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Dog Temperament Tests for Dog Daycare

Running a dog daycare is a bit like walking a tightrope. You have to balance many different temperaments together, all while trying to keep everyone hydrated and happy. It can be a lot, even for a trained professional!

You can eliminate some of the guesswork in this balancing act by performing dog temperament tests. These tests can be fast and easy for a dog daycare setting and provide important information about a dog’s temperament. 

With this information, you can assign dogs to play areas and dog runs with canines of similar temperaments. Let’s examine what a temperament test is and how to perform one.

dog daycare owner performing dog temperament test.
Source: iStock

What is temperament testing for dogs?

A temperament test is an assessment designed to gauge a dog’s reaction to various situations and interactions. Simply put, it helps determine how a dog may react in certain situations, which can help doggie daycares plan ahead and prevent accidents. 

You can think of it as “testing” a dog’s personality. Instead of waiting around for the dog to respond to certain situations as they occur, you can test the dog upfront so you know how they’ll react before a potentially challenging situation occurs. 

Dog daycare is meant to be a place of fun and socialization. However, not all dogs can handle the upbeat (and sometimes stressful) environment. If a dog isn’t cut out for a group daycare setting, it’s important to figure that out sooner rather than later. 

Temperament testing helps identify potentially anxious dogs or dogs with an aggressive manner, preventing accidents and injuries. It also helps daycare workers make a comfortable environment for all dogs involved. Playful dogs often need to be put with playful dogs, while more laid-back dogs may need to hang out somewhere quieter. 

It can also provide owners peace of mind, improving your customer relations. Knowing that all dogs have passed temperament tests may make pet parents feel better about leaving their canine companions behind. 

Types of dog temperaments.

There are few scientifically proven dog temperaments, though there are many theories. Temperament tests are often based on a pass/fail system. If a dog fails too many tests, they are considered too reactive or anxious to work well in a group setting. 

If a dog only fails one or two points, it doesn’t mean they can’t be around other dogs. However, daycare employees may need to carefully place them with similar dogs who won’t needlessly push their buttons. It may also signal that the dog is anxious about certain things (like loud noises) that the staff needs to be aware of. 

Dog temperament tests can measure traits like shyness and aggressiveness, for instance. However, there aren’t set temperaments. Instead, all dogs are on a continuum. 

How to temperament test a dog?

Temperament testing for daycares should preferably be done in a controlled environment. We’ve adapted the American Temperament Test Society (ATTS) temperament test to a daycare setting below, allowing you to get a good feel of a dog’s personality within a few minutes. However, you can also use the AKC temperament test if that best suits your business. 

Here’s our dog temperament test list:

  • Initial Assessment: You can perform your initial assessment at drop-off. Start by having a conversation with the dog owner. Gather information about the dog’s breed, age, and socialization history. If the dog is there, greet them and see how they react to a stranger. Consider passively socializing with the owner first and then greeting the dog happily and being very friendly. 
  • Leash Walk Assessment: Take the dog for a short dog walk on their leash. Consider this the dog’s “tour” of the facility. Watch how the dog reacts to various stimuli in the building, like unfamiliar objects, people, and other dogs. This assessment determines the dog’s overall confidence and startle response. In the case of a very quiet day at your facility, consider having another employee make noise that’s both seen and unseen to gauge the dog’s reaction. Be sure to note the dog’s recovery response too.
  • Social Interaction Test: Every dog at a dog daycare must be able to get along with others. Dog-on-dog aggression is often the biggest problem in group settings. Luckily, this sort of aggression is mostly ritualized and doesn’t involve injuries. Start by introducing the new dog to a single other dog, preferably one with good social skills. You should observe the dog’s body language and watch for signs of anxiety. Preferably, the new play companion should be well-received. Here you will be checking the dog’s active social skills. 
  • Object Play Assessment: Toys and objects can help you gauge a dog’s play style and determine if they have any guarding tendencies, which can be problematic in group settings. This step is simple: give the dog a toy and see what happens. Is the dog happy to play with you? Or do they guard the toy? Does the dog not seem very interested in play at all?
  • Keep Notes: During this process, note the dog’s temperament. You don’t want to do the temperament test every time. Keep the notes somewhere that’s easy for everyone to access and edit. If you have PetExec, you can report a passed or failed test in each pet’s profile. 

This temperament test only takes a few moments, but it can tell you a lot about a dog’s temperament. If the dog is young, you’ll need to keep a few other things in mind.

How to temperament test a puppy.

While the core principles of testing a puppy are the same as an adult dog, there are other considerations. Follow the same steps above, but keep these differing principles in mind:

  • Maturity Level: Puppies are still developing their social skills. They’re more likely to be nippy, so “biting” isn’t necessarily unexpected. They’ll also likely jump and display “bad” social skills, but that’s because they’re still learning! 
  • Short Attention Span: It’s important to keep the test steps very short, as puppies often have short attention spans. Just because a puppy only plays with a toy for a few moments before moving on doesn’t mean they aren’t interested in play, as it might be for an older dog. 
  • Focus on Socialization: At this age, socialization in a group session can be very helpful. The main goal for puppies is to assess their comfort level in the group setting and introduce them to other dogs in a controlled environment. You may want to have smaller puppy playgroups to provide extra supervision. 
  • Re-Testing: Puppies develop rapidly and pick up new temperament traits regularly. Therefore, we recommend regular temperament tests. You can retest all dogs at specific ages or perform tests at regular intervals. Either way, keep notes of the most recent temperament test and adjust where the puppy is placed. 

Now that we know how to temperament test both dogs and puppies, it’s important to learn exactly what to do with the results. 

dogs meeting as part of the dog temperament test
Source: iStock

Managing dogs based on temperaments.

Once temperament testing is done, you can leverage this information to create a safe place for your furry guests. Here’s how:

  • Grouping by Temperament: Place dogs in playgroups with compatible personalities. In a daycare, this is often determined by a dog’s play style and energy level. Very energetic, playful dogs should be placed in one group, while shyer, laidback pups should be placed in smaller groups. Sometimes, shyer dogs do best in one-on-one settings with dogs of similar temperaments. 
  • Pet Care Operations Software: You can enter the dog’s temperament testing information into your dog daycare software and schedule playgroups based on temperament. All of this can be done for efficiency and accuracy on the same software. 
  • Individualized Attention: Use the dog’s temperament test results to tailor their schedule and your care. If a dog is shy or laid back, they may need more time in their own kennel. Conversely, a very energetic dog may need more time in a playgroup. You may even need to engage in some fetch sessions or more intense exercise with energetic dogs. 
  • Rotational Playgroups: You may want to consider rotating playgroups to different rooms and areas throughout the day, as this can help keep the dogs entertained. “Play Areas” in PetExec allows you to easily group, assign, and track dogs in different rooms of your facility. 
  • Quiet Spaces: Consider having a quiet area that isn’t a kennel where shy, overstimulated dogs can take a break. You can even have a quiet space as a “playgroup” area for one-on-one play between two shy dogs. 
  • Keep Up with Dog Friendships: Dogs do form friendships. For shier dogs, tracking these friendships and placing friends together whenever possible can be particularly helpful. 
  • Structured Play Activities: Plan activities that cater to different energy levels and play styles. Obstacle courses can work great for a ramped-up Golden Retriever. However, an older Basset Hound may prefer sniffing challenges or puzzle toys in a quiet area. 

Of course, you don’t have to implement all these strategies. However, temperament-based grouping and temperament advisories can be exceptionally helpful when running a dog daycare. 

How can PetExec help with dog temperament tests?

PetExec allows you to record the results of a dog temperament test in an easy-to-find place. It also allows you to quickly select pet advisories, which pop up for all staff members to see. 

Not every staff member will have time to read every pet profile, especially when a dog arrives. Therefore, distilling the temperament test results into one word, like “reactive” or “toy possessive,” and adding them to a fully customizable advisory within PetExec can be very beneficial. 

Your staff can quickly understand a dog’s personality without spending time reading through lots of notes. 

Additionally, PetExec allows you to schedule the temperament tests within your calendar so you don’t have to remember when the last test was performed and when the next one is due. You can even prevent your clients from booking an appointment if their dog is overdue their temperament test. 

PetExec dog temperament test advisory.
Source: PetExec

Final thoughts.

Compared to other pet businesses, dog daycares need a higher person-per-dog ratio, making employee management software extra helpful. Even if you temperament test all new dogs, you’ll need lots of supervision to prevent accidents. The staff members you choose are very important, as they’ll manage the playgroups. Choose experienced staff who understand dog behavior and feel comfortable performing the temperament tests.

To learn more about how PetExec can help you perform your dog temperament tests, book a free demo today!

Commonly asked questions.

How to start a dog daycare?

Starting a dog daycare can be rewarding, but it requires careful planning and execution. You’ll need an in-depth business plan that outlines your services, pricing, and marketing strategy. You’ll also need to calculate startup costs like rent, equipment, and staffing. Finding a location for your business may be challenging, but it’s one of the crucial steps. 

Every new doggie daycare must invest in durable toys, climbing structures, and other enrichment activities. You’ll also need tons of cleaning supplies and the staff necessary to run the business. 

How to manage dog daycare occupancy?

Managing dog daycare occupancy is about planning and realistic expectations. You should know your maximum capacity, preferably for each playgroup. While you may have 50 slots altogether, you can’t have so many energetic dogs that you have to start mixing them with shyer dogs. 

Having dog boarding software can make this process much easier. You can assign areas to certain playgroups and dogs to each playgroup based on their temperament test. This way, you can quickly determine whether you have enough room for more dogs. 

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