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Pick a Puppy for a Family - part 2

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Pick a Puppy for a Family - part 2


In part one I discussed what materials you should take with when you go to evaluate a litter of puppies. I also went through the first half of the temperament test. Here is the rest of what you should look for and why.


  1. Now roll up the paper wad into a ball. Crouch down next to the puppy and try to get the puppy interested in the paper. When you have done so, toss the paper ball about 6 ft. in front of you. Not all puppies are retrievers so don’t expect the puppy to play fetch right away! What you want is for the puppy to at least show some interest and make a move in the direction of the paper. Do this one more time. The puppy hopefully will do better and not worse. This demonstrates the willingness of the puppy to work and play with people. Puppies which do well here often make good obedience, service and field dog prospects.
  2. This test helps determine the how sensitive the puppy is to touch. You can do this by pinching either the puppy’s ear or the webbing between the toes and begin to count to 10. Stop immediately at the first sign of discomfort such as trying to get away, turning or biting. You are looking for a puppy that doesn’t react for 4 to 8 seconds. Puppies that react sooner than this may be too sensitive and submissive and those that react later can indicate dominate tendencies.
  3. Now test for the reaction to a loud noise. You will place the puppy facing away from where the sound will come. Don’t touch the puppy again until after this test is over. Have your assistant take the spoon and bang on the metal pan once loudly. The assistant should then freeze and look away from the puppy. It is okay for the puppy to initially be startled, but it should afterwards become interested, cock its’ head in the direction and even move to where the sound came from. The puppy that stands its’ ground and barks is also okay. Avoid the puppy that goes directly to the noise and barks or the one that cringes and tries to run away. These are signs of aggression and submission. You may think that running away isn’t a bad thing (and with an experienced handler it isn’t), but without proper training, submissive puppies can easily become fear biters.
  4. This test shows how intelligent the puppy is, their prey drive and how it will respond to strange objects. Take the towel tied to the string and sweep it in front of the puppy and up over the puppy’s head. You want the puppy that looks interested and tries to approach curiously. (Young puppies that can actually track the towel above their head are bonus!). Barking indicates a higher prey drive while ignoring the towel indicates a low prey drive. You don’t want the puppy that growls and attacks, bites or threatens the towel. You also don’t want the puppy that shies or hides from the towel.

10.  You can do a lot with puppies that are food motivated. Take a small bit of food and show it to the puppy. Close your fist and allow the puppy to check out your fist. Open your fist and let the puppy have the food. Now take another piece of food and close it in your fist making sure the puppy knows the food is there. Rotate your fist slowly and see if the puppy follows your fist. Partially open your fist and offer it to the puppy and if the puppy muzzles your hand, give the food to the puppy. Now let the puppy see you place a bit of food in the bowl you used to make the loud sound and turn the bowl upside down on the floor. The more the puppy tries to get the food, the higher the degree of food motivation the puppy has and the easier training the puppy will be. Avoid the puppy that growls or threatens you at any point in this exercise. The puppy that totally ignores food will be harder to motivate later in training.

11.  Finally! The last test. While you are conducting the food test, have your assistant position herself about 6 feet away from the puppy and stay very quiet. When you are through with the food, position the puppy between you and your assistant. When the puppy looks at the assistant, the assistant should quickly pop open the umbrella and set it on the floor. Make sure the assistant then stays still and has no eye contact with the puppy. You want the puppy that, though initially startled, quickly regains its’ composure and goes forward to investigate. Puppies that stand their ground and bark, or may try to run but can be encouraged to approach the umbrella are also acceptable. You don’t want the puppy that attacks the umbrella, growls or feints at it. You also want to pass on the puppy that runs and hides and cannot be verbally persuaded to approach the umbrella.

Now that you have picked your puppy based on a healthy temperament, take it to your veterinarian to make sure it is physically healthy as well.