• Temperament Testing I- Introduction

    Written by Laura Tong

    So why are we doing all this messing around with temperament testing? There are several reasons, but only two main ones. The first is that we have seen the value of using puppy temperament testing to help place dogs with owners who are able to appreciate who they are. The Volhard puppy temperament test is widely used by breeders, trainers, and service/assistance dog centers and trainers to help in making sure that dogs are suitable for the people who want to buy them or the work they are needed to do. While we don't expect our testing to ever become this widely used, we are hoping that it will help US to better match our animals with people who will enjoy them, and to represent them as honestly as possible to those considering them as pets and friends.
    Our other main reason is to continue placing strong emphasis on the importance of a good personality in these animals. Despite the emphasis the International Hedgehog Association's show standard places on temperament (a full 1/3 of available points), many breeders continue to completely ignore the importance of having a good temperament in their breeding animals. Many people involved with hedgehogs also still believe that temperament is all socialization, and that breeding and heredity have nothing to do with it. We know this is not true for humans, dogs, and numerous other living creatures in which both heredity and environment (nature and nurture) work together to form personality, so why do some people refuse to believe this about hedgehogs? We're not sure, and we can't pretend to speak for other breeders, but we have noticed some things that we think are contributing to this problem. One "problem" is that many hedgehogs are very strongly influenced by their environment and with gentle, patient handling from a young age can be encouraged to become much more outgoing. Because of this, early socialization and regular handling can make a big difference in temperament that can last throughout life if this regular handling is continued. This is actually a wonderful trait for them to have, but just think where it could get us if used WITH conscientious breeding for temperament instead of as a substitute for it!
    Another reason we think is sometimes involved is there are several different ways people look at breeding hedgehogs. Some view it as being similar to breeding mice and rats or some other small rodents, i.e. throw them together and see what happens. Many look at it in a way similar to how they view the breeding of other small to medium exotics that are much newer to being kept as pets. In many of these species there has not yet been time to begin working for good temperament due to the limited availability of suitable breeding animals (which is certainly no longer the case with hedgehogs!) so any healthy animal is a potential breeder. And of course, in any animal where there is a profit to be made, there will sometimes be breeders who simply do not care about quality, only about quantity. At this time these fortunately seem to be a small minority of hedgehog breeders, and we hope this continues to be the case.
    The longer we have worked with breeding hedgehogs, and the more we have become involved with them, the more we have wanted to look at our breeding program more similarly to some of the dog or horse breeders we have known or read articles by. We want to not only breed for animals that will make the best pets NOW, but also to have improved the species as a whole years down the road. We hope this test will not only help us in reaching that goal, but also hopefully encourage others to take a deeper look at the potential breeding has for influencing the temperament of pet hedgehogs.