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Mental Description of dog - a canine character test performed by
Svenska Brukshundsklubben (the Swedish Working Dogs´ organisation)

Information from Swedish Lapphund Kristallen's Lihkku

Mental Description test for dogs ("Mentalbeskrivning Hund,"
abbreviated "MH")

- This is a canine character test intended mainly for working dogs, such as German Shepherds, Rottweilers, Collies, Boxers etc. But dogs of other breeds can take the MH test as well, e.g. Swedish Lapphund.

MH test should be performed when the dog is 1-2 years old.

We were happy to obtain a place in the MH test for Kristallen's Lihkku on June 15th, 2002, arranged by Svenska Brukshundsklubben, Sörmland. (a local working dog organisation) at Tullinge F18 outside Stockholm.

MH is mainly arranged for working dogs

In practice it is very difficult for a Swedish Lapphund to participate in an MH test. Some clubs may offer one or two extra places for a dog of a rare breed, but usually the breeder himself or herself arranges an MH for 8-10 Lapphunds simply by asking a local working dog organization and paying the organization the necessary fees for the test.

The test leader, the protocol writer, and the assisting actors work as unpaid volunteers. There are currently too few properly certified test teams to ascertain the real need.

For a rare breed, a breeder usually arranges a test by purchasing the test service from a local working dog club.

When a breeder arranges a test, they can sometimes provide space for a few extra Lapphunds. Eight is the maximum number of dogs that can be tested in one day, although it is possible to test up to ten dogs in the summer months. In winter the dogs performing at dusk are at a disadvantage, especially if the weather is inclement.

MH proves that the dog is mentally healthy.

For the owner of a dog that has passed the MH test, the test protocol is of great interest since it can improve training and demonstrates that the dog is in good mental health. The test provides a good overview of things the dog can and cannot tolerate.

When several siblings are tested, the results give the breeder a good picture of the standard of his or her breed as well as genetic traits.

Gun proof the dog?

The MH test ends with firing two gun shots in the woods from a distance (handgun, 9 mm ammunition) and then two shots at a nearer distance. If the dog becomes excessively nervous when the first shot is fired, the test is interrupted and the dog has failed the gun shot test.

Some dogs don't pass the gun shot test, although most dogs pass the general MH test, but with a lower score. If the dog flips out all together, it will fail the MH.

A dog who is gun proof will probably never experience problems with fireworks during New Year and other celebrations and will certainly be a good companion for a hunter.

Our Kristallen's Lihkku passed MH
and also the gun shot test.

Dogs of different breeds obtain different results. For each breed there is a published "profile" that describes how the dog normally reacts to certain aspects of the test.
For the Swedish Lapphund, there is no published "breed profile," since this is a rare breed. Breeders of Swedish Lapphunds and experienced Lapphund owners, however, have a fairly good idea of what normal test results should look like.

The interest in MH testing is increasing in Sweden even among owners of companion dogs.

The test has been developed within the frames of Svenska Brukshundsklubben and in 1997 the amount of MH-tested dogs was well over 8000.

The main test units

Within each test unit there are 2-3 partial tests.
  1. Contact with a stranger. Test leader takes the dog on the leash and goes away from the handler/owner, executes physical examination, mouth and teeth inspection. Thus, what is the dog's reaction to a stranger?

  2. Willingness to play. Test leader plays with a big white cloth, throws it to the handler (owner), invites the dog to play with the cloth, tugs the cloth, etc.

  3. Chasing. A big white cloth is drawn in a zigzag pattern at a distance of 24 feet (supposedly a rabbit or other prey). The dog is let loose and has to run and attack the object, then is called back to the handler.

  4. Ability to relax. Handler and dog stand still for three minutes. What does the dog do during the dull interval?

  5. Ability to collaborate with a stranger. A "witch" (clad in black) suddenly comes out of the woods at a distance of approximately 120 feet. She kneels, stands up, and kneels again, waving a big cloth, luring the dog to come to her.

  6. Reaction to the sudden appearance of a large object. A blue overall (XL) is rigged with ropes and suddenly appears when the handler and the dog are strolling along a path.

  7. Reaction to sounds. Hidden in the bushes, a chain is pulled over a corrugated iron-plate, creating a loud rattling sound.

  8. Reaction to an approaching threat. Ghosts. Two volunteers dressed in white sheets, with white plastic buckets on their heads and large black painted eyes, nose and mouth, move stereotypically forward three feet at the time. Wind should be away from the dog so that it cannot smell the human scent from the two ghosts.

    The "ghosts" approach until they are ten feet away and then turn their backs to the dog. The handler is then allowed to call the dog's name, to go up to the ghost and start talking to it and unmask it. He can then do the same with the other ghost.

  9. Willingness to play. Has the dog’s willingness to play during units 1 to 7 faded or is he still alert? [Unit two is repeated].

  10. During the test, shots from a 9 mm pistol are fired. The shooter is about 100 feet away from the dog and is hidden in the woods. Ten seconds between each shot. Reaction?

    Playing tug the cloth. Dog is on a leash. Handler is passive. Two more shots are fired, but at a shorter distance. Ten seconds between each shot.

It's true that the owner of a dog - if he is a good handler - may influence the dog during his upbringing, but the test is designed to take this into account.

The test takes about 45 minutes and is so stressful to the dog that mental defects are likely to show up during testing. The test has fairly good reliability and validity.

A cognitive test for a human - under similar stress conditions - can tell a psychiatrist whether or not somebody is mentally sound.

The MH-test may not look difficult to us humans, but it is stressful for the dog. Lihkku's test results and also - the statistical average for Swedish Lapphund - "unofficial breed profile" to be viewed in his
MH-protocol in English.

Short summary of Lihkku's reactions during the test.

  1. Contact with a stranger. Lihkku takes the initiative and is balanced. Follows the stranger all the way. Is neutral. Avoids and withdraws during inspection of teeth and body ("manhandling").

  2. Willingness to play. Plays actively. Grips object carefully. Bites carefully.

  3. Chasing. Starts off at high speed, con-
    centrated; heads toward his goal, "hits the brakes" when he reaches the prey.

  4. Activity. Pays attention and is calm.

  5. Witch presentation. Interested, follows her without interruption. No barking or growling. Approaches the witch with a low body stance and with slight hesitation. Carefully grips the object, no tugging. Collaborates. Active with the witch, even when she is passive.

  6. Surprise. Moves away in an arching maneuver but without turning away his gaze. Some threatening behavior. Approaches the object when the handler is near. His fear fades away very quickly. No interest in the object. No remaining fear.

  7. Sound sensitivity. Short stop. Approaches the rattling chain without help. Forgets the incident fast. No remaining fear.

  8. Ghosts. Threatens the ghosts for a certain amount of time. Inspects ghosts with shorter interruptions. Runs away more than ten feet, but with tail up, and doesn't hide in the audience. Approaches the ghost voluntarily when the handler is aside. Is balanced.

  9. Playing part two. Plays actively, starts fast. Grips the object carefully.

  10. Gun shots. Startled but in full control after the first shots. Interrupts his play action but resumes the same activity he was involved in before the gun shots.

The above is based on the protocol and verbal report provided by the test leader.

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Copyright © 2002 Bill Leksén. All rights reserved.
-- Uppdated: 2015--08-08