General info

Mentality description is a way to describe a dog’s behavior and mental status.

The owner leads the dog through a series of defined situations staged by trained technicians. A trained mentality descriptor follows the dog and notes the dog’s reactions. MH is not a test where the dog will pass or fail, but more of a description that will be used for breeders and puppy owners, dog owners, researchers and society at large. Dog’s genetics is very customizable, meaning that dogs can inherit behaviors and characteristics from its parents and bloodlines. With the help of MH, the breeders has a opportunity to influence the puppies’ behaviors by strengthening or downplay them in the selection of the parents.

The MH-test is also a way for breeders to do follow-up on a litter, several litters from the same parent or whole family groups. Many breed clubs have a profile that describes the breed’s general character, both mentally and physically. By the breed profile you can get a general idea about the breed. The breed profile says nothing about individuals, which MH does.

When the breeder mental describes dogs used in the breeding, the puppy buyer  could have an indication of how the prospective puppy might be. MH then becomes a form of quality assurance when buying a puppy.

When the dog is older than one year but preferably before the age of two, it is appropriate to mentaldescribe the dog. MH provides information on what may be appropriate training for the dog, both in everyday life and at any training. Mental described dogs have “papers on” their mental qualities. It can for example be a good tool to disprove stereotypes about “dangerous dogs” or to make efforts towards specific problems with dog into the society. A mentalitydescription could also be helpful for selecting dogs for service or working, and breeding of these qualities.    

MH describes the behavior that, through research, is  shown to be highly heritable. In a standardized protocol and based on an intensity scale, the dog’s reactions to these different elements is described. The description takes about 45 minutes.

Here is an explanation of how a MH is implemented and describes what the descriptor is watching:

– Contact / sociality

The describer observes the dog’s reactions through contact and cooperation with a unknown person. It is also looking at how the dog let himself be handled by a test leader.

 – Play / playfulness

Describes the dog’s willingness to cooperate with a person by looking at the urge to chase and catch a cloth, and how engaged they are in the play.


 – Hunting / pursuing

 Describes the dog’s interest to follow objects that disappears from the dog, how fast it starts and what it does with the object when it finds it.

– Activity

The level of activity describe how the dog behaves in a passive state, where the owner stands completely still with the dog on a leash. Here dogs react different, but preferably dogs can relax in a passive situation, although it has been active just before.   

 – Curiosity / interest

Describes the dog’s curiosity, willingness and courage to leave their owners in order to investigate what had just happened, and if the dog is active with what might have been perceived as scary. It also describes the dog’s interest to initiate or respond to a invite to play with an person on distance from the owner.

 – Shot

 A noise-sensitive dog will not do well in today’s noisy society and dogs that are afraid of shot in different stages, will often hand it down to their offspring. For use in breeding and the training it is important that dogs are not afraid of gunshot. The MH describes if the dog is afraid of shot when they play with the owner and at the passive state.

– Fear

It may be rational for the dog to be afraid if it is exposed to a sudden threat, which in one situation during the MH when a suit is suddenly pulled up in front of the dog. It is also important to let the fear when the surprise / threat ceases and the dog relaxes and maybe even show curiosity for what happened. This, as well as how much help the dog needs from his handler is observed by the mentality describer.

– Threats

In this section you use people dressed as ghosts to see how the dog reacts to unknown threats that slowly approaches the dog. The describer looks at how the dog stands up to the threat, if it wants to defend itself or its handler, and if the dog shows interest to investigate the ghosts after they stopped acting menacingly.  

(translated from Svenska Brukshundklubbens MH broschyr)

Press here to see a movie of Sheriff’s mentalitytest, and his son Diezel here and Ralph here