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     The Critical Stages of Dog's development and Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test

     The following section is reprinted from an article "A Novice Looks At Puppy Aptitude Testing"

     By Melissa Bartlett from Kees News - August 84 issue

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

     Stage I

    1-3 weeks (1-20 days)     The puppy needs warmth, food, sleep and his mother. Neurologically 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. Neurologically 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 litter-mates. Dogs removed from the litter at this period tend to be unable to socialize 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 (49th-56th day)      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 being is neurologically complete. However, physically he will not be able to do the tasks 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. Socialization 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 socialization 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 socialization with humans will result in shy behaviour 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 socialization. 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 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 Behavior) The break in socialization 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 socialization 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 traits, and
     2) indicate the dog with the most obedience potential. (...)

     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.)

     Also included in the Obedience Aptitude Tests is a section on structure. Over 60 breeds conform to what is called "conventional body type", that it, 45 degree shoulder layback and 90 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 efficiently are HD, cowhocks, eastie-westie 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 evaluation structure accurately is above your head, seek competent help. Last but not least, the prospective puppy tester 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 fact that the breeder of my "pick of the litter" puppy warned me not to get my face close to the dam should have been a tip off to watch for excitability and a tendency to bite in the puppies.

     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.

     The following is a concise chart explaining each test and the scoring, a sample score sheet and an interpretation of the scores:


Place puppy in test area. From a few feet away the tester coaxes the pup to her/him by clapping hands gently and kneeling down. Tester must coax in a direction away from the point where it entered the testing area.
Degree of social attraction, confidence or dependence.
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 hesitant, tail down.(5)
Didn't come at all.(6)
Stand up and walk away from the pup in a normal manner. Make sure the pup sees you walk away
Degree of following attraction. Not following indicated independence.
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)
No follow or went away.(6)
Crouch down and gently roll the pup on his back and hold it with one hand for a full 30 seconds.
Degree of dominant or submissive tendency. How it accepts stress, when socially/physically dominated.
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, straining to avoid eye contact.(6)
Let pup stand up and gently stroke him from the head to back while you crouch beside him. Continue stroking until a recognizable behavior is established.
Degree of acceptance of social dominance. Pup may try to dominate by jumping and nipping or is independent and walks away.
Jumped, pawed, bit, growled.(1)
Jumped, pawed.(2)
* Cuddles up to tester and tries to lick face.(3)
Squirmed, licked at hands.(4)
Rolled over, licked at hands.(5)
Went away and stayed away.(6)
Bend over and cradle the pup under its belly, fingers interlaced, palms up and elevate it just off the ground. Hold it there for 30 seconds.
Degree of accepting dominance while in position of no control.
Struggled fiercely, bit, growled.(1)
Struggled fiercely.(2)
* No struggle, relaxed.(3)
Struggled, settled, licked.(4)
No struggle, licked at hands.(5)
* No struggle, froze.(6)
Crouch beside pup and attract his attention with crumpled up paper ball. When the pup shows interest and is watching, toss the object 4-6 feet in front of pup.
Degree of willingness to work with a human. High correlation between ability to retrieve and successful guide dogs, obedience dogs, field trial dogs.
Chases object, picks up object and runs away.(1)
Chases object, stands over object does not return.(2)
Chases object and returns with object to tester.(3)
Chases object and returns without object to tester.(4)
Starts to chase object, loses interest.(5)
Does not chase object.(6)
Take puppy's webbing of one front foot and press between finger and thumb lightly then more firmly till you get a response, while you count slowly to 10. Stop as soon as puppy pulls away, or shows discomfort.
Degree of sensitivity to touch.
8-10 counts before response.(1)
6-7 counts before response.(2)
5-6 counts before response.(3)
2-4 counts before response.(4)
1-2 counts before response.(5)
Place pup in the center of area, tester or assistant makes a sharp noise a few feet from the puppy. A large metal spoon struck sharply on a metal pan twice works well.
Degree of sensitivity to sound. (Also can be a rudimentary test for deafness).
Listens, locates sound, walks towards it barking.(1)
Listens, locates sound, barks.(2)
Listens, locates sound, shows curiosity and walks toward sound.(3)
Listens, locates the sound.(4)
Cringes, backs off, hides.(5)
Ignores sound, shows no curiosity.(6)
Place pup in center of room. Tie a string around a large towel and jerk it across the floor a few feet away from puppy.
Degree of intelligent response to strange object.
Looks, attacks and bites.(1)
Looks, barks and tail up.(2)
Looks curiously, attempts to investigate.(3)
Looks, barks, tail-tuck.(4)
Runs away, hides.(5)
The puppy is gently set in a natural stance and evaluated for structure in the following categories: Straight front,
Straight rear
Shoulder layback,
Front angulation
Croup angulation,
Rear angulation
(See Diagram Below)
Degree of structural soundness. Good structure is necessary.
The puppy is correct in structure.(good)
The puppy has a slight fault or deviation.(fair)
The puppy has extreme fault or deviation.(poor)
Right angles are important


     Mostly 1's:     This dog is extremely dominant and has aggressive tendencies. He is quick to bite and is generally considered not good with children and elderly. When combined with a 1 or 2 in touch sensitivity, will be a difficult dog to train. Not a dog for the inexperienced handler; takes a competent trainer to establish leadership.

     Mostly 2's:     This dog is dominant and can be provoked to bite. Responds well to firm, consistent, fair handling in an adult household, and is likely to be a loyal pet once it respects its human leader. Often has bouncy, outgoing temperament; may be too active for elderly, and too dominant for small children.

     Mostly 3's:      This dog accepts humans as leaders easily. Is best prospect for the average owner, adapts well to new situations and is generally good with children and elderly, although may be inclined to be active. Makes a good obedience prospect and usually has commonsense approach to life.

     Mostly 4's:      This dog is submissive and will adapt to most households. May be slightly less outgoing and active than a dog scoring mostly 3's. Gets along well with children generally and trains well.

     Mostly 5's:      This dog is extremely submissive and needs special handling to build confidence and bring him out of his shell. Does not adapt well to change and confusion and needs a very regular, structured environment. Usually safe around children and bites only when severely stressed. Not a good choice for a beginner since it frightens easily, and takes a long time to get used to new experiences.

     Mostly 6's:      This dog is independent. He is not affectionate and may dislike petting and cuddling. It is difficult to establish a relationship with him whether for working or for pet. Not recommended for children who may force attention on him; he is not a beginner's dog.
    A. When combined with 1's, especially in restraint:      the independent dog is likely to bite under stress.
    B. When combine with 5's:      the independent dog is likely to hide from people, or freeze when approached by a stranger.

    No clear pattern: (several 1's, 2's, and 5's).     This dog may not be feeling well. Perhaps just ate or was recently wormed. Wait two days and retest. If the test still shows wide variations (lots of 1's and 5's) he is probably unpredictable and unlikely to be a good pet or obedience dog.


    C. in social attraction and social dominance:
The socially attracted dog is more easily taught to come and is more cuddly and friendly. Its interest in people can be a useful tool in training, despite other scores.

    A. in restraint and 1 in touch sensitivity:
The dominant aggressive dog, insensitive to touch will be a handful to train and extremely difficult for anyone other than an exceptionally competent handler.

    E. instablity:
This is likely to be a "spooky" dog which is never desirable. It requires a great deal of extra work to get a spooky dog adapted to new situations and they generally can't be depended upon in a crisis.

    F. in touch and sound sensitivity:
May also be very "spooky" and needs delicate handling to prevent the dog from becoming frightened.....

European Legacy kennel is located in Phoenix, AZ, USA
ph. 602-7280555

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