the background work has been completed, breeds are chosen, as is the
litter, then, realistically most of the decision-making process
necessary in puppy selection is complete. One could just easily just
de-select by color and sex and randomly pick from the remaining pups
with reasonable assurance of success, but that would take the real fun
out of it now would it not?
So, let's go pick that
arrival, first examine the bitch. Is she healthy, clean, and does she
possess the confirmation and temperament you expected? How about the
cleanliness of the facilities, the puppy pen/nest and the pups
themselves? Inquire about the health and inoculation program for the
pups. If all appears in order, proceed.
Take a look at the litter together on
the ground, if possible. Do
the pups appear active, alert, friendly, and inquisitive? Do they
appear well socialized to people, activity, and noises? You should
expect to see clear eyes, a bright expression, high active tails and a
Now begin narrowing the selection. Pick up
undesirable pups by color and sex. This will leave the remaining choice
for closer observation. As a matter of preference, I like to find a
bolder pup which comes fearlessly but not the most aggressive nor the
reluctant, lethargic wallflower that may shrink from activities.
your hands. Does the pup respond with interest or retire in
apprehension? As they scamper about, which is prone to pick up objects
(leaves, sticks, etc.) and run about? Pups can't see well enough at 6
weeks to respond to thrown objects, but they may well pick up things,
even wings, and carry them. As they do, call the pup, does it come with
the object as if willing to share? This is a very good sign. In
selecting older pups, this becomes a strong indication of tractability
and natural delivery.
Which pups occasionally deviate from the
group to explore something interesting on his own? You may have a real
game finder here. Which pups are continuously using their nose to
locate things of interest?
Which prefers the company of people
to the company of their litter mates? Desirable traits include straight
legs, solid chest with depth of rip (an indicator of sustainability and
endurance due to maximum air intake), strong short backs, high tails,
and the correct placement of teeth (bite). Do not forget, any defects,
physical or mental, in the parents/grandparents are likely to be
present in their progeny.
Breeders should not be about
breeding out defects or having them suppressed through training. We
should cull flaws out. Take a close look at those parents. Select the
pup which will sit and look at you intelligently, not necessarily the
dominate, hard-charging personality. Hard tail wagging is a good sign.
6 weeks is the age to pick up your pup but at that young age, selection
is certainly more difficult. Pups change a great deal in personality
between 5 and 10 weeks. Some of the greatest labs ever have been the
ones left behind including King Buck, arguably the most famous of labs
and Mike Lardy’s first national championship winner, Candlewoods Tanks
a Lot. So much for “pick of the litter.”
Guide dog trainers
for the blind have proven, though, that for optimum mental development,
a pup needs to leave the nest at 6 weeks. Certainly, if at all
possible, by 8 weeks. This also prevents the pack hierarchy from being
too entrenched in the litter which may result in more pronounced
dominant-submissive roles among the pups.
The breeder should
provide you with health records, pedigree, registration certificates
and instructions as to diet. Initially don't risk immediate changes in
the pup's diet. If you desire using an alternative feed, slowly make
the transition and be sure to keep inoculations on schedule.
selected, the fun really begins as you are on your way to building that
perfect hunter retriever you have been dreaming about. Your new pup is
the canvass on which to paint the portrait of this fine hunting
companion. Now it is all up to you--the trainer.
"Buy a pup and your money will buy love unflinching."
Ducks Unlimited conserves, restores and manages wetlands and associated
habitats for North America's
waterfowl. These habitats also benefit other wildlife and people. Visit
web site at www.ducks.org
to learn more, support their mission or to find more info.