Today's blog is a response to a request for a blog topic. It happens to be something that I am very passionate about and have written about often in the past. Choosing a puppy should take a great deal of time and effort. I don't care if you want a mix, a tiny yorkie, giant Irish Wolfhound or pound puppy; we need to look inside as well as outside. Temperament!!!!!!!! As someone who does temperament testing I get to see the vast difference a litter can hold. It really bothers me when people sell puppies as soon as they are born; it is often all done by color. Other breeders let people choose once the puppies are moving around; 2-3 weeks seems to be a popular age.
What are you getting? If you choose a puppy before the age of 6-7 weeks of age then you have absolutely no idea of what you are getting. That said, if you do not take puppies away from the pack and visit on their own then you really don't know what you are getting. Within a pack or litter, the puppies typically work out a hierarchy. It can change as the puppies age but the behaviors that you see within the litter can be drastically different once you stand a puppy on it's own. Often the tough guy of the bunch is the biggest chicken when they are all alone. Maybe the little meek puppy is the best at handling different sounds and sights. You just don't know until you test.
The first thing to look for when getting a new puppy is a breeder who places puppies into the most appropriate homes for their temperament. Many times a litter may be very similar so there can be many choices for a family; but other times they are all very different and there may be only one suitable puppy. Then there are times when there is not a puppy to fit; this may be the case when a family is looking for something very particular. I cannot tell you what you want in a dog; that is something that a family must sit down and decide. It may be a super athlete, you want a super charged, energetic, go getter. Maybe you want a quiet, mellow and calm dog; the ones I call "porch dogs."
Are you looking for a therapy dog? One that can visit either children, elderly or sick patients? You may be wanting to do search and rescue, go to ground, dock diving, competitive obedience or flyball. When you are looking for something particular you need to look for something particular. For myself, I was looking for a dog who was very social, a tail wagger who was not dominant. I needed a puppy who would respect her elders and it had to be a "she." I went through a great number of litters and it just never seemed to be the right fit. When I found Elsa's breeder I told her what I was looking for; we spoke over the weeks until the temperament test. Elsa was the one for us.
My question for those who don't try to match puppy to family is why not? Why not give the puppy the best chance at having it be a forever home? One of the biggest reasons that a puppy doesn't work is that it is not the right puppy for the family. Like I always, always say, every dog is different and every person is different. Knowing what you want and what you can and cannot live with is a good thing. This fact alone has many dog lovers shaking their head claiming "you should love them all." That would be nice in a fairly tale world but it is not reality. I know that I love all dogs, that in no way means that I want to live with all dogs.
Temperament is important; so is health and structure. Is genetic health testing important? Most definitely. And my question again would be "why not?" Why not do the best you can? Why not be sure, or at least as sure as you can be? Of course things can happen, dogs get sick just like people get sick. But if a breeder chooses not to test then they are working blind and in my opinion not doing their job. I have heard many breeders say "they have very healthy lines, no problems in their lines," but without the tests they don't really know. Even though dogs may seem to be healthy they can be carrying secret genetic health issues that will be passed down to their offspring. But that lacks breeder will never know and neither will that new puppy owner until it rears it's ugly face.
If you are getting a shelter or rescue puppy then make sure it is the puppy you are looking for. I believe that all rescue groups should be doing temperament testing; many do not. Of course they cannot do genetic testing because many dogs come from an unknown background. But they can fit puppies and/or dogs with the appropriate family. I have been to many behavior appointments where the cause of the "issues" is the wrong puppy in the wrong home. Sometimes it has been the wrong breed entirely; the person has not done their research. There have been misplaced rescue dogs from the groups that do not do temperament testing.
Having a dog join your family can be a time of transition and challenge when it is a good fit. When it is a mismatch it can be a continual struggle to make it work; creating a situation that could have been easily avoided by matching puppy with family.