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So, you have decided you are getting a dog; you have done your homework, picked a breeder – now it is time to visit the litter. While it is hard to resist the first puppy that bounces over to you, choosing the right personality to suit you and your household is vital.
I often hear owners say “I didn’t choose my puppy, he chose me”. Their puppy was the one that pushed the others out of the way, and launched itself onto the owner. But, if they had asked the breeder, it is likely that puppy was the first to the food bowl, was bigger and stronger than the others because right from when he was born, he always rooted out and suckled from the mother’s most lucrative inguinal teat.
Most owners want a well mannered and easily manageable family pet. Good breeders will know the differing characteristics of their puppies and, ideally, having assessed your household, they will look to match the right puppy to you. There are, however, a series of tests you may find helpful in determining which puppy is your Little Miss or Mr ‘Paw-fect’.
1. Testing social attraction – pop the puppy on the floor in the middle of the room, attract his attention and encourage him to approach you in a different direction from where he entered the area. The puppy’s readiness to approach, the manner and body posture he displays and attitude to you, should all be taken into account. If he comes to you readily, tail up, jumping up and gnawing or biting your hands, this indicates he has a strong personality. Coming very hesitantly, tail tucked in, possibly submissively urinating indicates this puppy is very submissive and sensitive. Choose the pup that shows confidence but is also passive; his bottom may wiggle from side to side as he approaches, and it may lick your hand once it comes to you.
2. Following – having stroked the puppy for coming to you, now walk away. How readily does the puppy follow? A puppy with a strong personality will follow readily, even getting under your feet and may even attempt to bite them as you move. The very submissive pup will have to be coaxed and is likely to follow in fits and starts; he may roll onto his back each time you stop or bend down to stroke him. Look for the puppy that is happy to follow – yet – does not chase or tug your clothes nor trips you up.
3. Reaction to restraint – very gently roll the puppy onto his back and hold him there for approximately 30 seconds. In this test, you are simply looking at what happens next. Does the puppy fiercely struggle or try to bite you? Is there some struggle but no biting? Or is there no resistance at all? Choose the puppy that struggles just a little or offers no resistance – you may even have some licking of your hand!
4. Social dominance – the head, neck, and shoulder regions are sensitive areas to dogs. Watch two unknown dogs meet in the park and you may see a paw or chin of the dog that thinks he has a slightly higher ranking being placed across the withers of the other. So, crouch down, stroke the puppy fairly firmly from the head – down over the withers – and continue to do this for about 30 seconds. If the puppy growls and tries to reverse this interaction by jumping up, this shows you he has a strong personality. If the puppy collapses into a heap even squirting urine, he is really submissive. Look for the puppy that after the stroking has finished, he just walks off ignoring the whole proceedings.
Remember – picking the right personality of pup for your household will really set you and your dog up for success from the very start.
Enjoy picking your puppy!