Temperament Testing: Volhard's Guide to Predicting Canine Personalities

Temperament Testing: Volhard's Guide to Predicting Canine Personalities

Posted by Volhard Dog Nutrition on Mar 9th 2021

Every puppy is a furry bundle of joy, ready to play, make new friends, and discover the surrounding world. However, akin to humans, each dog has a unique set of traits that define its personality—some puppies will grow into lizard chasers, while others will enjoy nothing more than peace and quiet.

Choosing the Right Puppy for the Right Home

Getting a dog or puppy on impulse is rarely a good idea. Remember that dogs, like cars, were designed for a particular function. You need to decide what you want, a Corvette or a Suburban, a Fox Terrier or a Newfoundland.

When the various breeds were originally developed, there was a greater emphasis on the ability to do a job, such as herding, guarding, hunting, drafting, etc., than appearance. If a particular breed interests you, find out first what the dog was bred to do. There are so many different breeds to choose from and if there is a secret to getting that “perfect puppy”, it lies in doing your homework.

Deciding What Kind of Dog to Get

The well-trained dog begins with some idea of what role the dog is expected to play in your life and then selecting a dog that is suitable for the job. Following are some of the reasons for selecting a dog:

  • Companionship
  • Playmate for the kids
  • Protection
  • A special activity, such as hunting, herding, breeding, showing in conformation, or competing in performance events
  • Status symbol (not wise)
  • A combination of the above

Some dogs are able to fill all of these expectations, while others have more limited talents.

Getting a dog for a status symbol usually means one of the guarding or rarer breeds, and often these represent some special challenges. If you want a rare breed, first find out why it is such a rare breed and if there are any potential drawbacks.

Conversely, one of the most popular dogs and number 1 in American Kennel Club registrations is the Labrador Retriever. The reason is simple—it is a good multipurpose dog that can serve as a companion and playmate for the kids, is naturally protective, generally enjoys good health, makes a good guide dog, and with little time and effort can be transformed into a well trained dog.

You also need to take into account your own lifestyle and circumstances. For most of us this means a dog that can satisfy our need for companionship, is easily trained and doesn’t require a lot of upkeep.

Knowing how to spot your puppy’s personality from the beginning is not a difficult task. What you need is the proper method. Here at Volhard Dog Nutrition, our founder, Wendy Volhard, used her vast experience in dog training to develop the most widely spread system for determining a puppy’s temperament and a Personality Profile to help dog owners understand why their canine companions behave in a certain way. These tests will help you know what temperament to expect from your new dog.

The Link Between Behavior and Nutrition

Breeds and inherited instincts are paramount to understanding canine personalities. Though puppies are born with certain personality traits, external factors will also influence their behavior, and a crucial factor at the beginning of every puppy’s life is proper nutrition.

The way a puppy views, exists and thrives in this world heavily depends on getting proper species appropriate diets. When fed a healthy diet, puppies go through the proper development process, allowing them to better explore, learn and cope in the surrounding world. However, when puppies start on an unhealthy diet, their development can be impeded. Without proper nutrients, puppies can have trouble with bone development, organ function, and maintaining hormonal levels. This all leads to a distracted dog who is more focused on feeling better than learning.

As you’re trying to find the perfect puppy for your home, make sure that you choose a breeder whose credentials and reputation precede them. Always ask for tests, certificates, conception type (artificially or naturally), and what they feed—these factors prove whether your future dog was raised in a calm and happy environment, where he could enjoy his puppy life and enrich his personality.

Understanding Your Dog’s Instinctive Behaviors

Before we get to the puppy’s personality type, we must understand basic canine behavior. Puppies are born with a set of behaviors called instincts, which they inherit from their parents. For a better understanding, these behaviors were grouped into the following categories:

  • Prey Drive: Always on the move, dogs with a prey drive inherited behaviors associated with hunting and killing prey. Smell, sound, and motion are the key factors in activating the prey drive. You will notice that these dogs keep chasing everything that moves, rip toys apart, and bury food in the yard.
  • Pack Drive: These dogs adhere to a social hierarchy built on rules and order. They show specific behaviors, such as social interaction (through physical contact, playing, etc.) and reproductive behaviors (licking, mounting, and other courting gestures). If your dog has the pack drive, he will love to be in the presence of and work with you. However, long periods of absence from your part will render him sad and lonely.
  • Defense Drive: The survival and self-preservation instincts are strong with these dogs, consisting of both aggressive (fight) and avoidance (flight) behaviors. The defense drive is harder to predict than the other two because one stimulus can elicit a different behavior, especially in puppies.

Spotting a Dog’s Personality

Now that we know the different types of behavioral drives, let us turn our attention towards canine personality. Frankly, your dog’s behavior can easily be read—what you have to do is observe your dog’s behavior in similar situations. Is he ready to make a run for it whenever a car or a bicycle is passing by? If you’re already aware of this, then voilà, you are closer to understanding your canine companion’s personality.

To make it easier for owners to understand their dogs’ personalities, our founder, Wendy Volhard, studied ten behaviors associated with each drive (which are best to represent the strengths of a dog) and created the Canine Personality Profile. Although not all-inclusive, this crude yet accurate method will help you predict your dog’s behavior. The profile consists of a questionnaire that dog owners or breeders have to fill in with the following answers and their corresponding point values:

  • Almost always: 10
  • Sometimes: 5 to 9
  • Hardly ever: 0 to 4

Once you fill in the questionnaire, the Canine Personality Profile chart can help you interpret your results and determine which drive your dog exhibits.

While the results of the questionnaire are accurate, its overall accuracy depends on several factors, such as:

The method is effective when dealing with dogs who live in a positive environment, outside of a kennel, and get enough occasions to show their personality.

The results might differ from breed to breed – many dogs exhibit the prey drive, which is the hardest to control and the one that’s bound to get them into trouble.

Here at Volhard, we specialize in helping dog owners discover their dogs’ unique personalities. If you would like a copy of the Volhard Aptitude test so you can do the test at home make sure that you sign up, and we will send you the aptitude test. Furthermore, you can check out our founder, Wendy Volhard’s Dog Training for Dummies book for additional helpful tips!


With over 50 years of experience as a trainer, breeder, and nutritionist, Wendy Volhard has seen canine personalities from every angle. She has truly enriched the lives of dog owners with her effective Temperament Testing method, which, even now, has no replacement. We hope that more dog breeders will learn about the wonders of her Canine Personality Profile and, through it, discover the unique personalities of their puppies. For more advice on dog nutrition, health, and training, make sure that you contact us and check out our blog!

Volhard Dog Nutrition and its expert nutritionists are now offering online consultations to help more dog parents discover why, what, and how to feed their dogs the healthiest of foods! Speaking to a Volhard nutritionist will help you understand the inseparable relationship between healthy food, a healthy body, and a healthy mind. If you're interested in contacting one of our Volhard nutritionists, don't hesitate to access our consultation page!