I’m about to take a week’s vacation and wallow in puppy breath, flowers, and friends. Jim’s surgery next week isn’t quite what we planned, but at least we didn’t have anything else scheduled besides enjoying spring and being together. I’m going to take a blog/email break and concentrate on my Jim, Will and Pup for the entire week, but I wanted to close out the chapter on the puppy tests, at least for now.
As you may know, I do the puppy tests, but am never sure how much to make of them. So far, I am impressed with their predictive value (but it is VERY early in the game, so this question needs to be revisited in 12, 24 and 36 months). The standard tests that I did ask how a pup relates to an unfamiliar person and the environment. Mick was only 1 of 2 pups who followed me, unafraid of loud noise and happy to leave the litter to follow an unfamiliar person. “New pup” ran back to the litter, clearly frightened. Mick brought the paper back immediately, New pup followed it, didn’t bring it back the first time but did the second. Mick startled and investigated when I threw something, seemingly quite bold, while New pup seemed so soft and easily frightened that I didn’t do the test. (I didn’t skip it as one reader asked because of his looks, in spite of my rude comments about his face!, I didn’t do it on the soft female either.) Overall, the tests suggested that Mick was super affiliative with people and relatively bold overall. Great dog to train as a performance dog. New pup tested as being a tad soft, sound sensitive and a bit more independent.
The ‘standard’ tests don’t tell you anything about how a dog will react to other dogs, which is why I asked for an adult dog to be let out to greet the pups. I remember thinking I’d give anything to have Luke, Lassie or Pippy Tay with me, I would trust their reaction totally. But Will’s reaction could have been based on so many things–being nervous around barking dogs, seeing puppies for the first time, so I left him home. You may recall that all the pups ran to the fence, but as soon as the adult began to race around, Mick ran as far away as he could, and looked extremely stressed. He eventually went and found a place to hide while the other pups were still trying to get to the adult dog. As I mentioned in my first post, it was a big red flag for me, and a big worry. I told Jim and the breeder that I was truly concerned about it, and thought for a long time, trying to figure out what it meant. Afraid of unfamiliar dogs? Afraid of lots of motion and commotion, nothing to do with other dogs? I decided that there was only one way to find out: take him home.
Both pups have been consistent so far, New pup more fearful of new things, more sound sensitive and a tad bit more independent. If I was choosing just for myself, Mick would be the better choice. But it took Mick a long time to warm up to Will, and his very grown up adult male dog behavior seemed like it might be a problem. New pup was all over Will immediately, thrilled to meet him and ear-flat submissive.
I promise you that there is simply no way to know who this little pup will be when he gets older. Some dogs who look super submissive seem to be alpha-wanna-be’s in disguise. I have always told people that if you can’t afford to take a risk, don’t get a puppy. Older dogs obtained from shelters, breeders or rescues are often less of a question mark, and although you may not know what you got until you get them home, you’ll know a lot sooner than waiting for 3 years for a pup to grow up! Speaking of pups . . .
Time for me to help my new pup grow up, give the poor thing a name, and spend a week with my boys. Your comments will be posted regularly, and I probably won’t be able to resist checking in, but no promises of comments back until I return.
Meanwhile, back on the farm: the poppies are blooming:
And Pup’s ears are standing up like blossoms reaching for the sun. Comical and adorable all at the same time:
Oh that pup just melts my heart. The eyelashes, the thin blaze. Puppy love is so overwhelming.
Good luck with the surgery – and have a great week off. I really, really enjoy your blog, so hope you are back soon after that, refreshed and raring to go!
I hope that your week gives you peace and relaxation and much bonding with all of your boys (dogs and Jim alike). Again, want to say I appreciate your honesty – I hope the ensuing turmoil doesn’t change your openness in your blog. One thing that I appreciate in your books, pamphlets, and this blog is that you are a realistic dog expert – you don’t have a holier than thou attitude, aren’t one of the “spend tons of time and energy and money to fix your dog or you are not qualified to own a dog nevermind pat one” dog people, and that you promote thoughtful, thought provoking discussions in your blogs.
Enjoy your week – hope the weather keeps you outdoors and enjoying this oh too short springtime!
Its really interesting about testing. I went with a friend to pick out a pup (GSD from Schutzhund lines, East German and Chezck if I remember correctly) who would be an agility dog and pet in a family with 2 youngish girls, as well as occasional demo dog in her obedience training classes. We followed Sheila Booth’s testing protocol, and I did the testing, with my friend observing and taking notes. If I recall correctly, much of what is tested seems similar to what you did, we were looking for food and toy drive, and recovery/bounce-back from various stimuli. The dog she picked had great food drive, good toy/prey drive, I forget what happened with retrieving, and great bounce back (and it took several attempts to get some kind of fear reaction, she was pretty brave!) She is now almost 5, and pretty much what she tested, more interested in food than toys, but willing to tug like a maniac, and has been great with other dogs, pretty much bomb proof. Oh- and VERY vocal, which happened a bit during the testing, she nearly made me deaf on the drive home, and she runs agility at the top of her lungs! This isn’t one of her best runs, but is the only one I have on video, and its hard to tell (because of other dogs barking), but she’s barking -but still working-the whole course!
This dog almost got me into GSDs instead of BCs, as the breeder wanted her bred, but she developed lymphoma at the age of 2, and was spayed.
Liz M. says
Wonderful blog as always. I concur with s that your honesty and candidness is so refreshing. Enjoy your week! I can’t think of any who deserves it more. Can’t wait to hear pups name.
The more pictures I see of the puppy the more he reminds me of my cat Meowzart. Meowzart was a very funny looking kitten because he had an adult face on a kitten body. Puppy seems to have that same need to grow into his face. I’m betting that just like Meowzart when he finally does he’ll be amazingly beautiful.
Enjoy the week and best of luck to you all.
Thank you for your honesty and courage to be honest. As someone else said, some comments illustrate the worst of the internet. Anonymous people can jump to conclusions and point fingers and fling words at people without reading through and thinking about the situation. Not that you need my approval but I think you did the right thing.
I am excited to hear about the new book. Working with dogs I am curious to see what the limits can be on “fixing” problems.
These last posts have been so great (although I look forward to all of your posts) and I have learned so much. I sincerely appreciate your honesty! I particularly loved this line from the last post: “I have seen so many dogs who were in big trouble until they ended up where they needed to be all along
The picture of the poppies is beautiful. I love how the sun caught the fuzz around the buds. Enjoy your week off, and I’ll try to cope without the blog for a week 😉 You certainly deserve some uninterrupted time with your canine and human family!
The way I see it is we’re all a work in progress.
I so agree that although these tests are so valuable along with researching breed traits….but these little sentient beings have souls or personalities of their very own that need time to develop. On top of that our human families and lifestyle dynamics also need to somehow work them selves in.
My two beagles who are not bombproof needed more time and us all working together than those fortunate pups of sound breeding. Daizy has overcome so much fear related people and dog aggression after being attacked that she’s awesome with other dogs now. She’s almost nine but came into her own at 5. George is 5 now and although he started out awesome with other dogs…through some bad experiences we’re almost there but still need to work on an escape route when other dogs fail to allow George to tell them to back off and listen to his subtle cues (not subtle to me) without things getting noisy.
I believe with all my heart that we’re all supposed to dig deep and do the best we can with what we have in the most compassionate way possible.
Having science based positive ways to help us make the most educated decision is a bonus when it comes to fighting our instincts to bring the puppy or dog that tears at our heart strings home, knowing deep down that we were just fudging the odds in our favour…or that really just being optimistic and promising ourselves that we’d do our very best to create the “perfect” environment for these pups/dogs to thrive and that would be enough for things to work out.
My guys keep me humble. I love them to bits. The tests that I did to the best of my ability did prove to be so very bang on…although it’s taken years of development on their own…really I am amazed at how fast they mature compared to us humans! For myself I didn’t come into my own until my late twenties!!!!! And here we put these crazy deadlines on puppies to be housetrained, love everyone, every dog, everything within the first week or year….I find it mind blowing and so not fair. I applaud all good breeders that do their best, the humans with big hearts that can be selfless and all those inbetween who find positive ways to help guide their pups/dogs to be the best they can be.
Happy vacation! We foster and just placed a hard to place (medical issues) chocolate lab in a home where she will be a single dog. Miss Molly desparately wanted to be in charge and have a person all to herself. I hadn’t realized how stressful this was on our dog until after Miss Molly was gone. I knew our dog wasn’t happy and there was constant low-level tension in the house, but didn’t really realize the impact on our dog. Suddenly, she is grinning at us all the time and all of her facial muscles are relaxed. The change is quite dramatic.
Placing Miss Molly, as much as we loved her, was one of the best things we could have done for both her and our pup.
Kim L says
Just a final thought on a name for the pup. How about Brou-ha-ha or Brou (Brew) for short. That way his name will always make you smile. Have a wonderful vacation.
Liza Lundell says
Have a great vacation, even with the surgery. Hope the pupster tells you his name soon.
Have a recuperative week with your boys, then come back and tell us all about your adventures with dunkin’ brew the ha-ha puppy riddle!
I wrote earlier about last summer
Jennifer J says
I have been involved with breeding & performance for 35 years, with Collies and Border Terriers. I’ve “evaluated” a lot of pups in my own litters, and placed them in the “right” homes, and have grown out a few “iffy” pups so I could work with them and find the right home.
I usually have 5 dogs, so have raised a fair number of dogs, from my litters. I thought I could predict things fairly well…until I kept Murphy. No red flags in the litter. I have his mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother, all accomplished performance dogs. He was my PICK puppy – my next conformation and agility champion. I had big plans for him. He got his 2nd vaccination at 12 weeks and headed out into the world and found it to be a scary place, and strange dogs particularly so. I was stunned. I have worked my butt off – puppy play classes, lots of DS/CC, even a couple of trips to UC Davis Vet Behavior Department and some attempts with medication. We have made progress in the last 1 1/2 years, but it is still mostly micro-management. He is still a very fear reactive dog and will never compete in anything (except possibly Nose Work). In the home, he is sound sensitive (improving), and particularly sensitive to any sort of movement that does not make sense to him.
I AM his breeder – his safety net. Had he been placed, I hope he would have quickly been returned. My vet, and the vet behaviorist told me that most people would have put him down. It is a struggle, but he has touched my heart. Perhaps it is because I can see that it is clearly fear driven, and in his heart, he just wants to play with other dogs. He is also a
Enjoy your well deserved vacation! Tell Jim I hope his surgery goes well and he has a speedy recovery. Can’t wait to hear what the new little guy’s name will be.
Rose T. says
Gotta say, I love the name Brew!
Have a relaxing week and best to Jim on his surgery and recovery. Puppies are especially good in assisting in physical therapy and should be employeed for that purpose — at least by smart therapists. Mine helped was when I was recovering from a hip replacement and I suspect new pup will do the same for Jim, whether he gets to practice gently lobbing toys or puppy tugs. For some reason, when the pup is making one do PT, it hurts less then one is working a human therapist (just an idea, of course).
Kudos to you for recognizing that pup chosen didn’t meet the overall criteria of being the best possible playmate for Will. Puppy tests seem only part of the puzzle; I suspect that puppy personalities and brains are more maleable than owner expectations, and trying to suss out what one really and truely wants in a dog is the harder piece of the puzzle, especially when the pup is moving into an existing household. At that points, one’s own desires and the requirements of the household have to mesh and what/who gives on what elements becomes a bit difficult to articulate. Good luck with this charmer!
All the best to Jim and a speedy recovery !
Congratulations on the new pup and since he was sent to you by none other than Lassie herself, I would call him Lad. :))
Lacey H says
Yes, Jennifer – I’ve had a number of foster dogs who showed a correlation of anxiety with marking and mounting behaviors. For some, acclimation to the new environment, lots of patient checking out of novel events and people (with treats) were enough to clear up the excess. Others had to be placed with tolerant, patient people – sometimes hard to find.
Ellen H says
I let our golden pick our springer. There were two available. I liked the markings better on the one and both seemed to have the other qualities we were looking for. Puppy one walked into the house and did not like Abby even though Abby was giving every sign of invitation. She got down low, tried a play bow, you name it. Maddie walked in, they looked at each other and were off and playing. It was love at first sight. To this day they are buddies.
Names for the pup: Rumble – as in “Let’s Rumble” since it seems as though the pup and Will are ready to take off together. Or Sparkle.
Annie R says
Oh, Trisha, may you indeed someday be forgiven; I’m sorry but I side with the pup — he is adorable! How could you have thought otherwise? OK, maybe the ears make a difference — but he’s reeeeally cuuuuute!!!! and who could resist that he loves running and playing with big Will?
I can relate to so much of what you’ve been going through! I’d bet that a part of why Lassie’s passing was so intense for you is that you went back through mourning Luke as well; that’s what happened to me after the loss of the second of a very bonded pair of dogs, last November. Kira, the first, was an amazing smart brilliant edgy dog who helped me run the household, and then contracted a very treatment-resistant lymphoma at the age of 9. She shortly left me with her sweet dumb loveyboy brother Cody, who was 12 when she passed, and lived almost another 2 years. His life was so long and full, but when he passed over I ended up grieving intensely, because I was grieving over the loss of both of them. I call it “double grieving” and I would not be surprised if many animal folks have gone through this. I was missing and grieving the golden time of my life spent living with that pair.
And the return of a dog — oh, my. After Kira died, I adopted a 9-yr-old rescue Aussie, a 70-lb moose, lovable but very sound-reactive, & quite nervous in my urban home environment after living in a quiet suburb. He eventually started taking out his frustration on Cody, for whom I had wanted a dog companion, similar to what you want for Will, but in this case, to be a leader/role model for a very submissive dog. Eventually the nips and growls became a full-fledged fight in my living room at 1:00 in the morning, and Cody, the age-12 shepherd mix, came out bloodied and terrified. I closed the rescue dog in the spare room and cried all night, because he was a sweet guy in so many ways and had attached to me. I then returned him to the professional trainer who had pulled him out of the county shelter. He is still in the trainer’s home 2 years later, which is so much better than what I, a full-time medical professional who can’t take dogs to work, could have given him.
And then came Teddi. He was everything Cody and I had needed in the first place; a very soft-personality 12-yr-old Aussie whose elderly owner had gone into assisted care and couldn’t take him. He was in a desperate situation, might have been put down, needed extensive dental work, etc. But 2 years later, he is a sweet and gracefully aging loverbug who was a quietly supportive leader for Cody to the end of his life, and now has happily retired to being Mama’s best boy. He is a blue-merle with a lot of black and the cutest baby-face, and my heart flips over daily when I see him. I really believe that things come out as they should if you really listen to your inner voice, and mine said the rescue had to go. Good for you for agonizing over it but basically trusting your instincts.
Like most of your readers, your expression of your dual-identity perspective of the expert grounded behaviorist and the ordinary worried/emotional dog-mom is what I love about your writing, so more power to you and thanks for being so open about this process. Enjoy your sweet springtime with the new pup!
I love his name! It’s sounds a bit female but it’s entirely ok. Funny, here in The Netherlands I know a BC named Faith. He’s a boy also 🙂 Hope and Faith…
This is my first time reading your blog but not my first time reading your work. I am forever indebted to you for writing the article “Once in a Lifetime” which actually saved me from returning an “odd” puppy back to the breeder. It said what so many others had tried to tell me in ways I could not understand….not to compare.
After a year of being dogless I decided to get a new puppy. But I was crushed when I met my new boy at 7 weeks. All the other puppies ran and jumped on me with labrador glee, while the one that was mine spent the entire time investigating the perimeter of the room. /Attempts to bring him close to me were fruitless…he just walked away again. Did not interact with any of his littermates. The only thing that got his intense interest was whistling or his ball. The second visit was no better. Outside for the first time and without his littermates he boldly explored his surroundings but would not come and interact with me at all. In frustration I gave him a muzzle shake and he started to run around with me momentarly and I decided to take him home.
But it was more of the same at home. 8 weeks old and running as far away as he could from me in the yard. In the house he’d go off to the far side of the room. His tail did not wag. he did not run to greet me. He stalked me. He stared. I wanted my old boy back so much it hurt. I called to breeder to return him. And then your article came and it opened my heart.
I decided to keep this odd pup that seemed to want nothing to do with me. I started “wag therapy”…sitting by him and taking his tail in my hands and wagging it. Praise, praise praise for any interest he showed in me. And then classes, classes, and more classes!
Boy has this boy bloomed. He is still quirky and does not get along great with other dogs but he is amazingly smart and unbelievably dedicated to me. And I have him in part because of you! THANK YOU!!!!!! THANK YOU!!!!!
Your talk about puppy testing is absolutely fascinating to me…..how you say you just can’t tell from these tests what a puppy is actually going to be like. Never in a million years would I have thought this pup was capable of what he has become! It is truly amazing.
This video shows a typical greeting…he was 17 months here…still not running to greet me but staring and stalking. But now at age 3 he is running to the front yard as soon as he hears my car pull up.
Good Luck with your new pup!! And thanks once again for sharing your experiences and knowledge …I can’t wait for the new book!