When it comes to picking the perfect puppy, going with the first one that catches your eye isn't necessarily the best way to go. They may all look cute, but their temperament can be completely different.
Puppy behavior is usually classified as one of four types: normal, dominant, submissive and independent.
"Once you decide that you're going to get a puppy, you want to make sure it's the right dog for you and your family," Lisa Haynes of Save Our Strays says, "and there are a couple of different tests you can go through to tell what kind of puppy you're getting."
Haynes says it's best to perform these tests when a puppy is between eight and 12 weeks old, before they're too socialized.
"The first thing to do is just observe the puppies in a group," she says. "This way you can tell which ones are more dominant, which ones are the leaders, and which ones are more passive."
There are then a number of tests to perform that will help further pinpoint a puppy's personality.
1) Rollover. Pick the puppy up and roll them on their back. Hold them for 30 seconds to see how they react. This is to determine how a puppy accepts stress while being dominated. A normal dog will resist at first but then relax with some eye contact. A dominant dog will struggle the whole time, perhaps being vocal or even nipping. A submissive dog will not resist at all and will be affectionate. An independent dog doesn't resist but won't make eye contact.
2) Petting. Stand the puppy on all fours and firmly pet him from head to tail. This is to determine the degree of social dominance. A normal dog will cuddle up next to you and try to lick your face. A dominant dog will jump up, paw and try to nip you. A submissive dog will roll on his back and lick your hands. An independent dog will walk away and stay away.
"Generally if they calm down nice and soft that's a pretty good sign that you're not going to be with an over-dominant puppy," Haynes says.
3) Kneel and clap. Kneel five feet away from the puppy and clap your hands. This is to determine the degree of social attraction, confidence or dependence. A normal dog will come easily with their tail up. A dominant dog will come easily and then jump, paw or nip at you. A submissive dog will hesitate and then come with his tail down. An independent dog will not come at all.
4) Playing with a toy. Use a ball or toy to get the puppy's attention and roll it across the floor. Try to get the puppy to go after it and bring it to you. This is to determine their degree of willingness to work with a person. A normal dog will go after the toy and carries it away to chew on, but will let you take it from him. A dominant dog will get it, carry it away and growl or refuse to give it up. A submissive dog is nervous about the toy and is hesitant to go near it. An independent dog will show little or no interest in the toy.
"Sometimes they make a growling sound that sounds not like a play growl," Haynes says. "The one that growls more to try to get the toy away from the others is a more dominant puppy."
5) Facial interaction. Hold the puppy up near your face and try to make eye contact with the dog, sometimes saying 'puppy' to get their attention. A normal dog will interact with your facial expressions, lifting their ears and eyes in reaction, and make eye contact with you. A dominant dog will sometimes look you in the eye but will mostly struggle to get away and maybe nip your nose. A submissive dog won't fight being held and will be affectionate. An independent dog won't resist but won't make eye contact.
Haynes says these are just a few of the tests that can be done and these are geared toward companion and family animals. There are tests for working dogs and assistance animals, which look for different characteristics.
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