This study was conducted to test whether adult (12-14 month) dog behaviour could be predicted from 7-week puppy tests. A second aim of the study was to evaluate the influences of environmental variables on behaviour. Two hundred and sixteen german shepherd puppies were tested at 7 weeks of age and scored on their behavior in reaction to a number of stimuli designed to assess fearfulness, social attraction, dominance, retrieving and tug playing. Of these puppies, 172 were retested at 5 months of age and 152 were retested at 12 months of age. The owners of the dogs were interviewed at the 5- and 12-month testing in order to gather information on the dogs' environments and experiences.
The results showed that there was some predictability of 12-month retrieving, if only the extreme individuals from the 7-week testing were used in the sample. As well, there was modest predictability of 12-month playfulness as measured by a subjective rating when the complete sample was used. Apart from this, there was no predictability of 12-month behaviour from 7-week behaviour. However, there was good predictability of 12-month behaviour from 5-month behaviour, on all the constructs that were measured.
The environment had important effects on the dogs' behaviour in numerous ways. Puppies that were socialised well were significantly less fearful than those puppies that had not been socialised as much. Puppies that had left the breeder by 12 weeks of age were less fearful than puppies that had remained with the breeder. Owners who had played tug-of-war and ball games with their dogs were more likely to have dogs that scored highly in the tug and retrieve tests. The presence of another dog in the household had deleterious effects on the subject dog's scores on all the variables of interest. The amount of time that owners spent with their dogs impacted significantly on the dogs' behaviour, with those dogs who had more time spent with them scoring lower on fearfulness, and higher on social attraction, retrieving and tug playing.
The implications of the results are discussed and ideas for future research are presented.