Predicting Adults from Puppies – in 15 Minutes!

A typical vet consult is just 15 minutes. Is this long enough for a vet to diagnose future behavioural problems in puppies? Vaccination consults seem to be an ideal time for vets to assess puppies and make recommendations for the future, but is it really enough time for a vet to reach adequate conclusions?  Pageat set out to find out.

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Rottweiler puppy on vet table having a check up.


256 puppies were observed during a vaccination appointment at the vet.  The puppy was first allowed to ‘free range’ around the room, and then the puppy was examined. The behaviour of puppies during this consult was noted.  The owner was also asked to answer 8 questions (on fear, sleep, and self control).

Pageat wondered if the behaviours shown by the puppies and the answers given by their owner might have a correlation between the behaviour (including problem behaviour) the puppy may have as an adult.

Telephone consults occurred 1 month after the vaccination consult, then 6 months after, and then another evaluation was done when the dog came in for its vaccination 1 year afterwards.

Pageat found that there was a correlation, and referred to 6 classifications for adult dogs: ‘normal’, deprivation syndrome, hypersensitivity-hyperactivity, disorder of sensory homeostasis, phobia, and separation anxiety.

This preliminary study showed that there was some merit to Pageat’s ideas. Below are the behaviour classifications that Pageat created and how they correlate to the behaviours and questionnaire responses seen in puppyhood.


Normal Dogs

Pups that were likely to have a ‘normal development’, unsurprisingly, displayed normal behaviours in the vet clinic, like:

  • sought comfort from their owner,
  • checked out the room while ocassionally checking in with the owner or vet,
  • sought vet’s contact,
  • had submissive posture when vet reached over the puppy, and
  • sometimes cried when restrained, but soon settled.
  • On the questionnaire, owners said there were no fears, no sleep problems, and no excessive biting.

So: Puppies that act normally in the vet seem to act normally as adults.


Deprivation Syndrome

‘Deprivation syndrome’ is the term that Pageat used, which means dogs that are under socialised and so fearful of most things, which in turn leads to fear aggression. (source)

In the vet consult, pups were more likely to grow up with deprivation syndrome if they:

  • were stationary (didn’t move around the exam room),
  • reacted fearfully when touched by the vet,
  • remained fearful even when the owner interacted with them,
  • persistantly tried to escape and bite from restraint, and.
  • if they appeared to calm when restrained, they started fighting again when the restraint was lessened.
  • The owner’s responses to the questionnaire described the puppy as ‘fearful’ towards loud noises, moving objects, and people.

That is: puppies that acted fearful during the 15 minute vet consult will probably stay fearful. They should immediately start an intensive socialisation program to try to reduce their fearful reactions.


Hypersensitivity-Hyperactivity Syndrome

‘Hypersensitivity-hyperactivity syndrome’ is basically a dog with lack of control, especially bite inhibition. They are often not-aggressive but nonetheless hurt their owners and others because of their lack of bite inhibition in ‘over the top’ play.

In the vet consult, pups were more likely to grow up with this syndrome if they:

  • were active, ran everywhere,
  • repeatedly interacted with ‘every thing’ they could in the exam room,
  • if this interaction included chewing and often destroying items,
  • immediately started to play during the physical exam,
  • growled and bit,
  • tried to escape restraint by biting, urinating, or defecating, and if this fighting may continue for 30 seconds or more,
  • had an owner who’s presence didn’t influence the puppy’s behaviour, and
  • had an owner who was covered in bites themselves.
  • Owners on the questionnaire indicated the puppy didn’t sleep solidly (i.e. made noise at night) and described the puppy as rough or bitey when playing.

That is: Puppies who seemed hyperactive and orally fixated would stay that way into adulthood. Puppies in this category should be put in puppy playgroups and otherwise taught to inhibit their bite.


Disorder of Sensory Homeostasis

This was the most confusing classification that Pageat used. Here are a couple of definitions I was able to come up with in regard to ‘sensory homeostasis’:

  • “the ability to react in a suitable manner to sensory stimulations coming from the external environment” (source)
  • “The normal state can be regarded as the normosensoperceptive [normal sensory perceptive] condition to be maintained in the physiological range by means of various cooperative and coordinated mechanisms” (source)

That is, ‘dealing with’ (behaviourally, psychologically, and physically) the environment in a normal way. So, a dog who has ‘sensory homeostasis’ could be described as ‘a dog that reacts suitably to sensory input from its environment’.

The behaviours of puppies in this group were diverse:

  • Puppies were active, running everywhere and chewing everything – or they did the opposite, staying in one place resting and not moving much.
  • Puppies either began to play when you interacted with them, or just stayed still.
  • These puppies bit when they were restrained – sometimes with urinating and defecating as well, but always did not submit.
  • The owners reported these puppies were fearful, that they didn’t sleep well or were active, and they were rough biting and playful.

As you can see, there is a lot of variety in this category, and I’m not sure what conclusions can actually be reached. This is especially true when you compare with the rather logical and conclusive results made under different headings.


Phobic Adult Dogs

Dogs were more likely to be fearful adults if they were puppies that:

  • sought comfort from owners in new environments,
  • if the explored, they checked in with the owner or vet as exploring,
  • adopted a submissive posture during handling,
  • cried softly during restraint, or
  • moved legs when restrained, but soon calms down and is submissive.

That is, the pups that overall seemed quite soft and ‘submissive’ and sought reassurance from people were likely to be fearful dogs in adulthood.  These puppies could also have their behaviour remedied by socialisation where they could learn to be more outgoing (as they realise the world is a not-so-scary place).


Separation Anxiety

Separation anxiety is basically a fear of being alone.  Pups that exhibited the following behaviours were more likely to have separation anxiety as an adult:

  • rests as close as possible to the place it was left,
  • vet has to initate contact, and
  • pup exhibits fearful behaviours like escaping, biting, urinating, defecating or anal sac excretion, but when the owner approaches, these behaviours stops.
  • The owner answered ‘yes’ to fearful behaivours on the questionnaire.

A vet could recommend that puppies displaying these behaviours begin to engage in a separation anxiety program before issues become apparent. Undertaking anti-separation anxiety procedures are good practice, anyway, but could be applied with more emphasis in puppies like this.



Unfortunately, this research is almost 10 years old and hasn’t been as revolutionary as first hoped.  However, it shows there is still promise in the original suggestion:  Vets could have a role in preventing problem behaviours from developing or becoming more pronounced by making recommendations based on behaviours seen in a 15 minute consult.  Vets are a major source of information for dog owners, including new puppy owners, and almost all puppies will visit a vet for at least their first vaccination. Because of this, it’s vital that we make the most of these consults and direct puppy buyers to appropriate resources.


Links of Interest

Resources for New Puppy Owners

How to Stop Puppy Biting




Pageat, P 2004, ‘Evaluating the quality of behavor development in puppies: preliminary results of a new scale’, Proceedings of the 10th European Congress on Companion Animal Behavioural Medicine.


Puppies 2012 – The Ninth Week and Beyond

Just because the puppies have left our homes doesn’t mean that we’re no longer involved in their new lives!  We are always available to our puppy buyers to help them with any problems they may have, or just offer advice.  We have had puppy buyers contact us with vaccination queries, toilet training advice, feeding advice, and just to share lovely stories about their puppies. Here are some pictures for you to enjoy.

“Douglas” (was “Jakkalberry”) the sleepy cowboy puppy.

"Boomer" kept his name in his new home.

“Boomer” kept his name in his new home.

Continue reading


Puppies 2012 – The Eighth Week

Jakkalberry, one day shy of 8 weeks old.

Jakkalberry, one day shy of 8 weeks old.

This was another stinking hot week and we, again, didn’t get out as much as we wanted to. We did, however, manage to take all six puppies to a shopping centre for the Boxing Day Sales which was excellent.  We saw so many different nationalities at these sales that  it was well worth the excursion.  It was a big day, and it was reassuring that some of the puppies were relaxed enough to sleep in this busy environment.

We also took the puppies out to another shopping strip during the week where we had to fight out way through crowds, which was also a good experience for them.

We managed to get everyone happy and relaxed in their crate to sleep through the night this week.  The only puppy that was a bit exceptional was Kelinni, who objected to being crated in the puppy area but was quiet next to our bed.  Not only did this upset the other puppies, to hear Kelinni crying, but it also made me worry that Kelinni would get into the habit of making noise in her crate. Because of this, we compromised and had Kelinni next to our bed (in a crate) at night. Her new home was happy to continue to have her sleep like this, and I suggested they move her crate out of the bedroom over time if they want her to sleep somewhere else.

Apart from Kelinni, all puppies were sleeping through the nights in their crate quietly, and by themselves. Success!

And then, just as I had got them to be pretty good little dogs, it was time for them to go!

Daisy, dreaming of her new home.

Daisy, dreaming of her new home.

Our puppies come with quite a puppy pack, and I had these all ready for them to go when their puppies were collected. They also go with a crate to sleep in in their new home, and lots of other bits and pieces, of course.

Puppy packs, ready to go!

Puppy packs, ready to go!

Alfalfa went to a home to be ‘co-parented’ by a mum and adult son team.  Man and Jakkalberry went to homes with young children, with the whole family much anticipating their arrival.  Kelinni went to a young child-less couple and will get the opportunity to dabble in showing and sports.  Daisy went to a home with young kids to join another border terrier and be involved in working on the farm, dog sports, and maybe showing as well.  Finally, Boomer went to a family of triathletes! So he gets to lead a busy life running, swimming and everything else.

At home, we’re just happy to take a breath and be puppyless for a few months before we get around to doing it all again!


Puppies – The Seventh Week

I put a step stool in the pen to change a lightbulb. Daisy immediately took herself upon this step, and sat, appreciating the view.

This is the week where I went, “I have only two weeks to get them sleeping in a crate at night!” and started crate training in earnest.

It was very hard with 6 puppies to do the kind of concentrated effort I normally do. When I have 2-3 puppies, it’s easy to get them into their crates with food, lock the door, and then soon after open the door again. With six, by the time I’ve fed the last one, the first one is crying to get out. Not what I aim for.

So, instead, I decided to test all the puppies with 5 minutes in a crate (on the 19th of December) to determine who would need the ‘most work’ and who was going to be easy. This was just because I had a big litter and, unfortunately, had to prioritise to get things done! Continue reading


Puppies – The Sixth Week

This would normally be the week where the puppies socialise heaps, but unfortunately it was very hot, and we didn’t get the puppies out anywhere near as much as we’d like to.

While up until now the puppies had been confined to a pen outside, they started to have greater access to the backyard during the last week.

On the 13th of December I took both Kelinni and Boomer out, and they each met about 20 people each.

On the 16th of December, we had a somewhat different socialisation experience.  My partner volunteers for the State Emergency Service and they were having a Christmas lunch in a park. In lieu of carrying puppies in the park for several hours, we brought a puppy pen and had the puppies on the ground – something that we never do!  However, I think the risks of parvo were minimal: We placed the puppies on a tarp, so they didn’t have direct contact with the soil, the park is in a medium-high socio economic area where most people would vaccinate their dogs, the Christmas lunch was deep in the park, and because you have pay to drive to get your car in, there’s probably less people that attend this part of the park with their dogs.

The puppy pen set up. We chose to sit back from the rest of the group in respect for non-puppy-lovers.

The socialisation opportunities were huge – and actually bigger than I expected. I actually just thought there would be a bunch of men at the Christmas function, and I really wanted more socialisation with my puppies to men. But it turns out there where heaps of kids there, too! So it was very much worth attending. Continue reading