The ATTS keeps statistics on all dogs that enter their temperament tests. While only the dog’s handler and the tester know if an individual dog passed after a testing, the organization can track trends in breeds this way.
The current statistics are updated through May, 2011. The overall average pass rate for all breeds and mixed breeds is 83 percent. For Belgian breeds, the statistics are:
Belgian Laekenois: 7 tested, all 7 passed for 100 percent. No Laekenois have been tested since 2009.
Belgian Malinois: 298 tested, 274 passed for an overall rate of 91.9 percent
Belgian Sheepdog: 486 tested, 391 passed for an overall rate of 80.5 percent
Belgian Tervuren: 472 tested, 377 passed for an overall rate of 79.9 percent.
Sallyann Comstock is a respected Belgian breeder who has been involved with ATTS for many years. “I tested my first dog and became an apprentice tester in the early 80’s…. maybe 1981. I am now a Chief Tester, a Board Member, Treasurer and the Director of Operations.” With her years of experience with ATTS and with Belgians in particular, Sallyann has offered some insights. (As an aside, I highly recommend her book Belgians From Start to Finish if you can find a copy. )
In her experience, Sallyann feels temperaments have improved over the years. ” I can remember a time back in the early 70’s when if you saw a class of Belgians at a show (any flavor), they were all on their bellies. We’ve come a long way since then. Breeders now take temperament into consideration when choosing their breeding pairs and it shows in the raise in test scores. In the early 70’s just the neutral and friendly strangers would send many Belgians into a tizzy.”
As a Malinois breeder, Debbie Keith has also had to consider temperament a priority. “Most Belgian owners are aware of the importance of socialization of all four of the Belgian breeds. Except for the gun shots, I don’t think any of the stations were a type of stressor that an active Belgian would not have encountered at some point in time. I can’t stress enough tat as a Belgian owner, you must get your dog out there and socialized.”
Sallyann notes, “Rules have changed since the 80s. There are now only three reasons for failure: 1) total freak out with no recovery, 2) absolute avoidance and 3) unprovoked aggression. Belgian temperament has improved a lot since the 80’s.” SallyAnn does see some breed differences. “The gunshot seems to unnerve the Groens (Belgian Sheepdogs) and the Tervs the most, with the umbrella a second runner up. Their responses to the weird stranger have a wide range of scores. They aren’t failing it like they used to, but their scores are often pretty low on station 10. OTOH, the American bred Malinois’s are doing really well and don’t seem to have a problem with any of it.”
Sallyann felt that Belgians overall do well on the neutral and friendly strangers as well as the bucket. “Belgians can be somewhat nervy on the gunshot, which tends to carry over to the umbrella but the surfaces are easy for them. Stations 8, 9 and10 are the weird stranger. Most Belgians do well on 8. They will notice the WS and correctly judge that he/she is no threat. Many weaken somewhat on 9 where the WS is yelling at them and has (OMG) a stick! Station 10 is where , if they’re going to, they fall apart. If they aren’t on a leash they may leave!”
Debbie wanted to see her dog’s true nature. “I did not do anything to specifically prepare for this test with Fly. I wanted a true measure of her soundness. I did not want to train through any issues that might come up. I honestly had no idea how she would handle some of the stations. One interesting thing that several people noted was that when the dogs with obedience training got stressed, their reaction was to go to heel and make eye contact with their handlers.” Many people do train a “control” or “safe zone” position so that makes sense.
Kate’s Terv Queezle was also not exposed to any training for the test but has been shown and trained in various dog sports and conformation. Kate’s comment on the test seh attended where Queezle was the only Belgian, “It was really interesting to watch, as there were different breeds, including quite a few Rhodesian Ridgebacks as the test was held at a Ridgeback camp. The behavior and different reactions of the various breeds were fascinating.”
In closing, Debbie was asked about the TT versus the CGC (Canine Good Citizen) and TDI (Therapy dog International) tests. “I do not recommend this test over CGC or TDI tests. I think it is a very different test. It tests for a sound temperament, but perhaps at a higher level? I do think the CGC is a good program for the average dog and owner.”
Sallyann would like to stress the importance of the test for Belgian owners and breeders. “It saddens me that more people aren’t testing their Belgians. We’ve made tremendous strides in temperament and we should be very proud of that! But, most importantly, in this day and age of dog legislation, breed bans, etc. it is so important to be able to prove that your Belgian has sound temperament. ATTS tests have been upheld and deemed a true and accurate test of a dog’s temperament in numerous courts across the country. Even the Supreme Court of Alabama upheld our test. I believe Alabama is the only state where the merits of the test have reached a Supreme Court. The ATTS test should be just one more tool in every breeder’s bag.”
Perhaps an ATTS test will be in your Belgian’s future!
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