As I’ve mentioned in the past, P and I did a lot of reading up on dogs and training prior to deciding to get one. One of the downsides to this approach, is we both thought that we’d be completely prepared for training a puppy (haha! more on that another day), and that we became paranoid about picking a dog. The experts warn you against picking a puppy based on cuteness / looks alone. You don’t want a dog that is shy, but you also don’t want a dog that is aggressive. All we wanted to know was how we, as inexperienced dog owners, were supposed to know which puppy had the right temperament?
Thankfully, during our search one of the breeders told us about the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test. This particular breeder of portuguese water dogs would bring in a person who would test all of her puppies. Based on the test results, the background of the future owners, and the future owners’ top 3 picks from the litter, the breeder would assign puppies to each of the owners. The less dominant dogs would go to inexperienced dog owners and so on and so forth.
Our breeder, like most, simply let people pick their own puppies from the litter on a first reserved, first pick process. Luckily, the Volhards provide a detailed description of the test on their website as well as plenty of other valuable information on selecting breeders and choosing puppies. The complete test isn’t necessarily feasible for an individual selecting their own dog from a litter, but the Volhards also recommend three tests you can do to get feel for the temperament of a puppy whether you are at a breeder or a shelter. The tests evaluate the puppy’s response to restraint, social dominance and retrieving.
P and I went to see the litter the day they turned 7 weeks old, as this is the ideal age for testing a puppy, as recommended by the Volhards. We had a lot of fun, and were given the chance to spend time with all the puppies as well as the mother, Serena.
Let me first say that 7 week old puppies are adorable!!! Do NOT go see puppies until you have already decided you want an adult dog…
The litter had 7 puppies; 4 boys and 3 girls. We played with the boys for a bit, and then we got some time with the girls. It was so hard to choose since they were all happy, social, friendly puppies. If you sat on the ground it wasn’t long until there were several puppies climbing all over you! The hardest part was playing with the puppies with their mom (Serena) around – she really wanted all the attention to herself. In fact, at the end of the night Serena kept disciplining our puppy when I would pay the puppy more attention than I did to Serena.
In the end we let the cuddle-factor make our decision. We were having a hard time deciding between the girls, and our breeder pointed out that they had almost identical temperaments and features. P and I separately took the girls away one at a time to do the Volhard test and see how each puppy responded to us. When P was with one of the girls, a second puppy went to join them. Our girl just stayed with me and cuddled – she was just a bit more snuggly than her sisters and paid us a bit more attention. Yes, despite all of our serious testing intentions, we were suckered by a cuddler.
After we had picked her we gave it a few days to decide whether our preferred name, Kona, would fit. In our opinion it did, and we began counting down the days until Kona would join us in our home.
Now, 3 months later I can look back on the experience and realize that our concerns about picking the right one were not needed. Kona is a wonderful dog – smart, responsive, sociable and loving. From the time we spent with the litter, I don’t doubt that her siblings share these personality traits. Unfortunately, the litter arrived at a time when the breeder was quite busy (she was involved in campaigning for a candidate in the federal election) and as a result, she didn’t have time to find homes for all of the puppies. As of June 1st, one of Kona’s brothers and both of her sisters are in need of homes. Contact Markwell Labradors for more information.