Puppy behavior test: social dominance, social attraction, following and restraint

Thanks to the experts there is an easy way to weed out the puppies from a litter that do not match the behavior, personality, and characteristics you are looking for in a new dog. The test only takes several minutes for each pup, and that’s not much time considering that the right dog will be living with you for many years.

The test should be run before the litter is seven weeks of age and the test alone should be taken with each individual pup, one at an isolated area that is new to the pup and free from any distractions.

During the testing (including carrying the pup from one litter to the area) there should be no spoken words, no urging or praise. All the pups should be handled very gently so they will not be upset.

Social Dominance

Crouch and gently stroke the puppy from the top of his head down along his neck and back. Do this for at least thirty seconds. Does he jump, paw, growl, or bite? Does he squirm and lick your hand or roll over? Does he walk away and stay away?

This test indicates whether or not the puppy accepts your social dominance. Highly dominant pups will try to dominate the tester by jumping on him or even biting and growling at him. The independent pup may just stalk away. In all cases, continue to stroke the pup until a recognizable behavior pattern has been established.

Social Attraction

Carry the pup to the center of the test area and place him down. Step several yards away from him in the direction opposite the door or gate by which you entered the area. Kneel down and gently clap your hands to attract the dog.

You are to observe how readily he comes to you. Note (because you will be comparing all the pups) whether his tail is up or down. Is he lively or hesitant, or does he not come at all? This reveals the pup’s degree of social attraction, confidence, or social independence.


Starting from a position next to the pup, walk away from it in a normal manner. Watch him closely as you walk. How readily did the pup follow you? Was his tail up, and was he underfoot? Did he bite your ankles and challenge your progress? Did he not follow, or was it hesitantly, with tail down?


Crouch down and gently roll the pup onto its back, holding him with one hand on his chest for thirty seconds. Does he fiercely flail, bite or growl? Does he just fiercely flail? Does he struggle then settle down? Does he make no struggle and even lick your hand?

How fiercely the pup objects to this position, or how readily he accepts it, indicates his degree of dominant or submissive tendency in response to both a human and physical-domination situation.