Friday, April 1, 2011

Temperment, a quick overview.

Temperament: The manner of thinking, behaving, or reacting characteristic of a specific person *or in this case, Animal*

Dogs, just like people, have unique personalities that include their behavior, natural and learned traits and how they react to situations, stimuli, people and other animals.
Each breed of dog has a general guideline as to the traits that a stable dog of that breed should exhibit. Temperament is more then just traits, it is the accumulation of training, socialization, personality, history, genetics,  traits and also current situations. Every dog is different, and while it is acceptable to look for these breed specific traits, one needs to consider all of these things as a whole when understanding their dog's temperament.

When you understand your dog's personality and how they react to things, training, socialization and introductions can be easier and you can get a clearer grasp on what your dog needs and how to approach meeting those needs.

Temperament tests are often used by rescues and shelters to judge the adoptability as well as the individual personality of new dogs. These evaluations are used as a tool in understanding a new dog and to identify what needs the dog has.

What do they mean by a "Stable" dog?
A stable dog is one who exhibits adaptability and tolerance to new situations. One that has breed specific traits and reacts favorably under stress. One who is friendly, outgoing and accepting.

You can use Temperament to determine what dog would be the best fit for your family. If you have children, you might consider a dog who is tolerant, calm and accepting of loud noises, lots of chaos and being touched hugged or pestered. If you have an active lifestyle you might consider a high energy dog who reacts favorably to new situations, new people and is not bothered by change.
Keep in mind that the dog's age does play an important role. Many stable puppies can still grow up having unstable temperaments if not given proper socialization, training and boundaries. Puppies Temperament changes as they enter into adulthood, sexual maturity and as they mature in general so by the time they are a mature adult, their temperament is pretty consistent. *This is why i recommend adopting adult dogs, their personality will be generally consistent unless they are placed in extremely distressing situations*

Mature adult female. spayed. 
Mia approaches people with tail wagging and a soft look. She has the tendency to jump up on people but accepts redirection nicely and responds to verbal commands. Mia does not bark at strangers, she exhibits a very calm and tolerant demeanor. She is very accepting of children and does not startle or become nervous when approached, tolerant of exuberant childhood greetings, touches and affection. Mia will engage in play with toys, will play tug but is not interested in winning. She is active when asked to be active and when things are calm she is happy to find a cozy spot to sleep. She enjoys being close to people and willingly shows her belly. With proper introductions and slow integration she is accepting of new dogs. She can be dog reactive on leash but in general she exhibits desired positive breed specific traits, adaptive and friendly personality and is of Stable Temperament. 

Young puppy, female. 
Betty approaches people with tail wagging but is not an overly exuberant greeter. Betty shows more interest in other animals then in meeting humans. She is highly adaptable and does not become shy in new situations. she is a very vocal puppy who is not afraid of alerting people to her needs. She enjoys playing with toys if interacting with people or other dogs. She wants to be out with everyone and does not like having her own "safe zone" such as a crate or other quiet secluded place. She loves being in the middle of the activity shows no shyness about loud noises lots of movement or new people coming and going. She is not very submissive towards other dogs in play, this in no way means Betty is aggressive. She is confidant and sure of herself yet will give up on an activity should she become bored or frustrated. She exhibits desired, positive, breed specific traits and is of Stable Temperament. with proper training, socialization and introductions, she can continue exhibiting friendly behaviors and maintain positive reactions to new people and situations.

These examples of temperaments are not the same as temp testing at shelters, they are observations about dogs who have been placed in a home setting and subjected to real life situations and environments. They are a way of showing how you can understand a dog by looking at its overall temperament. Testing through shelters judges animals based on key points and reactions to touch and stimuli. How long it takes to approach the evaluator, if the dog looks away when looked at, if the dog stiffens when touched or acts aggressively when approached while eating or playing with a toy. 
In a home setting it is easier to get an even better idea as to the personality of your pet. Does the dog follow you around the house, an alarm barker, unable to settle if the house is chaotic, or if they prefer to find a quiet bedroom or the solitude of their crate. Sometimes a shelter situation can have a negative effect on the outcome of a temp test because the dog is stressed, nervous or depressed from living in a shelter situation or being introduced to the chaos and noise. 
This is why Goodfellas Rescue keeps every rescue for at least a week, preferably two before that dog is available for foster. We like to keep new dogs at least a month before they go to adoptive homes so that we can learn how each dog reacts to things. Being in a home is less stressful and we can get a better feel for the real personality of a dog and what home might be best for that dog based on their Temperament. 
We look at the basic guidelines for traits of the breed.
Human Aggression is 100% not tolerated in any of our Pit bull type dogs as it is NOT a breed trait and it is a sign of an unstable dog.
We only place breed ambassadors up for adoption. Dogs that exhibit appropriate breed traits, stable and friendly temperaments and personalities that best match the homes they are going to.
If you are looking for a new dog for your home, you want to look for a dog that compliments your situation. Getting a submissive dog of opposite gender if your dog is dominant is a good match. Getting a young and energetic puppy if your dog is older and does not tolerate rude behavior then that is not a good match. A shy dog in a house full of children, not a good match. A puppy for a mother who has just had her first child is not a good match.
Do your research, take a real look at your family and your needs as well as your other dogs. Take your time finding a new pet, sit and talk with them about your current pets personality, your activity level, your experience and your situation.
Understanding your dog's temperament will help you understand their needs so that you can work together and create positive interactions and happy memories. We always recommend researching dog breeds and taking the time to really consider what type of dog will be the best fit for your family.
A stable pit bull should have a proper temperament for the breed. Intelligent, friendly and outgoing, exuberant and adaptable. A pit bull is not a guard dog and should greet people with a soft positive demeanor. It is not uncommon to be drowned in kisses, with tail wagging and body wiggling. Even dogs that do not become this excited should always be happy to interact with people. This breed, even when under great distress, exhibits the desire to be with humans. A pit bull who exhibits human aggression or avoids human contact does not display proper temperament. Dog aggression and human aggression do NOT go hand in hand. Many terrier breeds can exhibit signs of dog aggression however this is NOT a sign the dog will react negatively to humans.

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