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AKC Temperament Test

Overview of the AKC Temperament Test

The American Kennel Club (AKC) Temperament Test (ATT) is a specialized program designed to evaluate the temperament of individual dogs. Developed by the world’s largest purebred dog registry and a leading advocate for all dogs, the AKC introduced this test to assess and highlight the behavioral aspects of dogs across various breeds. The ATT plays a crucial role in identifying and acknowledging dogs that demonstrate appropriate responses to a range of stimuli and situations, showcasing their stability and reliability as members of society.

Purpose of the Test

The primary aim of the ATT is to provide a meaningful and focused evaluation of a dog’s temperament. This includes assessing a dog’s natural predisposition to react in certain ways to various stimuli. The test is structured to examine how a dog reacts to a variety of social interactions, auditory and visual stimuli, tactile experiences, proprioceptive (motion) challenges, and unexpected situations. By doing so, the ATT seeks to screen for traits such as fear, shyness, inability to recover, and lack of cooperation. Conversely, it positively identifies traits that include emotional stability, inquisitiveness, appropriate social behavior, biddability (trainability), and the ability to recover from startling situations reasonably quickly.

Significance of the Test

The ATT serves as an essential tool for both dog breeders and owners. For breeders, it offers a standardized method to assess and demonstrate the temperament of their breeds as per a particular Breed Standard. For owners, especially of mixed-breed dogs, the test provides valuable insights into the temperament characteristics of their pets. The AKC emphasizes the importance of temperament as a key aspect of a dog’s overall health and well-being, influencing its interactions with humans and other animals.

The test contributes significantly to understanding canine behavior, promoting responsible dog ownership, and enhancing the human-canine bond. By recognizing and certifying dogs with stable and reliable temperaments, the ATT also plays a role in challenging misconceptions about certain breeds and advocating for the inherent good nature of most dogs.

Eligibility & Requirements for the AKC Temperament Test

The AKC Temperament Test (ATT) is designed to be inclusive and accessible to a wide range of dogs. The key eligibility criteria for the test are:

  • Age Requirement: Dogs must be at least one year old to participate in the ATT. This age requirement ensures that dogs have reached a level of maturity necessary for accurate temperament assessment.
  • Open to All Breeds: The test is open to all breeds, including mixed breed dogs. This inclusive approach allows a diverse range of dogs to demonstrate their temperament and behavioral traits, reflecting the AKC’s commitment to recognizing the unique qualities of all dogs.
  • Health & Well-being: It is essential that dogs are in good health and condition to undergo the test. This ensures the safety and well-being of the dog, the evaluators, and others involved in the test.

Registration Process

To participate in the ATT, owners must follow the AKC’s registration process. This typically involves:

  • Finding a Test Event: Owners can search for scheduled ATT events via the AKC’s event search tool on the organization’s website. These events may be standalone tests or conducted alongside other AKC events.
  • Registration Submission: Once an appropriate event is located, owners need to register their dogs for the test. This process may involve filling out forms and paying any applicable fees.
  • Understanding Test Rules: It is crucial for participants to understand the rules and expectations of the ATT. This includes knowing what will happen during the test and how their dogs are expected to behave.
  • Pre-Test Preparation: Owners are encouraged to prepare their dogs for the test by familiarizing them with the types of stimuli and situations that will be encountered.

Special Considerations

While the ATT is designed to be as inclusive as possible, owners of dogs with specific behavioral issues, such as extreme shyness or aggression, may need to consult with a professional trainer or behaviorist before considering the test. The ATT is not a training tool, Rather, it is an assessment of a dog’s current temperament.

Test Structure & Components

The AKC Temperament Test (ATT) is structured to comprehensively evaluate a dog’s temperament through a series of test items. These items are categorized to assess different aspects of the dog’s behavior in, and reactions to, various situations. The test is designed to be non-competitive and is conducted as a pass/fail evaluation.

Test Categories

The AKC Temperament Test includes test items in six key categories that collectively provide a well-rounded assessment of a dog’s temperament:

  1. Social Interactions: This category evaluates the dog’s behavior and reactions around people and other dogs. It assesses the dog’s sociability and its ability to interact in a socially appropriate manner.
  2. Auditory Stimuli: The dog’s reaction to various sounds, ranging from everyday noises to unexpected loud noises, is tested. This helps in understanding the dog’s sensitivity or reactivity to auditory stimuli.
  3. Visual Stimuli: Dogs are exposed to different visual stimuli to gauge their responses to moving objects, sudden appearances, and other visual challenges they might encounter in everyday life.
  4. Tactile Stimuli (Touch): This part of the test checks the dog’s comfort level with being touched in different ways or walking on different surfaces. It is important for assessing a dog’s tolerance and sensitivity to physical contact.
  5. Proprioceptive (Motion) Stimuli: The dog’s reaction to motion-based stimuli, such as being gently led or guided, is assessed. This helps in evaluating the dog’s confidence and comfort with movement around and towards them.
  6. Reaction to Unexpected Stimuli: This category is crucial for assessing how a dog recovers from a startling situation or responds to an unexpected event.

Purpose of Each Category

Each category in the ATT is designed to mirror everyday situations that a dog may encounter, thus providing a realistic and practical assessment of its temperament. The test aims to identify desirable traits like emotional stability, inquisitive nature, appropriate social behavior, and the ability to recover from surprises or startling situations. It also screens for less desirable traits such as excessive fear, shyness, and inability to recover from stress.

Evaluation Criteria in the ATT

Criteria for Passing

In the AKC Temperament Test (ATT), passing criteria focus on a dog’s ability to demonstrate desirable behavioral traits. Key among these is emotional stability, where the dog should exhibit calmness without excessive fear or anxiety. Inquisitiveness is also a valued trait, indicating a dog’s healthy curiosity and willingness to engage with new experiences. Social behavior is critically assessed, with the dog expected to interact in a friendly or neutral manner with people and other dogs, displaying neither aggression nor undue shyness. Biddability, or the dog’s responsiveness to the handler, is essential, showing the ability to be trained and follow instructions. Finally, a dog’s ability to recover promptly from startling situations is tested, highlighting its resilience and adaptability.

Criteria for Failing

Failing the ATT generally results from the dog displaying behaviors opposite to the passing criteria. Excessive fear or shyness, particularly to the extent that it impedes performance in the test, can lead to failing. Any signs of aggression towards people or other dogs are taken very seriously and typically result in not passing the test. Inability to recover from a startling situation within a reasonable amount of time or a consistent lack of cooperation and refusal to follow instructions during the test are also reasons a dog might fail.

Role of the Evaluators

The evaluators in the ATT are responsible for administering the test and making impartial judgments on each dog’s performance. These evaluators, who are often AKC Obedience judges, Rally judges, or approved Canine Good Citizen evaluators, bring their expertise in canine behavior to assess the dog’s actions and reactions during the test. Their role is crucial as they interpret the dog’s behavior in various scenarios and determine if the dog meets the AKC’s temperament standards.

Preparing for the ATT

Preparing for the AKC Temperament Test (ATT) involves a series of steps and considerations to ensure that a dog is ready to be evaluated. Central to this preparation is socialization and exposure to a variety of environments, sounds, and experiences. This process helps the dog to become accustomed to different situations it might encounter in the test.

Training and socialization should start from a young age. Introducing a dog to diverse groups of people, other animals, and various environments can significantly enhance its social skills and adaptability. This is crucial for the social interaction component of the ATT.

Exposure to different sounds and visual stimuli is also an important aspect of preparation. This can include playing recordings of urban noises, exposing the dog to various household and outdoor sights, and gently introducing it to different tactile experiences. Such exposure helps the dog become more comfortable and less reactive to the auditory, visual, and tactile components of the test.

It is also beneficial for the dog to experience different handling situations. This includes being touched by strangers, walking on unusual surfaces, and navigating through different spaces. This kind of training is particularly important for the tactile and proprioceptive components of the test.

In addition to these preparations, familiarizing the dog with recovery from startling situations is important. Training methods that gently introduce the dog to unexpected situations and then reward calm recovery can be effective. This helps the dog to develop the resilience needed for the unexpected stimulus component of the ATT.

Finally, regular training sessions that reinforce obedience and responsiveness to commands are crucial. This not only prepares the dog for the biddability aspect of the test, it also strengthens the bond and communication between the dog and its handler, which is essential for a successful test experience.

Getting Started with the ATT

To participate in the AKC Temperament Test (ATT), there are several key steps that dog owners need to follow:

  • Consult the ATT Evaluator Guide: For an in-depth understanding of the ATT, including all rules and guidelines, refer to the official AKC ATT Evaluator Guide. This document is pivotal for anyone looking to participate in the ATT. It offers detailed insights into the test’s structure, evaluation criteria, and what to expect during the test.
  • Find a Test Event: Use the AKC’s event search tool on their website to find upcoming ATT events. These events may be conducted independently or alongside other AKC events.
  • Register for the Test: Once a suitable event is found, complete the registration process for the ATT. This may involve filling out a registration form and paying any associated fees.
  • Prepare Your Dog: Engage in socialization and training activities that align with the test components. This includes exposing your dog to various stimuli and environments, and reinforcing obedience and positive behavior.
  • Post-Test Considerations: After the test, regardless of the outcome, use the experience as a learning opportunity. If your dog passes, consider it a testament to its temperament and training. If your dog does not pass, assess areas for improvement and consider additional training or socialization.
  • Re-Testing if Necessary: Dogs that do not pass the ATT can be retested in the future. Use the time between the tests to work on areas that need improvement.

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JUNE 2024 ISSUE

June 2024 Vol. 32 No. 6

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