Your Quick Guide to Temperament Testing for Service Dogs

You’ve come to the right place if you’re looking to boost your know-how on temperament testing for service dogs. Chances are you’ve been searching the web for valuable materials on the subject for quite a long time, too. 

While this may sound surprising, temperament testing for service dogs is not that complicated. However, there are some key things that you have to know about first to understand the whole thing fully. Make sure you read on to check out our straightforward yet insightful guide.

What is temperament testing for service dogs?

temperament temperament testing for service dogs

At its simplest, temperament testing for service dogs assesses a service dog’s mental and physical characteristics. The assessment involves a variety of specific tests aimed at learning how a service dog reacts to situations.

The conduct of temperament testing also determines if a service dog is suitable to take on specific tasks or responsibilities. Some owners of service dogs may require special needs that will greatly depend on their overall behavior and disposition. 

Temperament testing for service dogs determines which particular owner and assignment are suitable for them. These responsibilities may even require additional training. And these extra bits of teaching and instruction won’t be successful if a service dog’s aptitude isn’t up to it.

Is temperament testing a mandatory requirement for service dogs?

To make things clear, testing the temperament of service dogs is not mandatory at all. The conduct of this test involves dogs that may have the potential to be assigned additional tasks and responsibilities. These assignments need a detailed list of attributes.

Temperament testing for service dogs is one way to determine if a trainer can train a dog to perform a particular assignment. Subjecting a service dog to training without conducting a temperament test can lead to frustration sooner or later. It could also mean losing money, time, and effort from your end.

You may skip temperament testing if your service dog is there to provide you with companionship and lots of hugs. However, it will be essential to remember to take your medicines or avoiding PTSD-triggering situations.

What are things that get evaluated during temperament testing?

factors temperament testing for service dogs

As mentioned earlier, temperament testing is not one big test. Several subtests evaluate a service dog’s various mental and physical factors. A session of temperament testing may cover—but is certainly not limited to—the following subtests:

#1: Behavior towards strangers

Let’s start with this one first. This test involves putting a dog in a space with someone they don’t know. This space is usually confined and controlled like a small room. The stranger will either actively pet them or stay there the whole time. 

The attitude and demeanor of the service dog will be observed and recorded. The test primarily determines the overall social skills of the animal. It also ascertains how easy or difficult it will be to introduce them to other people. 

There will be times when a service dog with specific tasks will possibly need to alert other people. An example of this is when their owner requires medical assistance. Similarly, there will also be situations where they must keep clear of others. An example of this is when their owner is experiencing an anxiety attack.

#2: Reaction to sudden noises

The “noise” test assesses the quality of a service dog’s hearing capabilities. It also determines how quickly the animal can react to a wide variety of sounds. This “reaction time” can range from a finger snap to jingling keys. It may also involve calling the animal from various spots in a particular place.

You can determine a service dog’s general disposition to react to sudden noises. An extroverted animal will typically ignore these sounds. However, a potentially aggressive dog may unexpectedly bark or yelp and may even approach the sound source.

There is one crucial thing to keep in mind. It doesn’t mean that service dogs are automatically aggressive when they react to noise in a confrontational manner. In the same vein, dogs are not automatically extroverted if they aren’t that reactive to sounds.

Keep in mind that a service dog’s sense of hearing is very sensitive. Don’t overdo it on the testing since this can irritate your dog’s ears. A simple clap or stomp will already suffice.

#3: Independence test 

Next, let’s check out the “independence test.” It is another subtest of the service dog temperament testing. This section is the part where the establishment of the overall independence of the animal happens. This part is crucial since it can already give details on how they will react to certain situations.

While a service dog is almost always accompanying its owner, there will be times when the animal will have to be alone. An owner of a service dog could have a tricky time if they turn out to be extremely clingy. The same situation could arise if the animal is overly independent.

The independence test usually involves physically lifting the service dog and keeping them in that position. A clingy dog will avoid not getting down when the person raising them places the animal on the ground. An independent dog typically walks away but not too far from the said person.

#4: Behavior towards other animals

A service dog’s behavior towards other animals helps determine if the owner can bring them to certain places. These places include parks and similar venues with other dogs in the area. A service dog’s disposition towards other animals can benefit its owner or the exact opposite.

If a service dog is friendly, its owner can bring him along anywhere they are allowed on the premises. On the other hand, if a service dog is quarrelsome, it’s a different story. There could be places that they—and the owner—could have their access denied. 

These include pet-friendly dining places, resorts, and similar venues. There’s even a big possibility that you will get banned from a specific zone if your service dog shows aggression. Interestingly, this is the reason why this part of the test is significant, especially before choosing a service dog.

Experts also share that more sociable animals tend to be very nice around young children. This is a bonus if you have small kids. Having your service dog around a young child can help him or her appreciate the value of caring for others. And your child would be in for lots of hugs and kisses, too.

#5: Reaction to touch

Some people acquire service dogs to help prevent the onset of a full-blown panic attack. Some get a service dog to shake off the effects of PTSD. These people usually depend on the sensation of touch to feel safe and protected.

This subtest is the part of the temperament testing where an evaluation of the animal’s reaction to touch happens. Does he struggle to get away before contact? Does she display aggressive behavior like baring her teeth while at it? 

Does he expose his tummy when you tickle him? Or does she tense up and try to escape? These are just some of the usual questions in this part of the testing.  The person conducting the test may add other questions during this part of the service dog test. 

There is one thing to remember, though. There are service dogs that need to be always available to cuddle. Some should be a bit firm. These attributes significantly depend on their respective owners. The attributes of your service dog should suit your needs. 

#6: Walking disposition

While this may sound a bit simplistic, this part of the test gives you an idea of how patient a service dog is. Patience is an attribute required by some owners of service dogs. These people may not be that mobile already, or they could have a mental health issue that prevents regular movement. (Click here to check out the best dog breeds for mobility.)

A significant example of this is a person who has bipolar disorder or a dysfunctional personality. Both conditions prevent them from adapting to some situations. They may also have difficulty establishing friendly relationships or even hold on to a job.

A patient dog tends to wait for the person handling them during a walk. The animal will not take the lead but will most likely stay close to the person’s legs or side. This habit prevents giving the owner the feeling that they may already be left behind, encouraging panicky thoughts.

#7: Family history

The behavior of the service dog’s ascendants, like its parents and grandparents, is evaluated. This subtest determines the possible list of traits that it will have. This part of the temperament test can be either simple or very tricky.

It will be simple if there are available records of the ascendants of the service dog that the tester can check. Alternatively, it will be tricky if the service dog is a rescue dog that has no family history available. 

It can be possible that family history records of some service dogs can be accessed online. There are web directories of some canine breeds. To get started, you simply have to key in your service dog’s mother’s or father’s name on your search bar .

#8: Visual stimulus 

The visual stimulus reaction can give you an idea of how a service dog will react during emergencies. This subtest measures the animal’s visual reflex, particularly when sidestepping certain obstacles.

This part of the test usually involves showing the service dog various colors, shapes, and textures. The examiner will also note the speed at which they can react to these items. One of the most common things used in this test part is a rubber ball.

#9: Reaction to smells 

This temperament subtest involves letting the service dog smell different things inside a controlled environment. There will be the placement of various items inside bowls. The service dog is then allowed to move around to smell them.

A service dog may have to use their smelling capabilities to take on a task. This assessment of smelling capabilities is the primary reason for this part of the test. The things usually utilized in this phase include dog food, candy, fruits, and various other items.

What are the factors that may influence your dog’s temperament?

influence temperament testing for service dogs

A dog’s temperament isn’t just something that they inherently possess. External factors influence some. These external influences usually include their owner or owners.

Previous owner and environment

This previous ownership is a factor that is common among rescue dogs. These animals are inclined to retain some habits and mannerisms they had while still with their previous owners. These habits and characteristics could be positive or negative.

These behaviors could have come from traumatic experiences like being chained all the time. Or be subjected to physical abuse by the former owners. Remember to be a bit patient with these things since dogs can quickly realize they are loved. And they will change for the better, too.

Current surroundings

Similarly, a service dog may likely have acquired some of its habits and mannerisms from its present owner and environment. If its owner constantly shows them love and affection, chances are the service dog will be very demonstrative as well.

The same goes if the service dog constantly undergoes challenging situations. It will manifest aggressive behavior sooner or later. It’s all about balancing your personality towards your dog to keep its overall behavior just right.

What happens to service dogs who don’t ace the temperament testing?

There’s nothing wrong with a service dog who fails some parts of the temperament testing. There are just some dogs who are not equipped with specialized traits to take on specific tasks and responsibilities. 

Additionally, your service dog will remain the loving, tender, and compassionate animal you began with after the test. Having your service dog take the test won’t lead to significant changes. 

There’s no need to worry if this happens to your service dog. You don’t have any special assignments in-store. So long as you’re happy with your service dog’s current set of capabilities, you’re good to go. And no amount of testing will ever replace the friendship and love your service dog can provide.


Your Quick Guide to Temperament Testing for Service Dogs

by Francis SEO time to read: 8 min