Ep. 15: Puppy Temperament Tests Aren’t That Predictive With Dr. James Ha

Today we’re talking about Dr. James Ha about puppy temperament and training to mitigate or avoid behavior issues. Mostly, we’re talking about the science of how BAD temperament tests are at actually predicting adult behavior. Darn.

 Dr. Ha is a pretty amazing guy. He’s an animal behavior researcher and Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist – which is the highest level of certification one can attain in applied behavior . Dr. Ha literally wrote the book on dog behavior – called Dog Behavior: Modern Science and Our Canine Companions. While much of Dr. Ha’s private practice work currently focuses on aggression cases and expert witness work, today we’re talking to him about puppies, their temperament, and how to prevent or mitigate behavior concerns. 

Generally, you found puppy temperament tests at 7 weeks didn’t predict adult behavior. What 8 factors did you look at in the research?

  • Used the fairly standard test
    • Roll the ball test
    • Flip them on their back
    • Stranger test
    • etc.
  • Physiology tests
    • Heart rate variation tests, respiration rate tests, cortisol tests

Did your results vary by breed?

  • Clusters of results very actively predicted what breed group the puppy belonged to
  • Breed-specific characteristics more accurately belong to the breed group 

Talk to us a bit about your current work with dogs with serious behavior issues. What have you learned lately about dog behavior?

  • A huge percentage of dog behavior regarding aggression have to do with anxiety
  • “Dogs want attention and dogs need rules,” Dr. Ha said. “So many humans think they can just forget about them. I don’t care if you do obedience training, or show training, or agility, or flyball. What I really mean is interaction.”
  • Get professional help to deal with behavior problems appropriately 

What red flags might you see in a puppy or teenage dog that another owner may miss?

  • The first two years of your dog’s life is the most important
  • Any kind of aggression is a red flag
  • Ages 7 – 9 months your dogs are the most vulnerable in developing fears

Where can you find Dr. Ha?

This podcast is supported by the Puppy Raising Blueprint course, which you can find at journeydogtraining.com/blueprint. In this course, I guide you through everything from common problem behaviors like biting and potty training to the humane hierarchy of dog training. It’s always available on a self-study basis at journeydogtraining.com/blueprint.

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