An Eye for Dogs

Something which has been bothering me lately when i see certain individuals test dogs, is how some agencies have developed testing criteria that they have placed down in print on a sheet of paper, where on each attribute the dog is rated, say 1-5, with one being poor and 5 being excellent, and all the gradations in between.

The evaluator writes down the number, and at the end of the test, the numbers are added up and if the dog falls below a certain target number… they arrive at THAT arbitrary number I have no idea….the dog fails, and if the dog scores above a number the dog passes.

In my entire career buying dogs, I have never used a numerical test, as I believe that dog training is more art than science in respect to selection. I can test a dog and look at his performance, and the overriding issue for me is, "Can I get this dog to do what I need him to do?" Thgis is a subjective evaluation, that in no way lends itself to a score.

What about the dogs that come up 1 or 2 points apart? one dog failing and the other passing? That seems silly. A good trainer should be able to make a call based on experience rather than relying on some possibly flawed numerical test. If the evaluator has to make a judgment call on dogs close to the failure tipping point, than why do we need the numerical evaluation at all?

One of the big flaws I often see in these numerical score tests is giving equal weights to each aspect of the test. There are some attributes, such as sociability which cannot be overcome necessarily by other aspects of the dog’s temperament – hunting drive perhaps – and so should not be assigned equal weight. Sometimes certain environmental aspects (i.e. stairs, tight spaces, slick floors) are each assigned a numerical score, but in the end, how the dog does on the test is of little importance if the dog can be worked through some of the lack of exposure he might have had. So scoring something like "recovery" should be scored rather than an absolute measure of how the dog showed on some environmental test.

In the end it comes down to having an eye for dogs. An eye for what can be worked, and an eye for what is a deal breaker.