Volhard’s Puppy Aptitude Testing
Here are the ground rules for performing the test:
• The testing is done in a location unfamiliar to the puppies. This does not mean they have
to taken away from home. A 10-foot square area is perfectly adequate, such as a room in
the house where the puppies have not been.
• The puppies are tested one at a time.
• There are no other dogs or people, except the scorer and the tester, in the testing area
• The puppies do not know the tester.
• The scorer is a disinterested third party and not the person interested in selling you a
• The scorer is unobtrusive and positions him or herself so he or she can observe the
puppies’ responses without having to move.
• The puppies are tested before they are fed.
• The puppies are tested when they are at their liveliest.
• Do not try to test a puppy that is not feeling well.
• Puppies should not be tested the day of or the day after being vaccinated.
• Only the first response counts!
Top Dog Tips: During the test, watch the puppy’s tail. It will make a difference in the scoring
whether the tail is up or down.
The tests are simple to perform and anyone with some common sense can do them. You
can, however, elicit the help of someone who has tested puppies before and knows what
they are doing.
1. Social attraction - the owner or caretaker of the puppies places it in the test area about
four feet from the tester and then leaves the test area. The tester kneels down and coaxes
the puppy to come to him or her by encouragingly and gently clapping hands and calling.
The tester must coax the puppy in the opposite direction from where it entered the test
area. Hint: Lean backward, sitting on your heels instead of leaning forward toward the
puppy. Keep your hands close to your body encouraging the puppy to come to you instead
of trying to reach for the puppy.
2. Following - the tester stands up and slowly walks away encouraging the puppy to follow.
Hint: Make sure the puppy sees you walk away and get the puppy to focus on you by lightly
clapping your hands and using verbal encouragement to get the puppy to follow you. Do
not lean over the puppy.
3. Restraint - the tester crouches down and gently rolls the puppy on its back and holds it on
its back for 30 seconds. Hint: Hold the puppy down without applying too much pressure.
The object is not to keep it on its back but to test its response to being placed in that
4. Social Dominance - let the puppy stand up or sit and gently stroke it from the head to the
back while you crouch beside it. See if it will lick your face, an indication of a forgiving
nature. Continue stroking until you see a behaviour you can score. Hint: When you crouch
next to the puppy avoid leaning or hovering over the puppy. Have the puppy at your side
with both of you facing in the same direction.
Top Dog Tips: During testing maintain a positive, upbeat and friendly attitude toward the
puppies. Try to get each puppy to interact with you to bring out the best in him or her.
Make the test a pleasant experience for the puppy.
5. Elevation Dominance - the tester cradles the puppy with both hands, supporting the
puppy under its chest and gently lifts it two feet off the ground and holds it there for 30
6. Retrieving - the tester crouches beside the puppy and attracts its attention with a
crumpled up piece of paper. When the puppy shows some interest, the tester throws the
paper no more than four feet in front of the puppy encouraging it to retrieve the paper.
7. Touch Sensitivity - the tester locates the webbing of one the puppy’s front paws and
presses it lightly between his index finger and thumb. The tester gradually increases
pressure while counting to ten and stops when the puppy pulls away or shows signs of
8. Sound Sensitivity - the puppy is placed in the centre of the testing area and an assistant
stationed at the perimeter makes a sharp noise, such as banging a metal spoon on the
bottom of a metal pan.
9. Sight Sensitivity - the puppy is placed in the centre of the testing area. The tester ties a
string around a bath towel and jerks it across the floor, two feet away from the puppy.
10. Stability - an umbrella is opened about five feet from the puppy and gently placed on
the ground.

Following are the responses you will see and the score assigned to each particular
response. You will see some variations and will have to make a judgment on what score to
give them.
Test Response
Came readily, tail up, jumped, bit at hands 1
Came readily, tail up, pawed, licked at hands 2
Came readily, tail up 3
Came readily, tail down 4
Came hesitantly, tail down 5
Didn’t come at all 6

Followed readily, tail up, got underfoot, bit at feet 1
Followed readily, tail up, got underfoot 2
Followed readily, tail up 3
Followed readily, tail down 4
Followed hesitantly, tail down 5
Did not follow or went away 6

Struggled fiercely, flailed, bit 1
Struggled fiercely, flailed 2
Settled, struggled, settled with some eye contact 3
Struggled, then settled 4
No struggle 5
No struggle, strained to avoid eye contact 6

Jumped, pawed, bit, growled 1
Jumped, pawed 2
Cuddled up to tester and tried to lick face 3
Squirmed, licked at hands 4
Rolled over, licked at hands 5
Went away and stayed away 6

Struggled fiercely, tried to bite 1
Struggled fiercely 2
Struggled, settled, struggled, settled 3
No struggle, relaxed 4
No struggle, body stiff 5
No struggle, froze 6

Chased object, picked it up and ran away 1
Chased object, stood over it and did not return 2
Chased object, picked it up and returned with it to tester 3
Chased object and returned without it to tester 4
Started to chase object, lost interest 5
Does not chase object 6

8-10 count before response 1
6-8 count before response 2
5-6 count before response 3
3-5 count before response 4
2-3 count before response 5
1-2 count before response 6

Listened, located sound and ran toward it barking 1
Listened, located sound and walked slowly toward it 2
Listened, located sound and showed curiosity 3
Listened and located sound 4
Cringed, backed off and hid behind tester 5 5
Ignored sound and showed no curiosity 6

Looked, attacked and bit object 1
Looked and put feet on object and put mouth on it 2
Looked with curiosity and attempted to investigate, tail up 3
Looked with curiosity, tail down 4
Ran away or hid behind tester 5
Hid behind tester 6

Looked and ran to the umbrella, mouthing or biting it 1
Looked and walked to the umbrella, smelling it cautiously 2
Looked and went to investigate 3
Sat and looked, but did not move toward the umbrella 4
Showed little or no interest 5
Ran away from the umbrella 6

The scores are interpreted as follows:
Mostly 1’s
Strong desire to be pack leader and is not shy about bucking for a promotion
Has a predisposition to be aggressive to people and other dogs and will bite
Should only be placed into a very experienced home where the dog will be trained and
worked on a regular basis
Top Dog Tips: Stay away from the puppy with a lot of 1’s or 2’s. It has lots of leadership
aspirations and may be difficult to manage. This puppy needs an experienced home. Not
good with children.
Mostly 2’s
Also has leadership aspirations
May be hard to manage and has the capacity to bite
Has lots of self-confidence
Should not be placed into an inexperienced home
Too unruly to be good with children and elderly people, or other animals
Needs strict schedule, loads of exercise and lots of training
Has the potential to be a great show dog with someone who understands dog behavior
Mostly 3’s
Can be a high-energy dog and may need lots of exercise
Good with people and other animals
Can be a bit of a handful to live with
Needs training, does very well at it and learns quickly
Great dog for second time owner.
Mostly 4’s
The kind of dog that makes the perfect pet
Best choice for the first time owner.
Rarely will buck for a promotion in the family
Easy to train, and rather quiet.
Good with elderly people, children, although may need protection from the children
Choose this pup, take it to obedience classes, and you’ll be the star, without having to do
too much work!
Titbits: The puppy with mostly 3’s and 4’s can be quite a handful, but should be good with
children and does well with training. Energy needs to be dispersed with plenty of exercise.
Mostly 5’s
Fearful, shy and needs special handling
Will run away at the slightest stress in its life
Strange people, strange places, different floor or ground surfaces may upset it
Often afraid of loud noises and terrified of thunder storms. When you greet it upon your
return, may submissively urinate. Needs a very special home where the environment
doesn’t change too much and where there are no children
Best for a quiet, elderly couple
If cornered and cannot get away, has a tendency to bite
Top Dog Tips: Avoid the puppy with several 6’s. It is so independent it doesn’t need you or
anyone. He is his own person and unlikely to bond to you.
Mostly 6’s
So independent that he doesn’t need you or other people
Doesn’t care if he is trained or not - he is his own person Unlikely to bond to you, since he
doesn’t need you.
A great guard dog for gas stations!
Do not take this puppy and think you can change him into a lovable bundle - you can’t, so
leave well enough alone

Few puppies will test with all 2’s or all 3’s - there will be a mixture of scores.
For that first time, wonderfully easy to train, potential star, look for a puppy that scores with
mostly 4’s and 3’s. Don’t worry about the score on Touch Sensitivity - you can compensate
for that with the right training equipment.
Titbits: It’s hard not to become emotional when picking a puppy - they are all so cute, soft
and cuddly. Remind yourself that this dog is going to be with you for 8 to 16 years. Don’t
hesitate to step back a little to contemplate your decision. Sleep on it and review it in the
light of day.
Avoid the puppy with a score of 1 on the Restraint and Elevation tests. This puppy will be
too much for the first time owner.
It’s a lot more fun to have a good dog, one that is easy to train, one you can live with and
one you can be proud of, than one that is a constant struggle