Choosing Your Puppy

It's a common question when you're searching for your puppy: will you get to choose your own? How will your puppy get matched to you?

I understand wanting to choose your own puppy. Really, I do. I have a long list of traits that I want in a dog and even though I was comfortable with Enda's breeder and trusted her judgement, I was nervous about which puppy I'd get. But, she made the perfect match for not only me, but Enda's littermates too. Breeders who invest as much time, effort and energy into their litters as myself and other responsible breeders know their puppies better than anyone. 

First of all, no, owners will not be able to choose their own puppies out of the entire litter. If there are several possibilities that match what you're looking for, then you can choose between those puppies, but not out of the entire litter. You're absolutely allowed to have your own preferences or requests; you'll be the one living with the dog for the next many years. But I will have spent so much time with the puppies from the moment they're born until the time they're ready to go home that I know their personalities and temperaments best. Even if a puppy owner came over to visit the puppies several times before taking one home, that's just a fraction of the time that I've been interacting with them.

There are breeders who allow people to choose their own puppies. Personally, I think those breeders don't know their dogs well enough to make the decision - OR - they want to put the responsibility for having a happy future on the owner. If someone picked out a puppy that was a terrible match for their family, whose fault is it? If the owner picked, the breeder could think, "too bad." If *I* choose a puppy that the new home is not happy with, that's MY responsibility and I'll do anything I can to fix it.

We have three goals for our puppy matching system. First, we want to place every puppy in a home where they will thrive. The puppy's temperament, energy level, natural talents and structure meet the desires of its new owner, or if there's a slight mismatch it's one that the owner can and wants to handle. This includes our pet, working and competition dogs. Second, since we know our puppies better than anyone we want to be able to help each owner understand their puppy and the dog it will likely become with a copy of our thorough evaluations. And third, we want to use this knowledge to give each owner a training plan that gets them started or prepares them for life together. 

Matching puppies to their home is like completing a puzzle. I evaluate my puppies for health, structure and temperament. Then, depending on what type of activities people want to do with their puppies and the home life of each family, I match the puppy to the home. Someone who has an active family with children will have different needs than an elderly couple who barely leave the house. Someone who wants to compete in agility will have different needs than someone who wants a therapy dog. There are no perfect puppies and no perfect homes, but there is a perfect type of home for each puppy.

The first step in matching a puppy to a family is getting a LOT of information from a potential puppy owner. My puppy application is very long, but it's to find out all that I can about the home life and what type of dog they want to assist me in picking the proper puppy.

After I have the puppies arranged in their homes, I also consider the guidance I can provide to strengthen the matches made. I'll be able to provide four types of guidance to improve the match by explaining specific traits, reminding or teaching owners good training methods, managing stable trait matches/mismatches and changing tweakable traits. I'll explain two types of traits, those that are not widely understood by owners such as positive and negative stressors and environmental focus, and complex traits such as forgiveness and self-confidence. Then I'll focus on a few key training reminders related to baby puppies since owners tend to forget those early weeks by the time they get their next puppy, and the things that people will often do wrong, things that we've learned from experience. I then provide management suggestions from important stable trait matches or mismatches such as more or less energy than the owner wanted, dogs with more or less environmental focus than their owners wanted, and above all, dogs that are either very forgiving or very unforgiving. (A lot of people assume they want a forgiving dog, but they really don't!) And lastly, our training guidance offers a few ideas for developing tweakable traits in the direction the owners might prefer. So that might be lessening sight or sound sensitivity, raising confidence or improving prey drive.

My responsibility to the puppies are finding them a home where they will thrive their entire life.  Because I look at what type of home would be most appropriate for each individual puppy, I think that's most fair to both the puppies and new owners than just going down a list and saying "first person gets first puppy." 

If you have any questions or want more details on how specifically I match puppies to owners, please feel free to contact me. Again, I truly understand wanting to pick your own puppy. But if you've done your homework and are comfortable with the breeder you've chosen (either myself or someone else), trust them to choose your puppy for you. For us, we do everything we possibly can to make a match that both new family and puppy will be happiest with for many years to come.