, behind handler error and inappropriate aggression. Cris surprised me by putting himself at the end of the 6-foot leash between me and the man, then just standing there at full attention. He didn't bark or lunge, just stood there, making it crystal clear that he wasn't going to take any guff from this swine. He didn't even flinch when the man started banging that whip on the ground, although I'm pretty sure I did. When the man reeled off, Cris just stood there, and stood there, and would probably be standing there still if the Chief Tester hadn't said, "That's it. Praise your dog."

So we waited around, watching the sheep and the butterflies while the 4 testers conferred at length in ominous tones. Then the Chief came over to congratulate us on passing! Whew! Cris's breeder, Steph, was there with his two sisters, along with another Terv friend with her dog. We all had a quiet little party, subdued because the owner of the Pitt Bull was in a foul mood, as were the owners of the Rottie & Swissie. The Pitt Bull had actually tried to get at the threatening stranger AFTER he turned to leave (never a good sign), the Swissie couldn't be coaxed to investigate the bucket, and the Rottie wouldn't walk over the grate.

All in all, it was a very interesting, if strange, experience. But I was happy we went, and I'll be even happier in 8-12 weeks when I get that paper in the mail so I can tell that snooty Delta Society woman that Cris the Terv is every bit as likely to be a good therapy dog as her treasured Fluffy or Pooky or Muffin or whatever. So there!


Sharrie said...

You are right. That is an interesting test, and the story was very well told. All dogs should have at that deal.

penni said...

Chase and I are planning for the test in Falcon Colorado in mid-September (probably as near us as we can hope for one to be held). Our little guys are bold and loyal!