I was surfing breeder sites the other day; I was looking for something very specific for someone. The information that I was looking for was how they raise their puppies. So I rolled up my sleeves and dug in. It doesn't take me long to figure it out; it's just a bit of looking around a site that gives you much more information than you would think. The first thing I saw was pictures of week old puppies set up beside a basket full of flowers. Red flag.
A little more surfing around and I found the puppy contract. Wow. Let's just say it is not something that I would ever sign. One of the big red flags was about placement of the puppies. Puppy buyer must make their choice when the puppies are three weeks of age in order of deposit. Boy this makes me cringe.
At three weeks of age, there is no way to know who is who. Oh sure you can go strictly by color and/or markings but that is all you can go on. Even if you get to see them in person, you cannot tell what the puppies temperament or personality will be at that age. Even the breeder can't tell what their puppies are like at two or three weeks of age.
I've done a great deal of temperament testing in many different breeds and mixes and it is quite fascinating. It is one of the things that I do that I absolutely love. Seeing the differences in the puppies at seven weeks of age and talking to the breeder about their expectations and surprises after the test is intriguing. So much personality and difference in such little puppies, I LOVE IT.
Choosing puppies is not like choosing fruit from a basket; or at least it should not be. I just talked to a person from a rescue group the other day for a client. After discussing their protocol for puppy placement and matching owners to puppies; I have to say that I was highly impressed. It was refreshing to talk to someone who "gets it."
Just like the huge differences in humans; dogs are just as different. There are folks who just pick a puppy and don't much care what the personality is like. The dog may not really work in their home but they don't much notice. I seen dogs that just coexisted within a home and I have worked with many people who juggle dogs from room to room because they don't "mesh."
Each and every family situation is as different as people and dogs. More attention needs to be taken when placing dogs into homes with existing dogs. It is great when they get along great; not so much when they are a mismatch.
So how should it be done? In my opinion this is how puppies should be placed.
- Deposit or interest placed on a puppy from a litter by potential buyer.
- Constant communication between puppy buyer and breeder or rescue person.
- Once puppies are born, potential buyers are notified that there is or is not "a puppy" in the litter for them.
- Photos, videos and communication about each puppy keeps buyers in the loop.
- Breeder gets to know puppies very personally over the weeks; thinking about which puppy would best suit which home and family situation.
- Buyer does not know which puppy will be theirs yet, just that one will be joining their family.
- Litter is temperament tested at 7 weeks of age.
- Breeder decides who would best fit particular homes at that point.
- Sometimes there is a choice between two puppies that would fit; breeder assists buyer in final decision.
This is my opinion on how it should be. The general public has no idea how to choose a puppy; whether they are temperament tested or not. I really think that temperament testing is important; but it is also just as significant if not more so, that the breeder know each puppy as an individual. This I have found is lacking remarkably in many breeders.
I always say that dogs are very simple creatures; that is once you learn how they learn, perceive and communicate with the world around them. But they are also extremely complicated; each being so different than next. Choosing the next member of your family should not be a blind decision made by coat color or pattern. Nor should it be made by someone who has no idea how to choose.