The Campbell Test

The Campbell Test: performed with puppies in the range of six to eight weeks of age.


Exercise No.1 is called “Social Attraction”. It’s used to assess the probability level of dependency that it will have with the future owner. We move a few meters away from the dog and after kneeling in his direction, clap our hands.

The possible reactions are:

Very Dominant (VD): Rushes quickly with tail up, jumping on him and biting the hands.

Dominant (D): Comes to meet by scrabbling the hands without biting them.

Submissive (S): Approaches quickly with tail down.

Very Submissive (VS): Undecidedly approaches with tail down.

Inhibited (I): Stays away.


Exercise No.2 is called “Attitude to Follow a Person”, and it will assess the tendency to follow the owner.

We begin walking away from the puppy with a normal pace, making sure the he is watching us.

Possible reactions:

Very Dominant (VD): He follows us with tail up, biting the feet.

Dominant (D): He follows us voluntarily.

Submissive (S): He follows us with tail down.

Very Submissive (VS): He follows us undecidedly with tail down.

Inhibited (I): Stays firm or stays away.


Exercise No.3 is called “Reaction to Submission”, and it’s used to assess the probability level of submission to the owner. Kneeling beside the puppy, rub his back delicately and keep this position with one hand on the chest for thirty seconds.

Possible reactions:

Very Dominant (VD): Rebels violently, biting the hands.

Dominant (D): Rebels by wriggling.

Submissive (S): Rebels for a short time.

Very submissive (VS): Licks the hands.

Inhibited (I)


Exercise No.4 is called “Social Dominance”, and it’s used to assess the probability level of the acceptance of hierarchical superiority. Always on the knees, stroke the puppy with light pressure from head to the tail for thirty seconds.

Possible reactions:

Very Dominant (VD): Growls, bites, and rasp with paws.

Dominant (D): Jumps and rasp, without biting.

Submissive (S): Licks hands.

Very submissive (VS) : Turns to lick.

Inhibited (I): Tries to escape.


Exercise No.5 is called “Dominance by Elevation”, and it’s used to assess the probability level of dominance acceptance. Raise the puppy about twenty centimeters from the ground, holding it with his hands folded under his belly for thirty seconds.

Possible reactions:

Very Dominant (VD): Wriggles violently, growling and biting.

Dominant (D): Wriggles violently.

Submissive (S): Rebels calmly and licks the hands.

Very submissive (VS): Licks the hands.

Inhibited (I)

For an overall judgement, you have to check the consistency of the responses.
A puppy with at least two Very Dominant (VD) or three Dominant (D), will become an adult dog that reacts with aggression at every provocation.
With three or more Submissive (S) it will be gifted with a good capacity for adjusting to a family and will be a sweet and balanced dog. If the relations will be two or more Submissive (S) or Very Submissive (VS), it will become an adult dog that will always have to be treated with kindness and understanding.
Finally, if he will have two Inhibited (I), he will be extremely submissive and will require a lot of affection, coming to bite only for self-defense. A subject with this type will be a dog suitable for all children.

For convenience, use the following table:

1-2 VD or more Dominant and Aggressive
2-3 D or more Dominant and Extroverted
3 S or more Balanced
2/3 VS Submissive
2 I Poorly Socialized Puppy

In every case, whatever character set of the puppy, it will be important to apply education methods that take into account the individual difference. It’s literally impossible to apply a standard method in the educative process of a puppy.

The character of a dog is also determined by the individuals capacity to learn and remember experiences.

If you are lucky enough to have chosen, consciously or unconsciously, a Submissive (S) or Very submissive (VS) subject, there will be no problems.
If a puppy is VD or D, it’s very important not to underestimate or justify the first signs of aggression, thus unknowingly preparing the way for an escalation of violence. The dynamic looks impressively similar to how it happens with many cohabiting couples.
It starts (usually with the male, but increasingly there are cases of violent females) with insults and switches to a slap that is unfortunately accepted by the partner. Step by step, you get punches, beatings, and incrementally serious injuries, in some cases even resulting in killing. Especially later when deciding to leave or having already left the violent partner.
With dogs, the progression is similar. Often, the Very Dominant subject has already started from a few weeks of life by growling at the “owners”, rebelling towards impositions, then comes the first bite, and then successive increases towards more serious attacks if it is not stopped in the correct way. The main problem is the authority level of the owner. Unfortunately, leadership capacity is largely innate.
As to say that, if we go back to finding the predominance numeric of a puppy, it’s easy to understand that many dogs first bite humans who are not pack leaders themselves! (sorry for the joke)

The distinction between dominance and leadership is in the application method of authority.
A dominant subject controls just because it is the strongest. A leader, on the contrary, commands because the submissive recognize the advantages derived from it.
As to say that a leader is also dominant while the dominant is not automatically a leader.

The peak of degeneration arrives when a subject comes to kill a child or an adult of the family where it lives.

We are not talking about a few cases; dog violence regards a significant number of families.
Too often, evidence of their situation is denied. This situation is perfectly similar to problems we have with humans: the incredible mistakes in education and the relational behavior of family that is only noticed by relatives, acquaintances, and friends.

Finally, I want to emphasize the statement of personal clinical experience gained in the field of “home” dogs, and how breeders need a scientific basis for behavior.

I believe these observations can represent a theme to confront and discuss with specialists better mechanisms for understanding and regulating the behavior of man’s best friend.

Possible Causes for the Increase of Dog Aggression

The Increase of Dog Aggression

I am not an ethologist, but from more than 30 years of clinical experience and having had the possibility to live all the film since the beginning (when the dogs were aggressive and the Fioroni, an author of a famous dog encyclopedia, to the description of every single breed, repeated with serenity that was composed from subjects with good character, of course. More or less strong, but always balance.

When this animal was still “normal”, a friend of human, all the dogs were fundamentally good and affectionate, even those for watchdog or defense. In my clinic, I could easily visit subjects of seventy or eighty kilo without muzzle and without the slightest hint of aggression even facing manual pain. Moreover, at those times, the number of daily visits of a veterinary was very high, so it was possible to have a very impressive series: the dogs biting were very few; they stood out, the tawny cocker, whom many of them were very unpredictable and they can ”soak” you with really painful bites and that they tent to give infection.

And so, the poor Fioroni, I heard him described, not so long ago, a poor fool as according to him all dogs were good, he was absolutely right: when the dogs were “normal”, the percentage of “bad” subjects was objectively very low. Unfortunately, for the reasons still depend on the change of the human component and how much have changed in the environment, the situation has changed in a few years (between 1978 to 1990), with the appearance of disproportionate number of pack leader subjects and with the progressive increase of aggression in certain breeds.

The controversy about the considered dangerous breeds continues and the technicians almost convinced that they don’t exist and that the problems is just the owners, without even questioning the premises. Yet, going to the premises precisely (Parmenides, the Philosopher, asserted that if the premises are wrong, all the consequences are wrong), we realize that we start from erroneous belief. If we judge everything carefully BEFORE commencing any work or theme, it would avoid series of incredible failures , misinterpretations, and outrageous mistakes. One of the fundamental in canine world, born from the fact described above, that such animals are changed impressively within the last 35 years, with the peak of the phenomenon between 1975 to 1995, both in behavior and diseases are afflicted.

Moreover, these changes very fast or we experienced in person or can be perceived only by experts or older “dated” books. Who was born in certain historical period is led to believe that what he sees is the norm and of course act accordingly. Anyone who, like me have lived those years, dealing with many animals daily (we veterinaries for small animals were very few, and for the sector contemporary boom, a large number of clients), can easily confirm that the dogs were tame (apart from the obvious a few exceptions). Very sweet to children and absolutely reliable, ready, however to become fierce in the presence of danger, of a threat in case of absence of the owner from home.
Simply, they were guarding and defending the owner or the children only when it was necessary. I can remember the countless home visits, also a pack of dogs, during the owner were taking holidays.

The situation, as accordingly has changed strikingly in the last few years, and has made the following changes:

Puppies that at the age of 20 days, maybe still with semi closed eyes, had more than 60/70% of subjects intolerant to manipulation, especially when they open their mouth, even, obviously ridiculous that he could carry an almost new born dog, growling menacingly. In short time, we found ourselves with two puppies of suspiciously two months old, hyperactive and that didn’t come close to the visitors. Within a few years, I knocked, in advising the owner in choosing puppy, what was a “must” period: choosing that more lively one. Following this criteria, the owner was almost mathematically to have a nice pack leader extremely difficult to treat. Better to opt on the more “dumb” which would become a normal dog in most cases.

There is an old proverb that says “dog doesn’t eat dog”, but from those years, it has become common to witness puppies slaughtered by adult dog, fierce, quarrel and often fatal among adults, big dogs who were “making out” puppies totally harmless. In this regards, it was very common, before this change, to see “aggressions” of small dogs to very big dogs without the giants deign any consideration. Useless to notice that the dogs were not dreaming to bite the children and that they were stoically enduring any harassment, conscious to have to deal with “human puppy”.

Obviously, I have always insisted on the need to educate the children to respect the animals without torturing them, but in every case, the printed ancestral laws inside every dog prevented (logically) this type of reaction. These law don’t work anymore, and any expert is forced to warn the owners of almost any breed on the risk of possible attack, often for futilissimi reason.