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I watched a very interesting movie last week. The central theme was based on the unreliable narrator. This concept is one of great import to raising and training dogs. Everyone that keeps a dog thinks there is something profoundly unique about their dog. Their narrative is highly biased, based on their feeling for their dog, their actual canine knowledge, and how much experience they have with other dogs. This makes us unreliable narrators for our own dogs.

I ran a government sponsored canine breeding program for over a dozen years. The support offered from around the globe was amazing. At one point a guide dog school offered me dogs that were far too “driven” and energetic for their program. What was far too much for them, was far too little for me. My decisions were not based on “my gut” or some magical power within me. I used standardized testing (validated through academic research) and the numbers made my decisions.

I was so worried about personal feeling becoming the score that represented performance that I once yelled at my kennel staff for loading the dogs in the same numerical order (birth order) into the trailer for testing. I also found that the kennel staff were poor testers of puppies, because of their personal relationships/understanding with the dogs.

Testing a dog for work that could save lives should not be based on biases, feelings, the appearance of the dog, hunches, or “reading tea leaves.” Watch your dog with as much objectivity as you can, and know that this is why we ask you to submit videos of your dogs’ assessments for us to score, rather than asking you to score your own dogs’ performance.