Temperament Test For Dogs
While In The Kennel

Temperament Test + Dog Aggression In Kennels

You might decide to adopt a puppy with the thinking that "a puppy is too young to have aggression and other problems." WRONG. A puppy can have buried aggression just as much as an adult dog. She can have fear aggression, anything. So, before you adopt a puppy or mature dog, this article is for you!

  • If you have children, bring one or two along. It's going to be important to see how the dog reacts to the kids. A caution here and that is, SOME dogs take a while to adjust to children so this is not a 100% temperament test, but it is an indication.

  • When you enter the kennel, locate the first dog you might be interested in. Look at the dog with no expression and stare at him for a few seconds.

Look straight at the dog...
  • If the dog lies down, sits, wiggles around, wags his tail, glances at you and looks around or presses himself against the cage door and acts happy that you are there, apparently not noticing your stare, you have a potential winner. This pooch obviously likes people and is not hung up with dog aggression or fear.

    If a dog comes up to you
    and offers one of her possessions
    for you to take, she's a winner!


  • On the other hand, if he barks, jumps up on the cage door, stares back and possibly even growls (or doesn't) you have a dog aggression problem. Adoption for him is unlikely as this doe has failed the temperament test.

There are simple ways of conducting temperament tests and finding signs of dog aggression while still in the kennel.. You can try the following age-old moves:

Use your hand...
  • Eliminate the possibility that the dog you are considering only wants you to let him out of the cage.

  • Place your hand at the wire mesh of the cage door at about the height of the dog’s muzzle, but NOT inside the cage. Hold it there a few seconds.

  • Does the dog come right over to your hand? Does he try to nuzzle and/or lick it? Does he move close to the cage door and turn in an effort to let you pet him? If “yes,” to all, that is possibly a friendly, socialized dog.

  • If the dog ignores your hand, or sniffs your hand but barks or growls and does not move close to the cage door or lick you hand, this is not a dog you want to pursue.

    This happy sportsman could be hiding a testy temper.
    descriptive text

Some motion...
  • This time, with your hand still at the cage but not in it, move your hand around in a circle of sorts.

  • Did the dog follow your hand as you went around? Did the dog try to get closer to the cage door so you could pet or touch him? If so, this is a friendly dog that wants more than just seeing you open the cage door for him and did well with the temperament test.

  • If the dog barked and jumped up on the door and ignored your hand, watch out and leave him alone. He’s trouble. Walk on by.

After you’ve selected a dog, have a staff member open the door and take the dog outside for a short walk.

A dog that comes to the front of the cage and
wants to be petted probably has few or no aggression issues. Continue the test.



  • At this point your chance to adopt a dog or adopt a puppy is going pretty well, but dog aggression can be hidden quite well. Take your hand and, starting at the dog’s head, stroke him gently all the way down his back, stopping at his tail. Repeat this a few times.

  • Does the dog lean closer in to you and/or look back as if to get more attention? The dog might turn around several times and even lick your hand while this is going on. If the dog shows he is enjoying this back rub, he is likely a friendly, well socialized dog and would make a great pet. This is what the temperament test is looking for.

Sit on a box...
  • Sit in a chair or on a box or something, away from the dog. The dog should come over to you within a few seconds, come up between your legs and may even rest his muzzle on your lap. This shows a social, friendly, curious dog.

  • If the dog ignores you, put him back.

  • Now leave the dog alone in the room and walk out, closing the door. Leave the dog for five minutes and return. Study the dog and look to see if the dog seems anxious, out of breath or shows any signs that it has been “upset” while you’ve been gone. This is not a positive, solid test, but is an indication that the dog may or may not have separation anxiety. (There’s a big difference between leaving a dog for 5 minutes and 5 hours!) Reducing separation anxiety is usually trainable for most dogs.

Try affection with the dog…
  • Pet and massage and praise the dog for a ‘couple minutes. If he stays with you and seems to enjoy the attention, if he snuggles into your lap, licks you or even begs for more, you have a good dog, ready for a new home. He's saying, "you came to adopt a dog, so adopt ME!"

  • At this point you can go ahead and adopt. Dog aggression is not likely to be an issue and the dog has passed all the other temperament test points.

Don't let looks fool you.
This little sweetheart
may have a lot of aggression "bottled up!"



Dog Aggression, You're Enemy

The kennel may let you can take the dog out for walks and get to know him a little better than just in the cages but you need to do some temperament tests for dog aggression problems with some simple in-kennel testing. See above section.

While walking, how does your dog react to other dogs that may also be out walking? With pleasant curiosity, or anger and growling? If anger and growling, put the dog back and keep moving. He just failed this temperament test.

Locate any dog aggression in the kennel before you adopt a dog. You also want a friendly dog free of separation anxiety if possible, that comes forward to you in the cage ON HIS OWN.

Don’t ever call a dog that hangs back in his cage. Dogs that stay in the back of the cage are often fearful and can show fear-biting and dominance when they get out.

When you walk into a kennel to adopt a dog, most of the dogs will bark at the same time and start jumping around, slamming against the chain link fencing, trying to get your attention. The noise can shatter your ears. They are saying “get me out of this cage,” as opposed to "I want to go home with you.” People make that mistake. All the dog wants is to get out! They can hide a lot of dog aggression and fool you into an easy dog adoption by acting that way. I’ve had experience with dog adoption and kennels and the temperament test process.

  • The dog or puppy that voluntarily comes up to the front of the cage, tail swishing back and forth so hard his hind end is swaying, and looks up at you or turns sideways to the cage door so you can see to pet him better is the one you want to seriously consider.

  • If you stop at a dog’s cage and he grabs his toy and offers it to you at the cage fence, you have a winner. He is sharing his property with you and appears people friendly. A dog adoption possibility, but not quite yet. See “Spotting dog aggression in the kennel” below.

  • If you come to a cage and the dog won’t come to the front, or insists on chewing his rawhide bone and has no interest in you, pass on by. This dog is dominant and will take a lot of work to get him into a submissive attitude, if that’s even possible.

  • Ask the kennel staff how long the dog you want has been there. Dogs deteriorate when locked up too long. They can become aggressive because they're under socialized while sitting in the kennel. They become frustrated.

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