Lab Personality Tests

To help gauge a puppy's personality and temperament, you can perform some simple tests that are unscientific but useful in deciding which pup is right for you. They can help you evaluate such factors as dominance and submissiveness, trust in people, willingness to follow, and sensitivity to touch and sound.

Ask the breeder's permission before performing your test. She may want to supervise, or she may have suggestions of her own. These same tests apply if you're adopting a Lab puppy from an animal shelter.

Temperament is such an integral part of a Labrador that most breeders won't tolerate anything other than a sweet, loving dog. Reputable breeders can't afford to produce aggressive dogs — not only because it's a surefire excusal from the show ring or field, but also because it's bad for the breed's reputation as a whole.

People-Friendly and Personable?

Sit down and see if a particular puppy will come to you. Your Lab should be people-oriented. As the pup approaches, is he excited or a little submissive? A confident pup moves with ears up and tail wagging.

Offer a treat. A Lab with good training potential will come forward to take it. Speak softly, and see if the pup is interested in listening to you. A puppy that sticks around to be with you rather than running off to be with the other dogs is a good choice.

Play with the puppy for a couple of minutes to help put him at ease. Throw a ball, or offer him a toy. When you take the toy away, does he give it up willingly or try to hang onto it? A possessive Lab isn't typical. Toss the toy and see how the puppy reacts. Does he run after it and pounce on it or proceed in a more methodical and straightforward fashion? His actions are a clue to his future personality.

Likes Being Touched and Held?

Once the pup has relaxed a bit, check to see how he feels about being touched. Gently run your hands over his body. Does he flinch when you touch him or welcome the contact? You want a dog that's comfortable being handled. Pick up his feet, look in his ears, and examine his teeth. Next, pick the puppy up. Being held is stressful for puppies, so it's a good test of how a pup responds to stress. See if he struggles and squirms or relaxes into your arms.

Some puppies struggle a bit when you hold them and then relax. Choose one that's able to calm down in a reasonable amount of time. A Lab that's unable to control its fear or desire to be in charge may be headed for future behavior problems.

Open to New Experiences?

Still holding the puppy, walk away from the mother and littermates. Does the puppy show alarm at being separated from them, or does he settle down and enjoy the ride? It's normal for a puppy to be a little uneasy in this situation, but if he trusts people, he should eventually relax. You may find that a previously bold puppy becomes a little apprehensive, or a quiet one gains confidence and shows more curiosity.

Willing to Follow?

Set the puppy down and walk away from him. Does the puppy follow you with a little encouragement? A nice Lab with a moderate temperament will come without a lot of wild behavior, such as barking or running in circles.

Sensible About Sound?

To test for noise shyness, wait until the pup's not watching you, then clap your hands or drop something that will make a loud noise. A frightened puppy will run away, while a confident one will ignore the sound or come over to investigate. That's the one you want. A Lab that's fearful of loud noises isn't much use in the field. As a pet he's likely to develop a fear of thunderstorms, loud jets, or other common noises.

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