When you enjoy training and competing in a dog sport with your dogs, I think you have to take even greater care about selecting your new puppy or dog. Because the lifestyle you have in mind for your new puppy is out of the ordinary range of experiences that most pet puppies will face :)
For the purpose of this post we’re going to assume that a new puppy is the best decision for your particular household. Now how to find the perfect fit?
Firstly - there are no ‘perfect’ puppies as they are living, breathing individuals who will all present their own training challenges and there are no guarantees. But here is some of the research I would encourage you to do when searching for your next canine soulmate:
1. Family background
Organise to meet Mum both with and without her puppies, and ideally look to meet Dad too. But bear in mind they only give a snapshot of the family heritage - see if you can meet or find out more about their siblings and other relatives.
Health & temperament are crucial considerations and the more you learn about your prospective puppy’s family tree the better able you’ll be to make an informed decision.
2. Questions to ask before you plan a visit
- When you visit the puppies where are they being kept? In the house is ideal as they’re already being socialised to everyday household smells, sights and sounds.
- How often are they having human visitors? Are they meeting a range of children and adults? Men & women?
- Will the puppies be taken out and about in the car before they leave home?
- Does the breeder have them checked over by the vet before they leave home?
- Has all appropriate health testing (check out the Kennel Club’s website for more details for your breed) been done on both parents and can you see certificates of these when you visit?
- Can you select your own choice of puppy or does the breeder make the decision?
- How many people are ahead of you on the waiting list for the puppies?
- When will these people make their selections?
3. Considerations during your visit
- What does their bedding & pen look like?
- Is it filled with various play things and is it being regularly updated with new toys and things to interact with?
- Ask if you can take some toys which make strange noises or something unusual such as a wobble cushion with you to meet the pups. What happens when you squeeze the toys and they make strange noises?
- Consider the different puppies reactions - who runs and hides? Who ventures towards the strange objects? Who draws back but then after consideration, comes forward to explore further?
- Ideally all of the puppies would choose to remain in the vicinity of something new and there are no obvious fear responses from any of them.
- Personalities are evident from around 5-6 weeks of age, and knowing what sort of dog you like to train take careful note of the puppies reactions as they will give you an indication of the type of adult they will develop into.
- Can a friend come with you and take video of the puppies for you to evaluate after the visit? It can be hard to decide objectively when you have lots of cute puppies vying for your attention!
- Can you get ‘stacked’ pictures of the puppies to evaluate their structure - ‘Picking Your Performance Puppy’ by Helen Grinnell King is a great way to learn more about this important aspect of choosing a puppy for dog sports.
4. Making your choice
- Once you’ve looked into health, temperament and structure, allow yourself to enjoy the puppy smell and snuggles!
- If some of the puppies are already chosen, ask the breeder if you can just spend time with the ones that are still available.
- Take some soft, fluffy or raggy toys to play with the remaining puppies - who wants to interact with you the most? Who catches your eye in terms of looks and personality?
- Let your heart get involved - this puppy isn’t just a new training & competition prospect, they’re going to be a big part of your life for the next 14+ years as a member of your family.
- Which puppy could you not bear to leave behind? That will tell you all you need to know :)
Today I’m grateful for the breeders who entrusted me with their puppies who are now my beloved adult dogs. Having bred a litter I know how hard it is to let a piece of your heart go with each of the puppies you raise, but it helps to know that they are all so very loved :)