Temperament Testing for Diabetic Alert Dogs

I recently received a frantic call from a family who’s DAD would be delivered the next day. The mother told me that they really had not done a lot of research prior to signing a contract with the organization. It was an attractive offer with just a small portion down and then the organization would help them fundraise the remainder of the $25.000.00. At the last minute they decided to do the research and did not like what they found. Lawsuits, FB groups dedicated to spreading the word about the organization, etc.

At that late date, all I could tell her was to have the dog thoroughly checked by their vet and to reject the dog if there were fear issues. I asked her to please let me know what happened and wished her luck. A few days later she called to tell me they had rejected the dog. Evidently, a trainer showed up with an 8 month old dog who was totally shutdown and shaking uncontrollably once they walked into the house. The trainer told her that it was the dogs first time in a home and that it was normal and training would take care of it.

Much has been written about how to choose a reputable Diabetic Alert Dog organization/trainer. If you are lucky enough to be working with a reputable trainer or organization, temperament testing should not be an issue. The trainer or organization will be constantly evaluating the dog to be sure it has the right temperament for the job.

If you find yourself working with an organization or trainer that is questionable or, you are an owner/trainer selecting a dog as a diabetic alert dog candidate, you’ll need a tool to evaluate the dog’s temperament. Training a DAD is a lot of work and you must start with a dog who has the temperament for the job.

I have used the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test for years to evaluate temperament in both puppies and adult dogs. The test is best administered at 49 days of age. But, I use it with older dogs as well. The test can be somewhat subjective and the scores in older dogs will be influenced by both environmental factors and training. You’ll need to be familiar with reading a dog’s body language/calming signals as it is often more complex than just wether the tail is up or down. This test will give you a pretty good sense of the dog’s temperament at the time of testing.