Which puppy to pick?
Let’s assume you’ve isolated the group of puppies from which
you want to make your selection. They could be within the confines of
a large cage at a shelter or in a room in the breeder’s home.
Remember as you try to make your selection, just as every person is
different, so are dogs. Your goal is choosing a particular puppy that
matches your image of the perfect dog.
Many authors and dog fanciers emphatically believe that it is impossible
to judge an adult dog’s personality or abilities from its behavior
as a puppy. One of our close friends, Delmar Smith, is a very famous
dog trainer. He once visited Queen Elizabeth's kennel which is renowned
for producing numerous field and obedience champions. Delmar asked the
senior resident trainer responsible for the majority of these wins about
his method of consistently picking puppies that would be future winners.
The old gentleman smiled and simply replied that he let everyone else
pick the pups they wanted and then worked with whatever was left. He
believed that through 7 to 10 weeks of age, all puppies were equal.
We would agree that it is far from an exact science, but most people
who involve their lives around dogs believe there are better methods
than relying on some form of random selection. Most of us do not want
a puppy that will mature into an overly aggressive animal. Neither do
we want one that is excessively timid or shy. We want a dog that will
be reasonably easy to train, cause little damage to our home and friends
and adapt well to our family and household.
Spending a little time with a group of puppies and being observant can
usually help to isolate those with good, outgoing personalities. They’ll
be in the midst of puppy play, being neither overly dominant nor submissive.
If you crouch down, friendly pups will usually run to your feet. When
picked up and supported well, they normally won’t fight or struggle
to get down. Ask yourself some obvious questions. Does the puppy seem
to enjoy being with people? Is it overly afraid of stimuli such as sounds
or sudden movement? Most of this is common sense and can be done by anybody
without any preconceived ideas. Anything is better than saying simply, "I
want a brown one with lots of spots."
There have been books and articles written on puppy selection. Some
are very good while others seem to lead readers down a long and difficult
path. Most good methods use a testing procedure that measures the puppy’s
responses to some sort of stimuli. This attempts to eliminate most subjectivity.
We feel that there are two very good and useful books on this subject.
They are straightforward and easy to use. One is written by the Monks
of New Skete and is titled "The Art of Raising a Puppy" and
the other is Clarice Rutherford and David Neil’s book, "How
to Raise a Puppy You Can Live With". They both explain and guide
you through an evaluation system of the individual animal’s personality.
Both books also give an excellent treatment on the behavioral development
of dogs through their first year of life. We would strongly recommend
them to any prospective puppy owner.
Although we endorse these methods, remember that they only judge the
puppy on that particular day during one stage in its life. Findings done
on another day could vary significantly. Keep in mind also that the environment
in which the animal lives and matures will greatly affect its behavior
and personality as an adult. This means that you will have an opportunity
to affect the puppy after it is living with you. The more time you spend
with your new friend the better chance you have of her growing into the
animal you want. Regardless of the test or selection method used, you
cannot expect the animal to continue to develop without your guidance.
You’ve picked out your puppy and paid the bill. It is six weeks
of age and you want the puppy now! However the breeder says you can’t
take it home for seven more days. They say they always keep the puppies
with the mother and littermates until they are 49 days of age. Exactly
seven weeks! While you may be disappointed, in our opinion you are very
lucky. You are working with a breeder who is worried more about doing
what is right for the dog than getting out of an additional week of puppy
It may seem very subjective, but it has been shown by several animal
behaviorists that this is what’s best for the puppy. They should
stay within their litter situation until they are 49 days of age and
then immediately go to their new homes. Through seven weeks of age, the
pups are still gaining from the interaction with their mother and littermates.
This will help the puppy later in life when she is confronted by other
dogs. Being in the presence of its littermates gives the puppy more confidence
when she encounters new experiences. These could be anything from a loud
noise, fences that need to be climbed over or through, a large object
like a tree or the sound and sensation of the wind in her face.
The puppy still needs to be around people. That will never change. In
fact, it’s very important for a six-week-old puppy. If the breeder
does not have young children play with the puppy or is running short
on time, you should plan on spending time at the kennel during the next
few days if it’s at all possible. Your responsibilities started
the day you said you wanted that puppy.
© 2000 Drs. Foster and Smith, Inc.
Reprinted as a courtesy and with permission from
On-line store at http://www.DrsFosterSmith.com
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