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The BPH test in dogs
What is the BPH?
The BPH (Beteende och Personlighetsbeskrivning Hund) is a testing program intended to assess the dogs behavior and personality. Developed in 2012 by the Swedish Kennel Club, this test can be very helpful to breeders and dog owners as it determines whether if the dog is a potential breeding animal, a working dog or a pet.
It can also give you a global understanding of the breed with a precise description of its overall mentality.
Bare with me till the end of this article and you will learn about the different steps of this test, how it is performed and what results to expect with their different interpretations.
What does the BPH consist of?
To perform this test, the dog has to finish a 30 minutes-track consisting of 7 parts where his reaction to various situations will be observed and assessed by an observer who will give his subjective description of the dog, by the end of the test.
Any dog can pass this test and the only requirement is age, as the dog should be at least 1 year old and correctly vaccinated in order to take this test.
The 7 parts are as follows:
- Behavior towards a stranger
- Play drive
- Reaction to food
- Reaction to sudden noise
- Approaching a suspicious person
- Response to Tactile Stimuli
In addition to the 7 parts, there is an optional step that consists of the reaction to gun shots.
What are the main rules of the test?
There are some rules that must be followed during this test. During the different scenarios of this evaluation, the dog must wear a flat collar and a harnesses.
The dog trainer will use a 1.8-meter leash and will remain passive throughout the assessment.
No treats or toys are used during the test unless there is an emergency or a test is very necessary. And only three people can be near the dog:
- The instructor,
- The organizer, and
- The observer.
The handler will follow the instructor’s directions in all the stages of the evaluation and the observer will note the dog’s response to each test, while the organizer will handle the implementation of the test.
During the evaluation, if the dog does not return to his non-stressed or neutral state, the test will stop immediately and the evaluation might be canceled, if so, the next evaluation won’t be scheduled before 6 weeks.
How does each step work?
To assess behavior and temperament towards strangers, two types of persons are needed, one is a friendly stranger and the other is a neutral stranger.
First, the neutral stranger will approach the dog and shake hands with the handler while ignoring the dog. This situation will provide information to assess the protective reaction or possessiveness of the dog.
In the second phase, a friendly stranger will approach the dog, this time he will not only greet the handler but also, pet the dog.
Again, this situation will provide insight about the dog’s social skills.
In this step, the interest in playing will be evaluated with the dog’s preferred toy and a BPH standard object. And both the test leader and the owner will play the dog with the aim of observing if the dog’s interest in playing is maintained even if the object is totally unknown to him.
Interest in food
The dog will be offered 2 types of treats, his favorite one and a BPH standardized one, reachable with different levels of difficulty:
- In an open can
- In a semi-sealed can
- In a sealed can
This will show to what extent the dog is interested in food and what amount of work he is ready to deploy in order to solve the problem he is facing.
While walking with his owner, a human shaped object is suddenly raised in front of the dog.
This will allow the observer to assess the aggressiveness and fearfulness of the dog, the duration of time it will take him to overcome this emotional incident and his level of engagement to handle the situation.
Response to Auditory Stimuli
This is the phase of the program where your dog will be tested for his curiosity and fearfulness.
The principle is simple, a sudden loud noise is created using a drum and a metal chain, when the dog approaches the area. The dog will be allowed to go near the drum and investigate it.
Some dogs will be too frightened to even approach the drum while others will be curious enough to explore it and this can help them overcome their fear.
This step comes with an optional test, which consists of the response to a gun shot:
A hidden assistant will shoot three times in a row and notice the dog’s response. Some dogs react very well to the gunshot noise and others do not.
This test will be carried out under the supervision of a canine behavior specialist
Approaching a suspicious stranger
In this test, a person with sunglasses, a hat, and a large coat will approach the dog. This person will show a threatening behavior and will stop at a certain distance, turn around and face away.
The dog is then allowed to go investigate the stranger and his reaction is measured.
Many dogs will show aggressive behavior towards the stranger, which is a normal reaction to a certain extent. Any excess in aggressiveness or fear should be taken seriously by the owner and corrected with proper training.
Response to Tactile Stimuli
This is the last behavioral assessment test, in which the handler walks the dog on a 1-meter wide and 3-meter long stretch, with a new and unknown surface.
This surface is also secured with 2 fences in order to oblige the dog to walk on it till the end. The texture of the surface is designed specifically to move and create a noise at contact with the dogs paws, and the anxiety level is, then, measured.
How are the result of the Assessment displayed?
The results of the BPH test are displayed 1-2 weeks after the evaluation in the SKK’s official website.
Those results are divided into 3 cumulative parts:
- A score sheet filled by the observer (contains many entries with several scales describing the intensity and the duration of the behavior tested)
- A summary graph (a radar chart of the behavior, measured in different situations and compared the the breed’s average)
- The observer’s subjective evaluation (provided verbally and immediately after the end of the test using the following categories [angry, energetic, friendly to strangers, playful, loud, curious, and secure]).
Although, the BPH was criticized for its price and the difficulty to understand its results by breeders. It can be very helpful in identifying and understanding the major behavioral traits of your dog and thus correct the problematic behavioral defects at an early age such as excessive aggressiveness or fear.