Dog Care 101 Tip #190: Understanding Your Dog’s Personality knows that all dogs are different, with their own unique quirks and characteristics. But did you know that much of what makes up your dog’s temperament is determined by genetic influencers and instinctive behaviors passed down from their parents? Understanding your dog’s personality can help you understand the way they act, view the world and can help in training your dog. BBS thinks these methods developed by Jack and Wendy Volhard will not only help you understand your dog more completely, but grow your relationship. Read on to take the Dog Personality Test!

Your dog’s behaviors can be lumped together into three broad motivations, called drives.

Prey: Is your dog easily excited by motion, sounds or smells? Or does your dog live for chasing small animals or destroying their toys? These are examples of prey drive.

Pack: This motivator relates back to when wild dogs were a part of larger groups of dogs. Dogs with a high pack drive will long to be a part of a social hierarchy; meaning they love working on a team, physical contact and playing. They show reproductive behaviors like mounting and cleaning behaviors, like licking ears. Petting, grooming and close companionship is desired by this dog and being left alone is not.

Defense: Fight and flight behaviors are found in defense drives, which makes this motivator more complex. A very territorial, protective dog that doesn’t like grooming or petting exhibits fight behaviors. Flight behaviors are shown by a dog who is unsure in any situation, hides and runs away and simply lacks confidence. This is seen more in young dogs.

After reading through the drive characteristics, you might already have an idea of where your dog falls. To better understand your dog take the personality test the Volhards developed. Not every behavior will be addressed, and keep in mind this test was created for a dog in an “enriched environment,” meaning in a caring home, living inside. Also, when completing the test, answer questions about your dog as if they had never been trained before. Answer about your dog’s natural inclinations.

Assign the Questions these Point Values:

  • Almost always: 7-10
  • Sometimes: 4-6
  • Hardly ever: 0-3
  • If you’ve never experienced a particular behavior with your dog, leave the question blank.

Scoring for the test follows.  

It shouldn’t be a surprise that scoring will reflect particular breeds. Labs and Collies will have high prey drives scores, protective dogs like German Shepherds will have high fight scores and carting dogs like St. Bernards will have high pack scores. Mutts will have high scores in areas determined by their different parents. Most dogs have high prey drives; their natural instincts coming from the jobs of their ancestors. However, this drive also elicits the actions that annoy you. Think about when you take your dog for a walk. Naturally, does your dog walk calmly by your side? Or, do they sniff around hurriedly, taking in all the new scents and wandering to inspect new, exciting objects?

Understanding your dog’s natural disposition is the first step in training a better dog. Determining motivations will help you know how to address your unique dog and change behaviors. Next week check back with the Blog as we go through what to do with the results of your dog’s personality test through using and switching drives.

What did you find out about your dog? Tell us your results! Were you surprised, or no?

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