How ARTS SHOWED HIS character
or mentality test in Akaa, finland 02. 05. 2009

I had the thought to have a mentality test with Arts for a long time but the last and decisive push came from the trip to Czechia at the beginning of February when driving back to Tallinn I listened the experiences of my travelmate Mari-Ann with the relevant tests for Dachshunds and decided to take action.

Various breeds have the mentality test as a part of their breeding requirements- most of all the working breeds as e.g. German Shepherds, Dobermans, Retrievers and others. Although Dalmatian is not an official working or hunting breed nowadays, the mentality remains as a very important nuance in showring and in breeding. It is logical that the mentality of a Dalmatian cannot be extreme - very shy or very agressive. During all these years I have spent with Arts I have spoken with many people and majority of them has told me about one/several Dalmatians that they know and that have been agressive and they always wonder how Arts can be so calm and friendly. These people have generally had only one interference with the breed but their conclusions are overall.

I also had acquainted myself with several Dalmatian Clubs abroad and especially with the Dalmatian Club of Finland. The Finnish Club has worked out the recommendations of breeding and they also have a long-time discussion over whether to make the succesful result of the mentality test a part of these breeding recommendations or not. As a member of the Dalmatian Club of Estonia I also support the establishing of the breeding requirements even if only as the base suggestions. Reading the discussion in the Finnish Dalmatian forum about the possibility to see the mentality test as one of the breeding requirement made me to think about making the test myself and see what it is all about and of course to find out what my dog is truly like. Although I had heard the stories about how the dog owners train their dogs for this test, the thing that I was most excited about was the fact that this test shows the character, the mentality that the dog already has, there is nothing you can add or discount there and at the end of the day I really want to know what my dog is really like not what is his ability to learn. In that sense this test was a welcomed change to the dog shows where everything depends on somebody's often subjective and influencable opinion.

We talked about this and other topics driving towards Estonia on that beautiful February day and listening to Mari-Ann telling how she has been in many tests like that with her Dachshunds made me decide to finally do it. As far as I knew there was only one Dalmatian in Estonia who had passed this test before - Laguna Dios Alisia Donna from the kennel Alphadirato. Mari-Ann warned me that it is very hard to get to a mentality test and it was also said by the Finnish Dalmatian owners, I also knew that these tests are very rare in Estonia-the closest ones are in Latvia and Finland and the latter is recommended but the tests in Finland are always full, they said.

I have said many times that the majority of my decisons comes spontaniously - so was that one. As soon as we reached to Estonia I started to search for possibilities to attend the mentality test in Finland. I took the calendar on the webpage of the Finnish Service Dogs Union and asked for information but I was told from every place that not only are they fully booked but there are approx. 20 dogs in the waiting list (10 dogs max are allowed for the test day). In the meanwhile I read that the the Finns will organize a mentality test in Estonia in May and send a request for that one, too. But in the evening of that very day I received an e-mail from one of the clubs I had sent a request to attend the mentality test to saying that unfortunately they are fully book but in any day now the fresh issue of the Finnish Service Dog Union magazine has to arrive and they promised to send me information right away about the new calendar of test that was to be issued in this magazine. I had this information by the lunchtime next day and the same evening I had booked myself a place. I was a little bit afraid of what will happen if the Dalmatian owners in Finland will find out that it took only 2 days for an Estonian Dalmatian to get a place at this test :D but at the same time it is a very good example about how useful an immediate action can be.

I had chosen a mentality test on 2nd of May 2009 near the small town Toijala in Finland. Toijala is 20 min driving away from Tampere and ca 2 hours driving from Helsinki. My travelmate and photographer was the owner of Artus' brother Cedrik - Ando Kala to whom I am extremely thankful for taking care of Artus during our trip.

We went to Finland with the most dog-friendly shipping company Viking Line. The latest news about how the hotels in Saaremaa have finally understood that the dog owners are a large and so far discriminated sub-branch of paying customers, made me think of when will Tallink finally understand it. Wherever I have been with the dog, the serving personnel have always confirmed that no dog has been able so far to act as destructively as the humans. Viking Line anyway has the guaranteed support of the dog owners for many years already together with the bigger profit from ticket sale :D The trip was pleasant this time also. I put Arts to a Dog Bag tent where he could have some peace and quiet space and we with Ando went in turns to discover the ship.

As for the date then Finland was preparing for holidays - it was Vappu. For information - 1st of May is an important holiday in Finland and it is also the day when the alumni of the universities can wear the white scholar hat. When we arrived ca. 2 pm to the restaurant - hotel Rosamunda the nice people from the hotel told us that they won't be there on the next day and anyway they are going to close the hotel at 4 pm and we are on our own. We were supposed to leave the key to hotelroom when we left. We were the only visitors in this hotel. We took Arts and walked until the city limit and then came back, then we ordered a large pizza from the pizza and kebab place next to hotel called Ali-Baba and came back to hotel. The pizza lasted even for breakfast :D

The next morning we drove out of Toijala to a nice small farm complex where also other dogs started to gather to. Arts was the only Dalmatian there and later also the judges said that they rarely see the Dalmatians at the mentality tests.

To speak a bit about Artus' character then he is not shy, rather a bit suspicious first as a true Dalmatian and later the biggest friend, sometimes having things to say to other dogs. He knows how to stand for himself but he has never had a situation where he would have to protect me. Knows basic obidience but if he don't want to or there are the scents of female dogs around, the selective deafness can apply. I was very interested about the outcome of the test. I knew that +75 points are needed to pass the test successfully and that some Dalmatians in Finland have failed this test. So I still was a little nervous although I knew that nothing here depends on me and I cannot change anything. Before us was a long-haired collie who got +112 points. We couldn't see his perfomance as Arts was not allowed to see or hear anything that was going on in the testing site but something came thru tho and Arts was so ready to go and help the collie.

Then finally it was our turn. The judges Katri Leikola and Sami Heikkilä invited me with Artus to stand in front of them and asked questions about the dog - what is his name and what is he like in everyday life. After that the judges tried to play with Arts and waved a wooden stick under his nose. Arts decided that the judges are weird and tried to get away from the loonies because there were much more interesting scents in the grass some meters away. There had been a test with other dogs the previous day. Arts also knew that I drag him constantly to weird places like dog shows and veterinarians and he decided to be suspicious from the start. The judges ordered me to loosen Arts' leash-this time my task was only be the weight at the other end of the leash. Arts liked that and he made several sudden rushed drags toward the scentful grass. When the judges understood that Arts is not at all interested in playing with them, they let me try myself. Unfortunately they didn't have the soccer ball there that Arts likes. But the tennis ball also was of use-Arts played with that for some moments but then remembered that there were some good scents somewhere and thought that he can play anytime but he can never ever smell those good scents again. This part gave us our only minus score.

The fact that Arts wasn't interested in playing didn't surprise me much but still made me to think whether we are able to pass this test when Arts is interested in totally different things. The second part of the test tested the dog's attention. I was ordered just to hold the leash and let Arts run free and from the other side of the garden they started to pull towards us a sleigh with a human figure sitting on it - wearing a hat and a jacket. The point in this is to create an unlogical situation for the dog when the figure coming towards him is as a human and then again not and also the movement is not smooth but with different rhythm thus creating a confusion for the dog. When the sleigh started to move towards us Arts was still connected to the grass by his nose but then he started to guess that something really bad is happening, he raised his head and stared at the sleigh. The sleigh came nearer with waving movements and Arts thought it necessary to warn the weird stranger that he is not joking. Arts started to bark and jump and when the sleigh got near us he jumped a bit away but barked all the time to warn the figure on the sleigh. At this moment I knew that everything is going to be OK and we will pass the test. When the sleigh reached us, Arts was given the opportunity to get acquainted with the figure. He approached suspiciously at first but then it turned to curiosity with what he came and sniffed the sleigh. Finally Arts decided that the sleigh is not that dangerous after all and he can focus on the scents again. Before the test I was suggested to make Arts' collar as fitting as possible and with this part of the test it came out that the collar shifted too much downwards on the neck and made Artus to shake his head constantly when barking. The judges also mentioned that the collar was disturbing the dog a bit.

The next part was the one I myself was the most interested of. I was told to hold on very tight of the leash and walk towards the minivan parked at the back corner of the house. Behind the minivan jumped out judge Heikkilä and gave us a yelling order to stop, waving a bat in his hands. Arts looked at him as a schoolteacher looks at a hooligan student and tried to figure out if the loonies have a nest somewhere. Then he looked at me to see what I am doing. Considering the fact that it was my idea to come into this nest of crazy people, it was only justful for Arts that I will figure my way out of it myself. But seeing that I just stand there and do nothing for protection, Arts had to grab the hold of the things himself and defend me. Arts started to bark at the "robber" and jumped frightenly towards him. Sami Heikkila later laughed that in real situation the robber would of had my money and better belongings but Artus' will to protect received the maximum grade. When Arts had stated that he won't surrender without a fight the judge came towards us peacefully and let Arts to get aquainted with him. Arts was truly happy that this weird screaming person had finally come to his senses and Arts can go now to sniff the scents from the grass again. Yet it wasn't over-Sami Heikkilä too Arts' leash into his hands and told me to go back to the other judge. Then I was told to call Arts. I decided to use a harsh command but I still had to repeat it a couple of times as Arts decided to use the chance to put his nose in the grass a couple of time during his long and winding road to me.

For the next part I was supposed to hide myself in the dark room and Arts was supposed to come and find me. The building was a sauna building in the same farm complex. In the first room at the entrace there were plastic bags and metal bowls on the floor. The idea of this part was to see how the dog behaves in the unnatural environment (dark room, noisy floor cover) and whether he finds me himself or he has to be directed. I was put to sit in the heating room. When I entered the sauna building Arts stayed outside with Katri Leikola and I was told to call for him to make him to want to find me more eagerly. I did that and Arts probably thought that I am going to be in some kind of trouble again for sure because the last sight I saw before closing the door was Arts who galopped towards the building and an unhappy judge behind him trying to hold on :D . So there I was in the heating room, thinking about my life when the judges came in with Arts. Arts spent some time to find me but when he finally did he was very happy from head to toe. The judges praised Arts and said that he had not afraid neither the dark room nor noisy floor and I also didn't have to give him an extra sign to find me.

Now we went behind the main building with Katri Leikola and I was ordered to take Arts on a long leash and walk with him towards the corner of the house. As soon as Arts' nose reached behind the corner, Sami Heikkilä behind it opened a big umbrella. Arts jumped away and then I walked with him right away back to where we started. At the sign by Katri Leikola we walked again towards the same corner. The aim of this test is to see how and how fast the dog will recover and if and how he remembers the place that scared him i.e. the grade was given to the recovery ability of the nervous system. Arts sure remebered that at this place something bad happened and tried to make a circle around it. The judges later said that it was normal and praised Arts for not being scared, shy or agressive.
With that the sufferings of Arts were far to be over. Making sure that nobody was stalking us behind the horrible corner we walked around it and took the direction towards the testplace when suddenly a noisy bin was pushed down along the diagonal bridge behind us. Arts jumped in the air and away and started to bark as hell at the bin. Finally when I went and knelt next to the bin Arts also trusted to come and sniff it. The bin didn't have much of his interest tho. Understanding that it was another stupid joke Arts lost any possible interest for the bin and went again to the mission impossible sniffing the grass.
For next thing me and Arts were taken around the house where I had to attach him to the tube at the back wall of the house and leave myself. I had never left Arts tied up alone like that. He had started to whine at first and was sad about me leaving but then a very suspicios hooded figure armed with bat started to sneak towards him from the shade of the minivan - it was the judge Katri Leikola. Arts decided that he can whine later if needed and started to bark at the suspicious figure. Before she could reach Arts judge Leikola dropped the bat and unhooded herself and came the rest of the way friendly towards Arts. Arts was really happy that the suspicious figure turned out to be a friend instead and he tried to jump into judge Leikola's arms. But the real happiness came when I also turned around the corner.

The last part of the test was the shooting test. I wasn't quite sure myself about how Arts would react to the shots. He hasn't reacted to the New Year's fireworks when being indoors. Then again a few years back I made a stupid mistake and took him outside to see the fireworks close. After that he notices the fireworks but hasn't had panic or fear. As a matter of fact Arts has always had a remarkable ability to recover. A few years ago we asked to be a part of group of dogs who were preparing for the obedience exam and wanted to try the shooting test. The shots didn't scare Arts but he kept an eye on the shooter for all the evening and didn't trust him much even after the shooter had offered the restoring of friendship with the wiener sausage. For Arts the shooting test was the best part of the mentality test as we were supposed to move along the same grassy area where all these tempting scents were. The shooter who was hiding behind the wall of the above-mentioned sauna building made 3 shots. When the first shot was fired Arts raised his head and looked around, the other shots weren't surprising for him. For that time Arts had realized that everyone around him has gone crazy and weird things will happen in every step.

With that the test was over. Arts decided that now he really really has enough of it and he dragged poor Ando to the better grasslands a bit away from the test place. I stayed there to wait for the verdict. Finally the judges came and explained verbally all the grades and parts of the test. As I had thought one of the negative things said was the lack of contact between me and my dog and the dog's little desire to play. At the positive side they pointed out his quick recovery from the stressful situations and him not being afraid of the dark room. The points were altogether 142 from what the -15 points for the first part of the test were discounted. The final score was +127 points. I also asked from the judges how the Dalmatians are performing generally in the attack and defence part of the test. The judges said that they see Dalmatians very rarely at the tests and the test always consideres also the specialities of different breeds and that they haven't had very aggressive or attackful Dalmatians tho.

The grades (in the scale +3 to -3) and points in the test were following :

I Ability for action

Grade: -1 (small)
Points: -15

II Sharpness

Grade: +1 (Small, without resting will to attack)
Points: +1

III A will to protect

Grade: +3 (moderate, controlled)
Points: +3

IV A will for fight

Grade: +2 (moderate)
Points: +20

V Nervous system

Grade: +1 (a bit restless)
Points: +35

VI Temperament

Grade: +2 (moderately lively)
Points: +30

VII Toughness

Grade: +1 (a bit soft)
Points: +8

VIII Accessibility

Grade: +3 (very accessible)
Points: +45

Shooting test

+++ Shotproof

We left the testsite after our turn as the weather was hot and we didn't want to put Arts alone in the car yet he would of disturbed when being among the audience. We made a stop in McDonald's on our way to Helsinki and everybody could fill their stomachs. We also had a promenade along the center of Helsinki where we saw the harbour market and dancing Indians. We reached back home with Viking Line again at midnight.
Arts and Ando in Helsinki
Indians in the centre of Helsinki

Guys, let's make a pint!



As a summary I think that the mentality test we made was useful and an interesting experience first for myself to get to know my own dog and for second, to understand how a Dalmatian can behave at the test. As the test brings out directly and honestly the possible problems that the dog might have with aggressiveness or shyness, I do support the opinions of Dalmatian breeders abroad who think that the positive result of this test could be suggestive also for Dalmatians, who have the concrete demands for characteristics in the breeding.

My huge thanks go to Ando Kala who took care of Arts and photographed our glorious moments and also to Sami Heikkilä and Katri Leikola who performed the test and analysed and explained it later. It was a very nice and successful trip!!!

The test is also depicted in the Finnish Dog Register- here (tick the box "Näyttä muidenkin rotujen tulokset" if you want to see all the scores for the test that day and place).