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The Volhard Test : What You Need To Know

Updated: Mar 2

The Volhard test is useful in helping you choose the right puppy to train for service work.

Puppies sleeping together in doggie bed


While the training a Service Dog receives is an important aspect of the longevity of their career, the key to a stable Service Dog starts and ends with their character and personality. The 'Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test', ensures that prospective handlers can accurately measure the character of a dog before choosing to train them for service work.

Explanation Of Test

The 'Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test' has roots beginning in the 1930s when dogs were tested for the ability to become guide dogs. Then throughout the 1950s and 1960s, more tests were performed on dogs to measure characteristics such as dominance and submission. Years later Wendy and Joachim Volhard, experts on canine behavior, used the aforementioned tests to aid in their creation of the Puppy Aptitude Test, which was officially released to the public in the 1970s. The initial purpose of the test was to help breeders, trainers, and owners to match the right puppy with the right home. However, in modern times, the test has gained popularity within the world of working dogs and is most commonly used for those looking to train Service Dogs.

The Importance of The Test

The traits a dog will need to work in the service field can be accurately observed on the dog's 49th day of life when using the PAT. When an owner trains a Service dog, choosing the puppy with the necessary scores to be successful at working greatly decreases the chances of having to wash (retire) the dog.

How Does The Puppy Aptitude Test Work

The PAT is comprised of ten assessments that are used to measure the individual factors that make up a puppy's skills and character. These factors include social attraction, willingness to follow, restraint, social dominance, elevation, retrieving, touch sensitivity, sound sensitivity, sight sensitivity, and stability. While the whole of the assessment is performed within the same time, the ten assessments are performed independently one after another.

While most breeders and trainers will perform the test themselves (along with an assistant), there are no specific qualifications for who is allowed to administer the test. However, the test does require two people. Individual one will be the scorer and individual two will be the tester. If you are looking for a puppy to owner-train, you and one other person of your choosing can perform the tests yourselves.

What Scores Should A Service Prospect Receive

When testing a puppy and hoping they qualify for service work, one should be looking for a majority score of four. A puppy with a score of mostly four will be mild-mannered, biddable, and keen on human interaction when given adequate training and structure. Keep in mind that each test on the assessment is meant to be judged individually, which means you should NOT be calculating the average of the scores. Instead, you will need to be looking for a puppy that scores a four on most of the tests. When a puppy is naturally geared towards service work, it will make their training easier which is especially important for first-time owner trainers.

In Conclusion

The PAT is used by professionals due to its proven ability at choosing puppies that are fit to undergo service dog training. And while the test does not guarantee that a dog will pass the requirements to work, it does give one the best chance at selecting the fittest puppy for the job. Due to this, if you are looking to owner-train a Service Dog we highly recommend using the PAT when choosing your prospective puppy.

Below are three options where you can download a printable PDF of the assessment.

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