Mosura and Bijo were temperament tested by ATTS this weekend. We had a bit of bad luck; Bijo came into season a few days earlier and Mosura injured her paw bad enough to limp just minutes before her turn. Despite these stressful conditions, both girls passed the test with ease!
American Temperament Test Society, Inc. is a non-profit organization that provides for a uniform national program of temperament testing of purebred and spayed/neutered mixed-breed dogs. Tests are organized by local kennel clubs and the chief tester is trained and licensed by ATTS. It has been a number of years since an ATTS test was available in So Cal, so we were excited to get to participate. (Unfortunately, we heard about it too late to enter all of our dogs. Space was very limited.)
The ATTS test focuses on and measures different aspects of temperament such as stability, shyness, aggressiveness, and friendliness as well as the dog’s instinct for protectiveness towards its handler and/or self-preservation in the face of a threat. The test is designed for the betterment of all breeds of dogs and takes into consideration each breed’s inherent tendencies.
The test simulates a casual walk through the park or neighborhood where everyday life situations are encountered. During this walk, the dog experiences visual, auditory and tactile stimuli. Neutral, friendly and threatening situations are encountered, calling into play the dog’s ability to distinguish between non-threatening situations and those calling for watchful and protective reactions.
The test measures the dog’s behavior towards strangers, reaction to auditory, visual, and tactile stimuli, and self-protective/aggressive behavior. There are 10 total subtests including a neutral stranger who ignores, friendly stranger who touches the dog, noisy metal bucket, gun shots, sudden opening umbrella, walking on plastic sheet, walking on metal grate, and a weird stranger who turns threatening and then aggressive. The dog will fail if at any point it shows unprovoked aggression, panic without recovery, or strong avoidance of the object or person. A dog who fails the test may attempt to retake it only once.
The handler is not allowed to talk to, command, reassure, or correct the dog at any point during the test. Trying to direct or comfort the dog in any way is an automatic failure. The purpose of the test is to measure the dog’s reactions to the stimuli and speed of recovery, not its ability to follow orders. No obedience is required during the test, and the dog must have a full six feet of leash available at all times. Handlers are instructed to move with the dog if it heads in a particular direction rather than pull on it and give it a correction.
The ATTS test is useful to judge correct breed temperament in dogs considered for breeding. But it has many other uses as well, including judging adoptability of shelter dogs, combating breed specific legislation, and evidence in legal proceedings about supposed “dangerous” dogs. It can even be used to get better homeowners insurance, since many providers will deny applications or increase rates based on certain “risky” breeds.