Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test

This test has been developed by Wendy and Jack Volhard who have built up an international reputation over the last 30 years for their invaluable contribution to dog training, health and nutrition.

They have written 8 books and the Volhard PAT is regarded as the premier method for evaluating the nature of young puppies.

(Jack and Wendy's excellent book Dog Training for Dummies is available in both our USA Bookstore and UK Bookstore).


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 be 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 puppy.
•The scorer is unobtrusive and positions him or herself so he or she can observe the puppy’s 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 position. 

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 behavior 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's two feet off the ground and holds it there for 30 seconds. 

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 of 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 discomfort. 

8.Sound Sensitivity - the puppy is placed in the center 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 center 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.


During the testing make a note of the heart rate of the pup, which is an indication of how it deals with stress, as well as its energy level. 

Puppies come with high, medium or low energy levels. You have to decide for yourself, which suits your life style. Dogs with high energy levels need a great deal of exercise, and will get into mischief if this energy is not channeled into the right direction.

Finally, look at the overall structure of the puppy. You see what you get at 49 days of age. If the pup has strong and straight front and back legs, with all four feet pointing in the same direction, it will grow up that way, provided you give it the proper diet and environment in which to grow. If you notice something out of the ordinary at this age, it will stay with puppy for the rest of its life. He will not grow out of it.


Scoring the Results
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 - 

 Came readily, tail up, jumped, bit at hands 

 Came readily, tail up, pawed, licked at hands 

  Came readily, tail up

 Came readily, tail down

 Came hesitantly, tail down 5

 Didn’t come at all 6

 Followed readily, tail up, got underfoot, bit at feet 

 Followed readily, tail up, got underfoot  

 Followed readily, tail up  

 Followed readily, tail down  

 Followed hesitantly, tail down  

 Did not follow or went away  

 Struggled fiercely, flailed, bit

 Struggled fiercely, flailed  

 Settled, struggled, settled with some eye contact  

 Struggled, then settled  

 No struggle  

 No struggle, strained to avoid eye contact 

 Jumped, pawed, bit, growled  

 Jumped, pawed  

 Cuddled up to tester and tried to lick face  

 Squirmed, licked at hands  

 Rolled over, licked at hands  

 Went away and stayed away  

 Struggled fiercely, tried to bite  

 Struggled fiercely  

 Struggled, settled, struggled, settled  

 No struggle, relaxed  

 No struggle, body stiff  

 No struggle, froze  

 Chased object, picked it up and ran away  

 Chased object, stood over it and did not return  

 Chased object, picked it up and returned with it to tester  

 Chased object and returned without it to tester  

 Started to chase object, lost interest  

 Does not chase object  

 8-10 count before response  

 6-8 count before response  

 5-6 count before response  

 3-5 count before response  

 2-3 count before response  

 1-2 count before response  

 Listened, located sound and ran toward it barking  

 Listened, located sound and walked slowly toward it  

 Listened, located sound and showed curiosity  

 Listened and located sound  

 Cringed, backed off and hid behind tester 5 5

 Ignored sound and showed no curiosity  

 Looked, attacked and bit object  

 Looked and put feet on object and put mouth on it  

 Looked with curiosity and attempted to investigate, tail up  

 Looked with curiosity, tail down  

 Ran away or hid behind tester  

 Hid behind tester  

 Looked and ran to the umbrella, mouthing or biting it  

 Looked and walked to the umbrella, smelling it cautiously  

 Looked and went to investigate  

 Sat and looked, but did not move toward the umbrella  

 Showed little or no interest  

 Ran away from the umbrella  

What Do the Results Mean?
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!

Tidbits: 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.


Interpreting the Scores
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. 

Tidbits: 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.