|Selecting a PuppyMuch has been written about how to pick a puppy from a litter.
Unfortunately, much of this information, in our view, is wrong.
Selecting a puppy should begin not when a prospective owner appears at a breeder's doorstep, prepared to take home his or her 7- or 8-week-old puppy. Correctly done, the process begins much earlier, months before a litter is conceived.
Selecting a puppy should begin by selecting a breeder who shares the prospective owner's values. This takes time and research in the form of phone calls, e-mails, and kennel visits.
If it's an American field-trial Labrador retriever, for example, that an owner desires, breeders who have successfully produced these kinds of dogs should be sought.
If instead it's a hunting-companion Labrador that is wanted — a dog that is as comfortable in a house as in a duck blind — then a different sort of breeder is usually required.
In our view, choosing the correct breeder represents between 70 percent and 80 percent of the puppy-picking process. Necessarily, then, picking a particular puppy from a litter is — or should be — reduced to a relatively minor role.
When interviewing breeders it's important to determine by as many ways as possible what type of dog the breeder attempts to produce. References should be sought from trainers who have worked with the breeder's dogs. Also, people who have owned and hunted over the dogs should be interviewed.
When someone inquires about dogs produced by BritishLabradors.com, we tell them our dogs have calm temperaments, are easy to live with in the house and while traveling, have excellent kennel manners and are guaranteed to be healthy. We also tell them our Labradors are excellent in the field, as both upland and waterfowl dogs.
We also provide references. Just e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org and request references for your state.
Prospective owners also should attempt to determine as specifically as possible whether a breeder can successfully and consistently execute his or her breeding plan. Information about stud dogs is important and should be evaluated. More important still is information about breeding bitches, for it is the female side of the equation that usually contributes more to the outcome.
Prospective owners should ask a breeder how many females he or she owns and/or controls, and how many of these are bred in a given year.
Unfortunately, most retriever breeding in America is done by garden-variety backyard breeders who have one female they breed to a buddy's dog. This is generally a negative situation because while one or both animals may themselves be good or even excellent dogs (but usually aren't), the buyer has no way of knowing whether those traits are consistent with their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and littermates or whether they are the exception. If they are the latter, there is little chance the desired traits will be reproduced in the offspring.
At BritshLabradors.com, we have more than 20+ female British Labradors from which to chose for breeding and typically will produce nine to twelve litters in a year. This allows us to discriminate in our choice of breeding animals, which in turn optimizes the chance we will successfully execute our breeding plan. Our business management plan takes into consideration that each of our breeding dogs deserve a family and a home, thus all of our breeding females and some of our sires that we import from the United Kingdom are placed in homes among clients from the Mpls/St. Paul metro area. In this way the dogs have a family who loves them, hunts them, and does justice to them as a pet and hunting companion. The females return to us during their heat cycles and again when they are due to whelp until weaned from the puppies. We produce only two litters from each of our females and then they are spayed and live with their host families permanently. In addition to our sires at our kennel, we also use FTCH sires in the United Kingdom. Often, when we purchase a breeding female from the U.K., we may leave her in the U.K. until she comes into heat, breed her to a FTCH sire in the U.K., and then import her pregnant to our kennel. We also have frozen semen of some of our best foundation stock sires that are retired or deceased. During any visit to our kennel there will typically be less than 6 - 10 adult dogs at any given time on our property, in addition to one or more litters of puppies.
Assuming the correct choice of a breeder, a prospective owner should find comfort in the fact that picking a puppy from a litter is reduced, as mentioned above, to relatively less importance. It is true that one or two puppies might be genetically superior to their litter-mates. But determining which puppies these are in a litter is very, very difficult when the animals are so young.
In fact, the ultimate development of most dogs — assuming they are produced by quality breeding programs —depends more on the training regimens and home environments they enter after removal from their litters than whether they are fractionally better or worse, genetically speaking, than their litter-mates.
Because these last facets of the puppy-picking and dog-training process can be controlled by prospective owners, they deserve the most attention.
Having said all this, we put a great deal of effort into selecting a puppy from within the litter for you. We begin by having our student Veterinary Technicians and Puppy Socializers (middle-school girls who volunteer to socialize and cuddle puppies) take daily observations and notes regarding the behavior and temperaments of each puppy. At 6 weeks of age we combine our notes and observations from the past 4 weeks and perform a Puppy Aptitude Test (http://www.workingdogs.com/testing_volhard.htm) which helps to confirm what we have already discovered about each of the individual puppies’ temperaments. The past 4 weeks of observations and the 6 week aptitude test helps us determine among the litter which puppies, if any, may be more dominate or submissive, more active or quiet, more bold or shy, more curious and independent, and all the temperament characteristics that will help us determine the selection of puppy to owner. Given the temperament results we are able to help select the puppy with the most suitable temperament for your lifestyle and use of the dog given the information that you provided us when you reserved a puppy. The concept of granting quote "pick of the litter" is widely misunderstood since a given puppy and given qualities are almost impossible to distinguish at 7 weeks of age by people who aren't around that litter continuously. Through our continuous efforts of temperament testing we are able to identify the differences, slight though they are in those instances. In addition everyone's idea of an ideal dog is different, consequently what may be the pick of a litter for the California couple with two young children for whom the husband hunts only occasionally will have an entirely different pick of the litter from the Louisiana single gentleman who hunts frequently. Thus, because we know the customers purchasing puppies from a litter, and we know those puppies differences within the litter, we are better able to select the individual puppies for the individual owners.