Puppy Report Cards – All About Puppy Assessments
From puppyhood to graduation, every Southeastern Guide Dog is evaluated for temperament, trainability, biddability—or willingness to please—and suitability for a working career. Staff members who are skilled in recognizing and assessing body language and animal behavior conduct these evaluations, with formal assessments occurring at specific ages. When a puppy reaches eight weeks, it’s time for puppy assessments!
Puppy assessments take place in a designated assessment room in our new Puppy Academy. (Our older dogs that come in for training from puppy raiser homes are assessed in our Canine Assessment Center, designed for this purpose.) Every puppy assessment is standardized, and in fact, Southeastern Guide Dogs uses the same behavior checklist—like a report card—used by many other accredited service dog schools.
During the assessment, puppies are placed in an unfamiliar environment and, one at a time, exposed to objects they’ve never seen before. Puppies are off-leash and are free to make decisions and choices. While the objects are harmless—a moving toy, a textured underfooting, for example—the fact that they are unfamiliar introduces minor reactions from the puppy. Armed with the behavior checklist, evaluators observe puppy behaviors, studying and scoring how each puppy responds to something new and how quickly it recovers from the mild stimulation to resume normal behavior.
Just like people, every puppy has a unique personality and temperament, and some are naturally more inquisitive and confident than others. Some puppies shy away from unfamiliar objects, while others sniff once, wag a tail, and continue exploring the room.
Assessments help our staff and trainers understand each puppy’s unique strengths and characteristics, and this knowledge comes into play when matching a puppy with a volunteer puppy raiser. It is also used to help staff, raisers, and trainers know what areas to focus on during enrichment exercises and training, and may even help predict which working career best suits puppy.