By: Phyllis Walsh

In my article, "Imagine" I addressed the first stage of selecting the most suitable puppy for each prospective family. This focused on identifying the qualities the puppy needs to possess in order to fill the "job description" this pup will have in its future home. The first stage has responsibilities mutually shared by both the breeder and the future owner.

The second stage of the selection process falls squarely on the shoulders of the breeder however, since he or she must really know these pups before a selection can be made. This article will address the second stage of selection.

When I think of selecting puppies according to a job description I prefer to think along the lines of casting for a play. Each pup is a little star or starlit who will be auditioning for a different part in the play. The cast of characters so to speak, is developed when each of the future owners identified their puppy's job description. From this point the breeder (casting director) is looking for the right actor or actress for each part.

Auditions begin from the pup's first hours after birth and continue until the final selection is made. As the breeder, I observe these pups often. I note which pup wakes up the moment the mom's feet hit the whelping pen, who is first in line to nurse, who is last, who holds on to a nipple no matter what, who falls to sleep soon after nursing, etc.

Weighing each pup every day gives me a whole host of additional information, such as: who is calm and lies placidly in the shoe box on the scale; who cry's and try's to scurry out of it or who shakes the whole time it is being weighed.

When pups are a little older I look for consistency in behavior, and will note pups with lots of endurance, quiet pups, playful pups, curious pups, independent pups and people-oriented pups. I don't mark my pups artificially in order to help me identify them, as it really forces me to learn to notice each of their minute differences so that I can tell them apart without the assistance of a colored ribbon, or special marking or clipping on different parts of each pup's anatomy.

My husband and I breed for ourselves, and we want to know which pup will fill our job description best, so it is in my best interest to really know these pups well. We pick first and want to make the right choice for ourselves. During the writing of this article we have a line-bred litter of 10 five week old pups. Each pup in the litter is a unique entity and I have been learning about the qualities each possesses over the past five weeks.

The third stage of the selection process is based on chemistry, and all the work here, if you want to call playing with puppies work, falls on the prospective new owner. Everyone has a chance to pick their puppy from two or three pups who would make suitable buddies for them. During this time pups engage these families with their puppy antics, and here it is the breeder's responsibility to point out differences in the qualities these ever so similar pups possess. Decisions are made on an emotional basis here, as most people pick the pup that strikes their fancy. Since all the pups in this group can fill the job description created by the family selecting the pups, any pup they choose will suit their needs.

Since our dogs have field, show and obedience ancestry in their pedigree several pups from each litter are designated to be purchased by hunters or field trialers. The rest will go for pets, obedience or agility dogs.

All pups are tested for their interest in birds, and only those showing intense, sustained interest are shown to buyers interested in hunting with their dog. While this aspect of placement further complicates the selection process it actually helps me narrow down the number of appropriate pups to select from.

My husband and I have been using this method of selection for placement for many years and we have found that time taken in assisting the buyer to select the most appropriate pup for his or her family and life style cuts down on the possibility of a poor match between dog and owner.

This article originally appeared in the Golden Retriever News, official magazine of The Golden Retriever Club of America.

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