Archive for June 29th, 2009

Choosing Your Labrador RetrieverService dog trainers, many of whom use Labs in their programs, have developed puppy tests that help them evaluate puppies’ responses to specific stimuli, which helps them choose puppies for certain kinds of service dog work. The service dog trainers are then able to train only those dogs who have the tempera¬ment, character, and personality traits best suited for the specific work.
Puppy tests can help you, too, because you can use them to choose the best dog for you, your family, and your goals. The tests are best done when the puppy is 6 to 7 weeks old. Many breeders do puppy tests, and if your dog’s breeder does, ask if you can watch. If the breeder normally doesn’t test the puppies, ask if you can do it. They may be interested enough in the results to say yes.
To get started, list all the puppies on a sheet of paper. If several look alike, put different-colored ribbons or little collars on each of them.

Look at the Whole Litter

Without getting involved (no petting right now), just watch the entire litter. By 6 weeks of age, the puppies will be playing with each other, bouncing around, tripping over each other and their own big paws. Make some notes about their behavior. The boldest puppy, who is often also the biggest, is usually the first to do anything. She is the first to the food, the first to check out a new toy, and the first to investigate anything new. This is a good working puppy. She would not be a good choice for someone who lives alone and works long hours, nor would she be a good dog for someone with a less than dominant personality.

Puppy Temperament Test
Have your paper at hand and make notes as you go along, or better yet, have someone else make notes for you. Test each puppy individually. Don’t look at your notes until you’re done.
Walk away. Place the puppy on the ground at your feet. Stand up and walk away. Does the puppy:
a. Follow you.
b. Put herself underfoot, climbing on your feet.
c. Do a belly crawl to follow you.
d. Ignore you and go the other direction.
Call the puppy. Move away from the puppy, then bend over and call her, spreading your hands and arms wide to encourage her. Does the puppy:
a. Come to you, tail wagging.
b. Chase you so fast that you don’t have a chance to call her.
c. Come slowly or crawl on her belly to you.
d. Ignore you.

The fearful puppy will sit in the corner by herself, just watching what her brothers and sisters are doing. Her tail will be tight to her hindquarters, and she may duck her head. Unfortunately, fearful, neurotic Labs are not unknown. Although some fearful puppies can come out of their shell with a calm, caring, knowledgeable owner, these dogs usually retain some of their fear all their lives. These dogs are not good for noisy, active households or for first-time dog own¬ers. Even with a knowledgeable owner, these dogs can often be a problem.
Most puppies fall somewhere in between these two extremes. In one situa¬tion, the puppy may be bold and outgoing, and in another, she may fall back to watch. While you’re watching, look to see who is the crybaby, who is the trou¬blemaker, and who always gets the toy. Jot down notes.
Most puppies fall somewhere in between these two extremes. In one situa¬tion, a puppy may be bold and outgoing and in another, she may fall back to watch. While you’re watching, look to see who is the crybaby, who is the trou¬blemaker, and who always gets the toy. Jot down notes.
Now it’s time for the test. You’ll find it in the box above.

Gentle restraint. Pick up the puppy and gently roll her over so she’s on her back in your arms. Place a hand on her chest to gently restrain her for thirty seconds—no longer. Does she:
a. Struggle for a few seconds, then relax.
b. Struggle for the entire thirty seconds.
c. Cry, tuck her tail up, and perhaps urinate.
d. Struggle for fifteen seconds, stop, then look at you or look away.
Lifting. When the puppy is on the ground, place both hands under her ribcage and lift her paws off the ground for thirty seconds. Does the puppy:
a. Quietly accept it with just a little wiggling.
b. Struggle for at least fifteen seconds.
c. Accept it with a tucked tail.
d. Struggle for more than fifteen seconds.
Toss a ball. With the puppy close to you, show her a ball and then toss it just a few feet away. Does the puppy:
a. Dash after it, pick it up, and bring it back to you.
b. Bring it back but doesn’t want to give it back to you.
c. Go after it but does not pick it up, or gets distracted.
d. Pick it up but walks away.

Looking at the Results

There are no right or wrong answers. This is a guide to help you choose the right puppy for you—and even then, this is only a guide. Puppies can change as they grow up.
The puppy who scored mostly A’s is a middle-of-the-pack dog in terms of dominance. This is neither the most dominant puppy nor the most submissive. If she also scored an A in the ball test, this puppy will suit most families with children or active couples. This puppy should accept training well, and although she may have some challenges during adolescence, she will grow up to be a nice dog.
The puppy who scored mostly A’s and B’s will be a little more dominant, a little more pushy. If she scored a B or a D on the ball test, you may find training to be somewhat of a challenge.
The puppy who scored mostly B’s is a more dominant puppy. She could be a great working dog with the right owner. She needs an owner who has a more forceful personality; she is not the right dog for a passive person. She will need structured training from puppyhood on into adulthood.
The puppy who scored mostly C’s will need special handling, as this puppy is very worried about life. She could, if pushed too far, bite out of fear. She needs a calm environment and a calm, confident owner.
The puppy who scored C’s and D’s may have trouble bonding with people. However, if she finds the right owner, she will bond and will be very devoted. This puppy needs calm, careful, patient training.
The puppy who scored mostly D’s doesn’t think she needs people. She is very self-confident and will need to spend a lot of time with her owner so she can develop a relationship. If she spends too much time alone, she may not bond with a person at all.

Now What?

After looking at the puppies, testing them all, figuring out the results, and per¬haps narrowing the litter down to two or three puppies, what’s next? Which puppy appeals to you the most? Which puppy keeps returning to you? Which one makes your heart go thump-thump?
Although these tests can help narrow your choices, you still need to listen to your heart. So think logically and then let your heart work with your brain to choose the right puppy for you.

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