Factors to Consider When Choosing a New Puppy

May 17, 2020
Deciding whether to buy or adopt a pet is an issue that future owners should consider from an ethical point of view. The Campbell test offers a series of concrete steps that help predict a dog's temperament and can be helpful when choosing a new puppy.

When it comes to choosing a new puppy, there are a number of factors to consider. For example, size, temperament, maintenance costs, and the amount of space you have to offer in your home. It’s important to balance your own needs with those of your future pet.

To buy or to adopt?

For some, prioritizing a given dog breed when choosing a new puppy is ethically questionable. The dog breeding market is highly competitive and endogamy (inbreeding) is, unfortunately, common. This phenomenon leads to a loss of genetic diversity which can lead to a variety of illnesses.

What’s more, animal shelters are unable to keep up with the numbers of dogs and cats that suffer abandonment each year. So, why not do something to reduce the overcrowding of orphaned animals rather than contributing to questionable dog breeding practices?

One of the advantages of choosing to adopt your new puppy is that different resources are available to help you discover the animal’s temperament, the most common characteristics of that animal, including the American Kennel Club and the  Federación Cinológica Internacional.

Therefore, maybe you’re sure that what you want is a hunting dog, or a herding dog that takes care of livestock. Then you might want to narrow your search down to Border Collies or German Pointers. If you’re just looking for a simple companion dog, then adoption might be your best option. 

The Campbell test, a good evaluation of a dog’s temperament

First-time owners, or simply any individuals that don’t have veterinary training, lack the resources to discern what puppies they should or shouldn’t bring home. Of course, there’s no perfect mathematical formula that will offer a completely fail-proof answer.

Any puppy will want to play and want you to pet them. But if you want to go beyond that, there’s a tool available that will allow you to better examine the temperament of each puppy. This test is called the Campbell test.

You’ll find the steps to follow below:

Social attraction test

You should place the puppy on the floor, squat down, and then clap. This will help determine the level of attraction that animal has towards human beings. There are 5 possibilities:

  • The dog may run towards the examiner, jumping and wagging its tail without hesitation
  • It approaches without hesitation, wagging its tail, touching the examiner with its paws
  • The animal approaches, but with its tail down
  • The puppy approaches, but with hesitation
  • It doesn’t approach at all

Suitability test

The examiner stands next to the puppy and starts to walk. He or she evaluates the dog’s level of independence and ability to follow its owner. Once again, there are 5 possibilities:

  • The puppy follows the examiner, wagging its tail and attempts to nip at the human’s feet
  • It wags its tail, but doesn’t nip
  • The animal follows the examiner, but without wagging its tail
  • The animal follows along hesitantly and with its tail down
  • It doesn’t follow the examiner at all and even moves away

Constraint test

Here, the examiner evaluates the animal’s level of submission. During the test, he or she will place the dog on its back and hold it there for 30 seconds. There are 4 possible outcomes:

  • The animal may fight to escape and bite the examiner
  • It may struggle to escape, but without biting
  • The dog may struggle to escape at first, but then remain still and start licking the examiner’s hands
  • Finally, it may remain still without struggling, licking the examiner’s hands

Social dominance test

Here, the examiner starts to pet the animal from its head down to its tail, forcing the dog to stay still. There are 5 possible outcomes for this test:

  • The puppy jumps, barks, bites, or growls
  • The animal simple jumps and barks
  • It twists around and licks the examiner’s hands
  • It lies down belly up and licks the examiner’s hands
  • The animal moves away and doesn’t come back

Dignity test

The examiner holds the dog in the air for 30 seconds, leaving the animal at his or her mercy. The 4 possible outcomes are:

  • The animal fights to be free, bites, and growls
  • It fights to be free, but it doesn’t growl
  • The animal fights to be free, but quickly calms down and licks the examiner’s hands
  • The animal doesn’t struggle, and goes right to licking the examiner’s hands
According to how a new puppy responds, you’ll be dealing with the following:

  • A dominant or aggressive dog. Two responses. One from the first in the lists. This puppy will make for a good guardian, but not a family pet.
  • A dominant extroverted dog. Three or more responses. This animal will require firm training, but not too strict. It likely won’t make for a good family pet.
  • A well-balanced dog. Three or more. This is the perfect puppy for any situation.
  • A submissive dog. Two or more of the 4th or 5th responses from the lists. This is an affectionate puppy, but it has the potential to be anxious or insecure.
  • An independent and poorly socialized dog. It’s unlikely this dog will follow any orders. It will require owners that are experienced and dominant.