If Shiva Was a Tree…

 Having been a teenager at the start of the Internet age, one thing I have done is take a bizarre amount of online personality tests. My friend and I used to sit in the back corner of the library during English class answering silly questions to find out what kind of car we should drive. Considering we were probably about 14, everything was in the realm of fantasy. Back then I actually thought one day I would own that Mercedes convertible. Oh the innocence of youth!

Anyway, now that I am a mature adult (ahem) I don’t put much stock in these tests. Not even the ones produced by psychologists. They all determine that people must either be a blue or a yellow or a red and never allow for anything in between. There are no purples or oranges. One person can’t be a blue one minute and then a green the other. I don’t believe human personalities are that simple or that anyone can fit perfectly into one slot. As a tool, these tests are interesting but I don’t think they are particularly useful. Of course, this doesn’t stop me from taking them myself.

A little while ago, a friend of mine Facebook-posted the results of a personality test she took for her dog. Immediately, I was intrigued. I’d never heard of such a thing before. A few days later, Pamela mentioned the same test in a comment. The temptation was too much to resist. Shiva has a personality that screams to be analyzed by an impersonal, incredibly subjective online quiz.

The Volhard Personality Profile for dogs is actually one of the more useful tests I have seen. Because it is based on a numerical rating system, the results do allow for variations. The Volhards are long-time dog trainers that have established a system for helping people communicate better with their pets.  The results of the test are meant to help owners understand their dogs’ personality in order to train them accordingly.I am unfamiliar with their exact methods so I don’t want to recommend them without more information. The website doesn’t go into too much detail but they seem to be all about establishing relationships and making dog training more fun. I can’t really see fault with that.

But I digress. This post is supposed to be about Shiva’s results.

The test is broken into four parts based around four types of drive: prey, pack, flight, and fight. I set aside an evening to answer the 4o questions and add up the numbers. According to my very generous – and slightly pickled – responses, Shiva scored as follows:

Prey Drive = 66

Pack Drive = 66

Fight Drive = 49

Flight Drive = 29

Interesting for sure, but not altogether surprising. I’ve considered getting my practically husband to fill it out as well to see if his opinions of her behaviour are any different from mine.

According to the website, Shiva’s high prey drive means she will respond well to the use of treats or a toy during training. It says she may need a firm hand to suppress the drive when in high gear. She is easily motivated but also easily distracted. Nothing surprising there. Her high pack drive also means she responds to praise and touch. She likes to be with us and will respond with little guidance. I also figured this one out already.

What was more interesting to me was her supposedly lower fight and flight drives. The test shows she has a low defense drive in general. If this is true, it may explain why she was is quick to respond to counter-conditioning. Once we finally figured out how to help her reactivity, she made an almost 100% turnaround in a very short time. This might be why. Who knows?

I’m not sure if this test has any real scientific value but as a way of helping people understand their dogs’ motivation for certain behaviours, I could see it being beneficial. It’s just another tool in the dog training arsenal. I’ve learned you can never have too many!

Have you taken this test? I’d love to hear if the results were helpful for anyone else.

47 thoughts on “If Shiva Was a Tree…

  1. I’ve never heard of that test before. I suppose as a training tool to help someone “read their dog”, it could be helpful. The best trainers I know are the ones who are able to “read dogs” and adjust the training to the dog.


    • Very true. Since every dog is unique, it really takes understanding his or her motivations in order to fix any problems. And to build a lasting relationship. I don’t know if this test would help everyone but it’s an interesting exercise anyway.


  2. If Shiva were a tree, wouldn’t she have to be a dogwood?

    I think personality tests are useful for the reflection they encourage. And the Volhard personality test has gotten me thinking. Not surprisingly, Honey is a lover, not a fighter with a very high pack drive. Unsurprising for a golden retriever bred to be a companion instead of a field retriever.

    I thought the question about whether a dog scrounges for food was interesting. It indicates that such behaviors may not only be part of a dog’s personality or related to their training but one of their innate drives.

    I’d be very curious to know what trained behaviorists think of the Volhard test. Does it stand up to scientific scrutiny?

    BTW, thanks for the shout out. Glad you enjoyed the test.


    • Hahaha… 🙂

      That’s true, reflection is definitely a good thing. I found going through the questions to be a great thought experiment all on their own, even without calculating the results. I think I may have over and under scored her in some areas. Given that as I write this Shiva is digging at the rug to get the tiny crumb from my sandwich that may have gone under the couch…

      Speaking of scrounging… I’ve never considered it might be a drive thing either, just assumed part of it had to do with her time on the street. Thanks for sharing that insight.

      I should ask my trainer about it. Maybe I will email her tonight to see if she thinks it has any merit.


    • Brutal, just brutal. Unfortunately, being a lush, it’s hard to find a time when I am not. Unless I am at work, of course.

      Mmmm, pickles.


  3. I’ve never given much stock to a lot of those personality tests either – especially the online ones. But, this one sounds very interesting!

    I’ll have to take it twice, once for Daisy and once for Jasper, but I am excited to try it. It certainly seemed to sum of Shiva pretty good and perhaps offered you some new insight huh?

    Pretty synchronistic that you posted this today. I just posted a story this morning asking people “How well do you know your dog?”. I think I’m going to have to add this post to the comments section!


    • Thanks again for sharing the link!

      I hope you will post about your results for Daisy and Jasper when you do take the test. I am really interested in hearing some other perspectives.


  4. I suspect Our Best Friend would score similar, though my eyes aren’t opened enough to read 40 questions yet. It’s interesting that the test doesn’t seem to address “personality” traits, such as “anxious” or “calm.”

    Or “insane,” come to think of it…


    • Not a morning person, are you? 😉

      LOL. No it looks at specific behaviours and attempts to categorise them under types of drive. It’s a more valid way of looking at it, I think. While some people may be excellent at knowing whether their dog is anxious or relaxed, some probably don’t have a clue.


  5. I’ve never heard of this one. I like the numbering system though. It looks like it allows for a range of behaviors. Instead of “my dog ALWAYS does X,” it’s “my dog SOMETIMES does X.” Very interesting.


    • It is interesting. If you give it a shot, let me know what you think. I’d love to hear how your dogs make out!


  6. never heard of it. just took a test on another blog that determined that i (not my dog) am indeed stoopid. when my Blogger/comp problems get fixed, i’d love to give this test a try, though i also already suspect the answers!


    • I noticed you were having issues with logging in to your blog. How frustrating! Sometimes I want to give the internet a hug and sometimes I want to punch it in the face.

      If you get around to taking the test, I hope you’ll share!


    • Yes, I totally remember those! I used to answer them at the dumbest times, when I didn’t want to do my homework or at three in the morning. I would post the results on my Livejournal. Why on earth were those a good time? Did anyone even read them? I sincerely hope not.


  7. Hooray for days off! Elli’s scores:

    Prey: 50
    Pack: 75
    Fight: 37
    Flight: 13

    Super, super, super pack-oriented. Elli loves da peoples. Even if she barks at a knock on the door (defense), she quickly switches to pack-drive and greets them as if they’re the best thing on earth. While I’m grateful that I don’t have to do intense counter-conditioning like you did with Shiva, Elli’s pack-drive does get in the way — I am still* working with her on self-control in that aspect.

    She’s also quite fearless… like Shiva. She just dives right in most of the time… unless it’s water. Like Shiva, lol.


    • You had the day off! Very nice! I am so grateful tomorrow is a holiday. I’ve been waiting for this one for awhile.

      We’re working on Shiva’s self-control in that aspect as well. Though she tends to rush up to people and then when they reach out to touch her, ducks away. She just thinks every human is there to give her food. It’s one of the reasons we failed the CGN test, unfortunately. But it’s much better than her former bark and lunge and snarl response!

      I have a feeling Elli and Shiva might be friends. Though I have no idea why… 🙂


  8. ok this is awesome and I am so excited to go do it for my duo. It would be interesting to see how my boyfriend would answer the questions. Thank you for sharing!! This is great!


    • I kind of wish I had gotten my PH to take it now before sharing the results. It might have been interesting to compare the two. Oh well.

      Thanks! I hope you will share as well!


    • Interesting, though, for sure. I would have expected her pack and prey to be higher, given that greyhounds are bred to chase fluffy white things. Do you find Song is very independently minded?


  9. Well this sounds like fun! My dog Cali is a Golden and Australian Shepherd mix and we always say that she has a split personality! She will run up to people to say hello (like a Golden) but then jump out of the way when they try to give her a pet (like an Aussie, uh, we think).

    I can’t wait to take the test!


    • Shiva does that too. It’s better than what she used to do though and I certainly don’t want to force her to stand there and be pet if she doesn’t like it. Maybe she is part Aussie after all?

      That’s great! I hope you will share, if you have the chance.


      • Okay, I did the quiz with my hubby so we could discuss our answers 😉

        Prey: 54
        Pack: 37
        Fight: 38
        Flight: 29

        Interesting that none of hers are very high!


  10. I’ve never heard of that test, but it does sound interesting! I’m curious about what sort of results we’d get. I wonder how many drives there are that aren’t listed!


    • I’m curious, too. Especially now that Sue has shared what results her greyhound Song had. I wonder if Bunny’s and Blueberry’s would be similar or quite different. That would say something, I think. Or at least make it that much more interesting either way.


  11. I’ve never taken that but I did go to an online website where you input your picture (of your face) and it matches you with your “doggie”-ganger… it’s obviously 100% accurate. I was a male mastiff mixbreed. It’s my strong jaw, I think.


  12. Thanks for sharing – sounds interesting. One of my trainers had me take a personality test for one of my dogs eons ago. I wonder if it was the same one?

    Hmmmm…off to check it out….


  13. Don’t think her Prey and Pack scores could have been much more, as she definitely has no fight in her and would run away. For Song in particular I think this score is about right.


  14. That was awesome! I pretty much guessed where Dante would fall, but it was their tips on what to do with his profile that I found most helpful. Thanks!


  15. Wow, what a neat test. We dropped everything and took it immediately (I was a high school quiz junkie too and I read ALL my friends results). I knew before this that you could get Koly to do anything for food and Fe to do anything for attention, but I didn’t really expect the test to show that so clearly!

    Koly: Prey: 78 Pack: 61 Fight: 44 Flight: 32
    Fe: Prey: 38 Pack: 80 Fight: 35 Flight: 23

    The info on training to the drives is fascinating. I’m definitely going to have to read it in more depth. Thank you for sharing it!


  16. I, too, was addicted to personality tests as a teenager. Maybe it’s part of the quest for learning who you are at that age?
    Now I’ve calmed down and tend to try analyse those around me, especially my daughter. That test for dogs is definitely something I won’t be able to resist, so stay tuned for George’s results (if you don’t mind me spreading the word and hijacking your post idea).


  17. I used to be into all of those online tests too… those things are addictive! I’m going to have to look into the one you mentioned for Bella…


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