How does a top herding trainer pick her next champion? First let me start off by admitting I have a problem....probably the same problem 99% of people have. I LOVE puppies...they just melt my heart...from their puppy breath to their hilarious antics…they always keep me laughing. How do you pick just one sweet puppy when each one is so special. But I do have a process, and I get asked what that process is because it has clearly worked for me multiple times. Let's be honest, I have a "plan" for what I'm looking for…but you know what they say about the best-laid plans….
A quote I like to live by is from the famous Tony Robbins; “Life will give you exactly what you ask of it.” And that couldn’t ring more true to me 11 years ago.
I was looking for my next herding prospect and I had a vision of what I wanted and what I did not want. What I was in search for was a female dog that could go from working in the arena to working in the field with ease. A dog that could work all types of stock with power yet play gently with my young daughter. The structure to hold up over the years and the mental flexibility to also play agility. You know…the "perfect" dog. Only I failed to mention this dog could, under no circumstances, be the color red. (Looking back how silly is that?) So when the litter I had carefully planned and long anticipated arrived…they were all males, except one red female. Now what?
I bred this litter, so I had the choice of any puppy I wanted…I really wanted a female but I did NOT want a red dog. However, there was something special about this young pup and I soon found myself overlooking her color, and seeing they true potential behind those adoring puppy eyes…so I took my chances…what did I have to lose right? Remember what I said about life giving you exactly what you ask of it? Well it sure worked out for me in this case…and then some! Moca, as she is now called, went on to be a stock dog of distinction, triple herding champion, USBCHA national finalist, agility extrodinaire, and became not only the dog of my dreams but my best friend. I know that sounds corny…but you dog people know what I’m talking about ;)
I wanted to tell you that story before I tell you my process of picking a puppy because I feel it’s important to be open minded even when it may not be what you originally planned on.
Step One: Decide what your expectations are for your puppy. Are you looking for an arena dog, a dog to work a large flock of stock, sheep dog, cattle dog, field dog, or a livestock guardian dog? Each breed has a different purpose and it’s important to know what breed to get for each job. Spoiler alert: I will be hosting a free webinar that talks about the different breeds and their working style…so if you’re curious sign up for our newsletter on the right side of this page!
Step Two: Once you have decided on your breed start researching everything you can. What makes that breed unique…what health issues plague that breed…and what challenges are common to training that breed on stock?
Step Three: Now that you have done your research it’s time to find a reputable breeder. You can also adopt a rescue, and I myself am active in rescue…. however, just know that sometimes you get a gem and sometimes you are bringing on a dog with challenges you will need to overcome before you begin training. For the sake of this blog I will assume you are looking for a puppy from a breeder. Your research told you what health problems plague this breed, so with that knowledge find a breeder that screens for these issues in their breeding stock and furthermore provides a written guarantee for your puppy.
The most important thing you can do is have an open relationship with your puppy’s breeder. Feel comfortable asking them questions, and knowing you have a resource when things don’t go as planned in your training.
Please also know that titles aren’t everything. I have come across some amazing stock dogs that came from untitled parents. It’s a great place to start, however…finding a breeder with the knowledge of what a working dog looks like and knowing the tendencies on that particular line are vital.
Step Four:Now we begin the best part…picking the puppy. There is so much that goes into this…yet sometimes so little. I like to tell the breeder exactly what I am looking for and my future plans with the puppy…after all they spend the most time with them and know their personalities far better than I will be able to determine in the hour or two that I have spent visiting.
Sometimes your heart just has to be your guide…other times it’s just meant to be. My most accomplished dog came to me when I least expected it.
In a future blog, I am going dig deeper into how I, as a breeder, evaluate my litter to help guide my puppy buyers pick the best puppy suited for them. These include factors such as temperament, drive, playfulness, confidence, dominance, and biddability.
In the meantime, comment below and let me know how you picked your last puppy, or how you plan to pick your next superstar. Then add yourself to our newsletter list so you can be updated on our next blog and free webinar. You definitely won’t want to miss the next blog…puppy videos sure to melt your heart!!! Complete with virtual puppy breath! Share with your friends and I look forward to hearing your responses.