Choosing a dog or puppy is not an easy task, and the consequences of choosing with your heart may affect your life for the next 10+ years. I’ve been getting a lot of calls from clients who are looking for advice on how to pick a puppy or dog for their family. While the tests I’ve described below are complex in nature and best performed by a professional, I’ve attempted to make them understandable enough for anyone to attempt. Please comment below if you have any questions. I’m sure you’ll only help other people with similar concerns.
How to Pick a Puppy Tests
While all of the tests listed here are great for dogs, these tests in particular are best suited for a puppy 8-10 weeks. Any signs of aggression during these tests should be noted, but watch for the subtle differences between a dog that is vocal and one that is displaying aggressive tendencies. The easiest way to tell the difference is to look at the context of the situation. Did the puppy growl when you put your hands on him to pick him up, or when he was scampering over to you? This should make the decision of what is aggressive and what’s playful a little easier.
The Hang Test:
A young puppy can be picked up by the scruff of it’s neck without causing it any pain. It is in fact, how it’s mother moved it around at the beginning of it’s life. Simply grab one of the puppies that you have your eye on, and pick it up by the loose skin on the back of it’s neck with one hand, and hold it up high. How does he react? Does the tail go between it’s legs, or is it ticking away like a metronome? Is he looking at you in the eye, or is his gaze casting about looking anywhere but you?
The passing grade is given to the puppy who’s tail is ticking away and seems completely content to “hang out” with you. He’s not afraid to look you in the eye and will relax into the hanging position. If he does resist it should be short lived.
Avoid the puppy who’s tail goes between it’s legs, and continues to struggle to get down and away from you. This is a sign that they may not be compliant (won’t accept your training), and worse yet there may be hidden fear issues.
The Cradle Test:
Pick up the puppy and hold it in your arms just as you would cradle a baby. Look for how their body reacts to this unnatural position for them. Do they squirm at first, and then relax, or do they continue fighting until you put them back on the ground? Do they look you in they eye, or do they seem afraid of you, and seem listless?
High marks are given to the puppy that quickly accepts this position and then relaxes in your arms. It’s even better if they are unafraid to stare you straight in the eyes. We are looking for a dog who will accept input from you, and will act unafraid, and this test helps you root out some potentially problematic dog behaviors that may occur later in life.
Meet the Parents:
If you are able to check out the parents of the puppy, do it. Set up a time, and make this happen. This may be the most telling test of all, as genetics are linked to many traits that you’ll want to avoid. Fearful dogs may act aggressive, or possibly just seem very shy. Look for the parents who seem happy to say hi to you, that have an energy level that you would like to see in your puppy, and have an overall disposition that you would like to have someday for your dog.
There are many other tests that you want to use while checking out any dog. Those will be covered in “Tests to Help Your Pick a Puppy or Dog- Part Two”, that will be published next week.