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How do you pick the pick of the litter

12354 Views 56 Replies 16 Participants Last post by  Maren Bell Jones
I am wondering if some of you have some good ways of determining the best of the litter starting from birth.

I am planning to keep one pup of Marsha's litter and I want it to be a dog I could do PP, ASR, or Shutzhund with.

Every pup is different I was just wondering if you experienced breeders have certain qualities you look for in a pup from day?
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I'm not a breeder Julia and maybe not much help here as there are others who are. I know from a friend of mine who is, she gives the pups a colour tag and observes daily and writes down what she sees. She looks at the temprement, development an sociaal charachter of each pup individually and very closely.

In some pups there is an obvious progression line and the charachter is very stable in the first few weeks up to 7 weeks. The one pup will go off and explore when able as soon as it can and another will stay around the mother. Check out the link underneath, it goes into some detail, and saves me typing it all :lol:
Very informative reading Hil. Thank you that was very helpful. I will keep diary of there behavior and see how they develop.

I look for the one with the most social aggression.Thats about it.

I just pick the pup I like most...did it since I was a little child ( my father bred mali´s, so I grew up with litters, breeding and IPO & KNPV).
Can´t describe what makes me choose one of them, but all my favourites did well in sport :wink:
Although I'm not a breeder, I've helped pick pups for lots of folks. It mainly depends on what you want the pup for. Even though a good SAR candidate has many of the same traits that a good sport dog has, the selection begins with knowing a lot about the parents. Thunder was originally chosen for SAR. His dam is awesome on the schutzhund field, but it was her exceptional clear headedness that made me want to look at her pups. I boiled it down to two pups, and chose the one I liked best on color. :oops: :D
From the last litter we have 1 female for ourselves (well me actually), to bred when she´s ready for it. I have chosen her on the first day :oops: she was the fattest, most independend one around. First day would try to get out of the whelping box. She´s now 9 mo. and a medium height, very heavy built girl with a good grip, stabile. She´s just my little girl :oops:

:oops: bragging I know, Anne at 7 mo.
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:eek: Nice well built dog. Im not suprised you kept her.......think Im gonna go Dutchy.....anyone wanna buy 5 mali's :?: :lol: :lol: :lol: :lol:
I am wondering if anyone has seen or knows of the Carmen Battaglia, 'choosing the best puppy' screening techniques? I just ordered it... I am told it is a great tool for determining the best pup suited for work. I would love to hear some feedback from those who have used his methods.

Carmen is also the author of the early neurological stimulation theory.
I did one of Battaglia's short seminars. He really does know dog breeding and had some great ideas on improving a breeding program. I think everyone left the seminar having learned something. Not sure about his videos but I think any material is going to make some contribution to what you know.

Both the breeder and I picked my bitch the day I saw the litter (day 2). She said \"That mauve puppy just screams bloody murder\" .... mauve was first born girl .... I said THATS THE PUPPY. I could've picked her the day they were born.

Obviously we watched the litter grow up but as they did, she remained the pushiest, most dominant female in the litter. She was the first to explore the puppy pen when they moved from the whelping box, the first to explore the yard when we let them in the yard .... she was always crawling over things or under things .... 10 feet from the rest of the littermates .... and later when they'd all go exploring together, she was the one knocking potted plants over on her brothers! :)

One breeder once told me that they pick the puppy before its even dry because its the one that chooses the best nipple on the bitch. I also believe that is true.
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Hi Dana,

I am glad you like Battaglia. I have one female that since birth strays away from the group a lot. She eats and then slithers off by herself while the others tend to say close together. She is only 8 days old and has been doing this right alone.

As a breeder... what would that mean to you?

I have also been doing Battaglia's early neurological stim on these pups and this same female tolerates it better then the other dogs, meaning she doesn't resist it that much and she doesn't cry much even when put on the cold wash cloth. Would that indicate anything to you about this pup?

One more question, when you say the “best nipple” is the best the biggest? Can this test be done at any time or is it just the first time the pup goes to on the nipple that counts.

Thank you!
Well I'm not an expert but that sounds like the right puppy. The best nipples are the two at the end (caudal) .... they have the most milk and you will usually find your fattest puppies are hogging those nipples. This is usually where my bitch was (under one her gigantic brothers). An old time breeder told me that the puppy he saw go to that nipple the first day was always the pick puppy. From there on, the puppies on those nipples (IMO) shows who's dominant in the litter. The fact that this pups willing to move away from the group shows confidence and security. All puppies eventually want to get out and explore. This puppy just is ahead of the game. One of the boys in our litter was \"red boy\" .... he was twice the size of everyone at birth and first born. He was absolutely gigantic! Eventually the size evened out but he always remained the puppy that slept on the other side of the pen. Very independent. He is now a big impressive young man (2 years old) going through dominance issues because the owner didn't realize how much dog he would become.

Interesting thing my breeder did when transfering the puppies from the whelping box to the puppy pen (8 X 8). She put all the puppies in a makeshift tote (lid on so it was dark) with an opening for the puppies to crawl out. Funny thing with my puppies was the only litter of puppies she ever had where she had to PULL him out of the tote. He was the \"cowardly lion\" of the litter and always remained that way through adult hood. I can't remember but I think my mauve puppy and red puppy were the first two to head out of the tote and explore the puppy pen. These are the kinds of things you'll want to make notes on. For some reason, the drive to explore translates well to a good working dog later on.

Keep watching those puppies grow. I was lucky that my breeder liked me and had a spare bedroom. I helped her with the litter at various stages and stayed with her for a few weeks as they developed. Its priceless information to just sit and watch the puppies interact with eachother. I would sit and watch for hours, taking in their temperaments. The only thing I wish I had done was shoot more video and take notes. Particularly video of their first time in the pen, first time outdoors, and then typical play sessions outside.

Hope this helps!
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Dana Williams said:
...Hope this helps!
Thanks Dana it really does help. I am taking notes and pictures of everything. It's all very interesting and a lot of fun. I can't wait till they get a little more mobile and fun. :lol:
At aprox 21 days, you'll think someone switched litters on you. That's when they really come ALLIIIIiiiiiiiiiiive! :eek: :lol:
Picking pups

Last summer I went through all of this for my current puppy. I had \"pick of the litter\" and wanted to carefully evaluate the litter to ensure there was a nice working prospect in the bunch, and if so, which pup. Here is some stuff that I found useful:

The Puppy Puzzle video by Pat Hastings - basically shows how to evaluate puppies conformationally - goes into signs of potential problems later on in the pup's life. While I know you are more concerned about temperament, bad front and/or rear angulation will kill you in this sport. Can't do the wall if you don't have the structure to handle it ;-)

Another Piece of the Puzzle book by Pat Hastings - Has a series of articles in it written about evaluating puppies for temperament etc.

Peak Performance book by Chris Zink - Good all around book by a sports med vet. Fantastic seminar if she is ever in your area.

I combined two puppy evaluation tests for the litter I was looking at:

The Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test -

The PAWS Working Dog Evaluation -

I lived about 350 miles away from the breeder of the litter so I went and saw the pups at 5.5 weeks and than for the final evaluation at 7.5 weeks. I had a local friend check out the pups at 3 weeks as well. At 5.5 weeks I did stacked photos, head shots, and brought a bunch of fun stuff like chamois tugs, plastic balls in a tub (like the ones you see at McDonald Playlands) among other things. I watched how the pups interacted with humans as well as their littermates, whether they would tug and fetch, and what their response was to being put in the tub of balls.

I did as many environmental things as I could as I knew that the breeder did not know about the \"Rule of Sevens\":

This is something that I recommend any breeder doing.

At 7.5 weeks, I had a Malinois breeder friend of mine do the final evaluation. Interestingly enough, the pup I had liked in pictures at 3 weeks and continued to like at 5.5 weeks was the final choice. He just had that *something* special.... I did up a binder with a section for each of the 5 pups with photos at 1, 3, 5.5, and 7.5 weeks as well as my written evaluations at 5.5 and 7.5 weeks. I could send you a email copy of a pup's written evaluation if you would like to see what I did.

For the pup I kept, I put up a photo page that shows the \"structure\" progression of the pup so you can kind of see what I did in the first few weeks (and months for that matter :D):

One of the things that I wanted to ensure with the pup I got was that he had good rear angulation as his sire and uncle did not have great rear angulation. Luckily, this pup is an improvement on both his sire and uncle.
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Excellent articles Ingrid!
A willingness to retrieve would be one of the top requirements for me. That shows a willingness to be part of a team.
Thanks Bob! Yes, retrieving was high on my list as well. Sinjin (the chosen pup), retrieved well at 5.5 weeks but at 7.5 weeks was not the strongest retriever - he chased the ball, grabbed it and than laid down and chewed on it. However, the pup that was better than Sinjin lacked many of the other qualities I was looking for (ability to quickly recover, coming to a person when called, tugging, etc).

To this day, what we saw at 7.5 weeks is his personality. He is VERY into me and has tons of toy drive. Will retrieve anything I throw, however, he has that independent streak that shows when *he* decides that he does not want to come when called or would rather take off with the toy :D I just deal with it as I figure there are worse things than a little bullheadedness in a pup!
Yes, definately a combination of things to look for. My reasons for the retrieve being so important is that if there is no desire to chase and retrieve, I don't look any harder at that particular pup. I will also select a pup that doesn't have the best retrieve if all other things stack up well.
For instance, in SAR work, it's very important that a pup will continue to look for a lost toy. Without that \"hunt drive\" they will loose interest on a search way to fast. Some pups will loose interest as soon as the object is out of site. Others will obsess on finding it.
Re: Picking pups

Ingrid Rosenquist said:
... I did up a binder with a section for each of the 5 pups with photos at 1, 3, 5.5, and 7.5 weeks as well as my written evaluations at 5.5 and 7.5 weeks. I could send you a email copy of a pup's written evaluation if you would like to see what I did...

That was absolutely the most amazing response. :lol: Thank you so very much. I mean that was as thorough as anything I have read to date… including a 200 page book. I know what book I will be ordering today :wink:

You are a gem. If you don’t mind emailing the binder to me that would be awesome

Do you mind telling me what you saw in the 3 week old pup that made him stand out as special? At that age they are still so young… but if you have an inside secret I would love to hear it.

And Bob, you too :lol: - From birth to 3 weeks when they are stills so boring are there any little clues I should watch for?

My pups are only 13 days old but one puppy seems really independent she seems to prefer to sleep off by herself. Then I have another pup that mouths everything already. He’ll try to suck on your face or the floor. It funny to watch him.

Ingrid thanks again for all time you put into that post.
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Ingrid's post reminded me of something a top breeder friend of mine did (she has 40+ years experience and her breeding program is known all over the world for the impact she has on her breed).....

She is a real stickler about puppy diaries. She did videos of every litter she bred .... each puppy stacked and movement as well as just playing.

She also took polariod photographs of each puppy stacked front/rear/side and labeled them on the back of the photo. (polariods, BTW are great because I took regular photos and when I developed them a week later I realized how bad certain photos were and it was too late to take new ones of that particular week!)

Anyways she said she laid all the photos out for each puppy for each week (1 wk, 2 wk, 3 wk). Then picked her favorite puppy from each set of photos.

She said she knew her Pick of Litter because when she flipped over the photograph, it was the same puppy throughout the weeks. This, of course, was a conformation breeder but it was not only valuable documentation of the puppies progress but was great to compare later on when she had bred her first multi BISS winning (breeder/owner/handled) dog, she had photos of him and later picked other pick puppies by comparing him at those ages to the current pups.

While I'm thinking about it, \"Winning with Purebred Dogs\" by Alvin and Beverly Grossman has a great chapter on picking puppies, that includes their own documantion of a Cocker Spanial litter. Again, conformation but its the documation that is important. The more you record, the better. Especially as they develop and start offering up more behaviors and responses to their environment.
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