Puppy Selection Policies
We have found that there are bigger differences between puppies of different litters than between individual puppies within the same litter and that choosing the parents of a future puppy is more important than choosing the puppy out of a particular litter. All of our adults are on the calmer side and by far most of our puppies are very calm. With that said, there are still subtle differences between puppies within a litter and we let families know as best as we can what those differences are.
I do firmly believe that environment plays a bigger part with how one of our dogs turns out than which puppy in a litter someone gets. A good example of that is Rhea from Hope's first litter who was the most energetic puppy in a litter of nine puppies. She went to a family who trained her well and on her first birthday, she passed the test to become a therapy dog (a test where calmness is paramount!). One of our puppy owners told me that before getting a puppy from us, he had had two puppies in the past, one of which was very active and outgoing. The other was shy, but calm. When they were grown, he said they were very much the same. He had trained them both to be calm and confident. There is a lot of truth in this. I am, however, aware that most people aren't as knowledgable in training puppies as these two families were. We do make the matching process a priority.
The puppy selection process starts just before or at 7 weeks. Most of our puppies are matched to owners by me, but for those who would prefer to pick their own puppy, first pick girls and boys are available for an extra fee above the regular price of a puppy. If there are 4 or more puppies of a sex, there will also be a second pick boy and/or girl for an extra fee. If there are 6 or more puppies of a sex, there will also be a third pick boy and/or girl for an extra fee. We give descriptions of the subtle differences between the puppies' temperaments and post pictures, and we are here to help these families choose the puppy they like the most. For these puppies, the final decision is totally in the hands of the buyers. The first pick puppies are very popular and usually go to families who've been waiting a very long time.
We often have people coming to us wanting to wait for a litter where they can be assured of a first or second pick, but we always reserve the right to have first pick for ourselves (and rarely, but sometimes the second and third pick). We usually don't take the option, but we won't tell anyone that they can have the first pick for sure until time for final payments to be made. With that said, all of our puppies are very nice and we do a good job with matching families to puppies that they are happy with. We listen to what families want and we take into consideration the environment that different puppies will be living in. We try to please everyone as best as is possible.
The person in the first position on our list does not necessarily get the first pick puppy. We always tentatively reserve the right to keep first pick puppies for ourselves. We never bump people off our list to keep a puppy, but if there are a large number of puppies of one sex or the other, we might consider keeping one and thereby bump the first pick person to second pick.
We do very extensive temperament evaluations on our puppies and this information is provided to families prior to puppies being matched to families. However, with regard to conformation evaluations, we don't do them unless we will be keeping a puppy for ourselves. Our focus is on matching temperaments to families. Pictures are available and we know that people often are drawn to the looks of particular puppies but we don't invest the hours required to evaluate the many aspects of conformation that we'd look at if choosing a show puppy. Almost all of our puppies are good enough show quality to be successfully shown with IABCA or UKC, but our focus is on breeding good family pets. We don't place our puppies in breeding or show homes. So, keep in mind if you want a first pick puppy that we won't be able to answer questions as to which puppy has the best show quality. It takes hours to ascertain this weighing the good points and the faults of every puppy.
Many times first pick families hope to fly in and pick out and pick up their puppies all in the same day. In the past, we have not allowed this at all because there was no logistical way to do it without letting puppies go before our normal pick-up days. However, starting with our 2018 litters, we will offer this if someone is able to pick their puppy out before 12:00 noon when puppies are 7 weeks 2 days and take their puppy home without a vaccine. If the family is driving and brings a cooler, we can give them the vaccine medicine so that they can take it to their vet and have it done several days after they get home. We actually think that waiting until a puppy is older for a first vaccine is a healthier option anyway. If there is more than one pick family wanting to take this option for a particular sex, it might mean that the first pick family will need to get here the day puppies are 7 weeks 1 day. Families must be flexible to work around each other if this option is taken. We absolutely will not let a puppy leave us before he/she is 7 weeks 1 day old. This is the only logistical way that we know of to make this happen. We can't have families pick their puppies up without us having any time to decide on who gets the remaining puppies. The only exception to this would be if there were only 2 puppies of a sex. In that case, the first pick family only needs to come before the person picking up the other puppy which might mean taking our first 9:00 appointment when puppies are 7 weeks 4 days old.
For those getting first pick and not wanting to come to our home, please understand that the information that we can give you at these young ages is limited. There is no way we can tell anyone exactly how these puppies will turn out. Confidence level in particular is more determined by socialization than by genetics unless a puppy is overly confident or timid and we don't breed those types of dogs. Activity level is a little more set, but even that can be changed with training. Activity level in young puppies is very often tied directly to confidence level. The more timid puppies are often less active, because they are afraid to be. Another thing that plays into confident level is that we work hard to give as much confidence as possible to ALL of our puppies by the time they go home. It is sometimes hard to ascertain which puppies are confident because of the work we have done with them or because of maturity or because of natural temperament. With many of our litters, the differences in temperament (and looks) are miniscule and they are constantly changing. We do our best to help pick families decide. Everyone who works with our puppies starting at 5 weeks of age, takes notes on every puppy every time they work with them and we put each puppy through a series of tests at all ages after 5 weeks with the hopes of giving the best evaluation possible. However, we still get owners asking questions about how puppies will turn out that we can only guess at the answers to.
For the rest of the litter, I make the final decision as to which puppy goes to which family. I do my best to help everyone get the puppy that is the best fit.