Now, that you’ve taken a look at different puppy personalities, it’s time to select your pup! The rest of this blog post presents seven exercises that you’ll use to assess each puppy’s personality. Perform each exercise with each puppy, and then rate each puppy’s performance on the following Puppy Tryouts Score Card. (You can copy the card and take it with you as you visit various puppies.)
By now, you should know which type of puppy you’d like to bring home with you. Active puppies are a lot of work, but they’re also lots of fun. Spirited and intelligent, they are well-appreciated by those who have the time and determination needed to train them. Neutral puppies are relaxed and undemanding—sort of the “regular guys” of the dog world. Passive and shy puppies appreciate love and support but are fearful of change. They’ll do their best in a consistent environment.
Test each puppy while he’s awake and active. Perform each of the following activities with each puppy:
- Observe – As they play with each other, observe the puppies and rate each one according to its rank in the litter. (It may help to refer to the preceding “Litter Lineup” blog post.)
- Uplift – After observing, take each puppy aside one at a time. Cradle him mid-body and suspend him four inches off the ground. If he squirms wildly and reaches out to mouth you, give him an A. If he squirms a bit but then relaxes, give him an N. If he shudders in fear or pins his ears back and tucks his tail, give him a P.
- Flip-Flop – Next, lift the puppy up and cradle her upside-down like a baby. Does she squirm and try to grab at you with her mouth? Give her an A. If she wiggles a bit and then settles happily, she gets an N. If she whimpers or pulls her mouth back in tension (a submissive grin), she gets a P.
- Gentle Caress – Okay! Back to Earth. Sit next to the puppy and pet him. Gently stroke him at least 15 times to judge his willingness to be handled. Does he immediately jump toward your face or scamper away toward a more stimulating distraction? Give him an A. Does he relax and sit quietly or climb in your lap? Give him an N. Does he cower, tuck his tail, pin his ears, or pull his mouth back in tension? Give him a P.
- Wacky Walk – Stand up, shake your legs, clap your hands, and encourage the pup to follow you. Bend down like a monkey if you must, just do what it takes to get her attention. Does she attack your legs or get distracted by a more interesting stimulation? Give her an A. Does she follow enthusiastically, looking up to your face for reinforcement? Give her an N. Does she sit and watch you quietly or withdraw in fear? Give her a P.
- What’s That? – You’ll need two spoons for this exercise. When the puppy is distracted, tap the spoons together above his head. If he jumps up and tries to wrestle the spoons, give him an A. If he ignores the sound or sniffs the spoons calmly, give him an N. If he cowers in fear or runs away, give him a P.
- Crash Test – Walk at least six paces away from the puppy. Suddenly drop to the floor like you’ve fallen and hurt your knee. Don’t get carried away, but make it look fairly realistic. Does the puppy take this as an invitation to play? Give her an A. Does she walk over and act curious? Give her an N. Does she run away or cower? Give her a P.
Letting Kids Help with the Puppy Testing
Young children can help out on the Gentle Caress and Crash Test exercises. In fact, it’s a good way to see how your future puppy might get along with your current, less hairy “puppies.”
Older kids can do all of the tests, but only one test per puppy, please. If everyone in your family starts crashing to the floor, even the bravest puppy will head for the hills.
Tallying the Score
Now for a little score analysis. Count up your As, Ns, and Ps. Got it? If you’re all As I don’t want to tell you what you’re dealing with: a Leader type; one who’ll want to take control if no one else steps up for the part! All Ns and you have a Middleman on your hands.
Ns and Ps mean your dog is likely to be passive and easy-going. All Ps means your dog may turn out to be shy without appropriate socialization. Identifying your pup’s personality from the start will help you mold a training program that will be good for everyone.