Basic litter assessment

Basic litter assessment…for dogs

By John Preston Smith – Contributing columnist


“Why doesn’t he act the way he did when he was a puppy?” — John Preston Smith

Many times, when purchasing a dog, folks do get the horse before the cart. By that, I mean, they do research before buying. But, when they find the perfect litter of pups, how do they know which pup to pick? This generally leads to calling for my help in assessing the litter.

One of my favorite assessment techniques is age-old yet has stood the test of time better then the more modern forms of evaluation. In every case that I have personally used this test, and then contacted the dog owner one year later, the original test results have proven positive.

Here’s the process. Take the litter mates, one at a time, and place them in the doorway of a room they have never visited before. You stand still and remain quiet. Your only requirement is to observe. In general, you are to qualify what you see. Take notes.

The pup that backs away from the doorway will be submissive.

The pup that neither enters the room or lies down will be indecisive.

The pup that stands in the doorway, whining for his litter mates will be a follower.

The pup that bolts into the room, heedless of the unfamiliar territory, will be difficult to control and/or will be aggressive.

The pup that slowly enters the room, alert, nose to the ground, checking each nook and cranny, will be the ideal companion dog.

Put a color ribbon on each dog and label the results on your notepad.

Now, the second test. For this you will need one person for each pup…five pups, five observers.

Put all five litter mates at the doorway at the same time. See if their behavior changes. As an example:

The submissive pup will still be submissive, and his attitude may influence the indecisive pup.

The indecisive pup can easily be influenced by any of the other pups.

The follower will join whichever group is the largest.

The aggressive pup will circle the room like the antagonist he is while straining to subject all the other pups with his craziness.

The ideal companion dog will be the only constant; continuing to maintain his composure in the midst of mayhem.

And now the final test.

Close the door to the room. Put all the pups in a box in one corner of the room that they can easily climb out. Walk away from the box and sit in the middle of the room. Make notes on what each pup does according to the color of ribbon.

Who climbs our first? Who stays in the box? Who whines? Who leaves the box as if he’s an escaped convict? Once out of the box how do they relate to you; jumping all over you, nipping for attention, cuddling in your lap, ignoring you, staying just far enough away so you can not reach out and touch. You would judge the actions of these pups in the same manner as when you placed them in a doorway of a room they had never visited.

These are my favorite litter evaluation tests and are basic enough so anyone can perform a fundamental litter assessment.

Thanks for reading, John

Friends: By the way, if this is the first of my columns you have encountered, feel free to visit to read those that have been previously published.

John Preston Smith is the author of “The Legend of the Last Dog.” All of his books are listed at Questions or comments: Proceeds support Hoops Family Children’s Hospital in Huntington, W.Va.

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