"I want that one, the one with the half and half colored face." Yep; that old awwwwwwwwwwww factor that gets so many of we humans into trouble. Being that it seems to be puppy season at the moment; I don't know how many people I know with litters, new puppies, expectant puppy owners and lots of puppies filling up the rescue but that awwwww factor has come up again because of it. It is that tweak that gets you when you see an adorable puppy or when you look into the yes of the one that seems to want you as much as you want them. But is love at first sight the way to go?
As many of you know, temperament testing is one of the services that I offer as a long time dog trainer and behavior specialist. I test puppies at the age of 7 weeks to see where they would best flourish and with who in their new home. Temperament testing has nothing to do with breed or mix and can be done on all puppies. I know many rescue groups who do temperament testing which is really great; it can only help to match dog and owner. Of course there are lots of breeders who don't temperament test and that is fine as long as they are placing puppies in the homes of the family who best suits their temperament type.
There are also breeders who place puppies by allowing owners to spend time with the puppies and choose who they like. This of course can work but it can also go very wrong. Puppies can be sleepy, they have different moods and act very different than they do with their litter mates than all on their own. The most pushy pants in the litter might be the most meek and fearful once taken away from her gang. Brought into a strange environment with only a stranger to interact with tells you a great deal of information about each puppy as an individual.
Choosing puppies before the age of 7 weeks whether they are being temperament tested or not is also not a good idea. Many people pick their puppy out strictly from looks and have absolutely no idea about the temperament of that dog. It could be the worst choice out of the litter for their particular family. Often a litter is very similar so then a breeder allows the prospective puppy owner to choose out of several dogs. Although not all litters are similar and I have tested a few litters who had puppies from each end of the spectrum. Put a pushy head strong puppy with an inexperienced family with young children and you can have a recipe for disaster. Just like putting a meek and cautious puppy into a home that expects a high performance active and outgoing dogs; bad combination.
Taking puppies out of their "comfort zone" and putting them through several tests to see how they deal is very helpful. I've been lucky to see some of the dogs that I tested at seven weeks of age after they were all grown up. They were the dogs that I thought they were when I tested them. That said of course environment has a huge part to play on a how a puppy turns out. Experience of owners, time spent on training and behavior modification, socializing and living within the family all factor in on the end result, your dog.
Puppies can be secured by a deposit; not a particular puppy, just a puppy at a very young age. Then once they are tested or at least 6-7 weeks old a breeder or foster can evaluate and place puppies accordingly.
Why not give each puppy the best chance to succeed in their new home? Doing anything less just doesn't make sense.