Temperament has been defined as an animal’s personality, makeup, disposition, or nature.
A longer definition of temperament is “individual differences in behavior that are biologically based.”
Temperament is not the physical characteristics of a dog, and it is not learned behaviors such as sit, down and stay.
In past several decades, there has been an increase in dog trainer knowledge about behavior. We now know that behavioral procedures can be effectively used to modify behaviors (such as fearful reactions) that may be related to temperament.
Considering that we can change behaviors often related to temperament (such as when a dog refuses to walk on an unfamiliar surface), here is a modern definition of temperament:
Temperament is an individual’s natural predisposition to react in a certain way to a stimulus. Behaviors related to temperament may be modified over time with exposure and learning.
–Burch & Ljungren, 2019
When you go to a dog show and meet a variety of breeds, you’ll notice that some breeds are cheerful, friendly and outgoing, while others may tend to be more reserved and stoic. What you are looking at when you see these characteristics is temperament.
WHY TAKE THE ATT?
The AKC Temperament Test can provide you with interesting information about your dog’s temperament. For purebred dogs, there is a national parent club for every AKC recognized breed. Each breed’s national parent club has a written breed standard that includes information on the breed’s temperament.
Taking the ATT allows you, the dog’s owner, to determine how close your purebred dog’s temperament is to the breed standard. For mixed breed dogs, taking the ATT may provide the dog owner with insight about the temperament of an individual dog.
The ATT provides information about a dog’s reactions to a variety of stimuli. Stimuli are basically any object or event that can be detected by an animal’s senses. Examples of stimuli are sounds, smells, touches, and objects that the animal sees.
ATT testing can identify behaviors related to temperament that can be addressed through training.