Picking a Puppy from the Litter
Which Puppy to Pick?
Whether you have decided to visit a breeder or the local shelter to pick a pup from a squirming, wriggly mass of gorgeous puppy love then you probably want to have some idea of what kind of pup you want. It is better to talk this over amongst the family before the visit – especially if the kids are going with you. While there is no exact science involved the worst possible reason to pick a pup is that ‘he was the cutest!’
Many authors and dog fanciers believe that it is impossible to judge an adult dog’s personality or abilities from its behavior as a puppy. In fact a favourite debate amongst old dog men is the vagaries of picking from the litter. Famous do trainer, Delmar Smith, once visited Queen Elizabeth’s kennel which is renowned for producing numerous field and obedience champions. Delmar asked the senior resident trainer 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.
A Four Legged Family Member
Generally speaking, unle3ss it is intended to be a working dog, most of us simply want a puppy that will mature into a well behanved and much loved, four legged member of the family. We don’t want a pup that is overly aggressive or excessively timid or shy.
- 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 can 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.”
Good Puppy Books
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.
Age for Puppy to Come Home
So 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 cleaning duties.
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.
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