This is a post “on the fly” as it were. Usually I plan a bit more, and form my thoughts. But I had a question just moments ago that I feel strongly about, and I know my conclusions on the answer. Here goes:
My friend Kim asked me a simple question, “How do you know whether or not your dog has the ability to …(whatever)” Her question involved Search & Rescue work, and I’ll be specific, but any dog sport requires a certain something from within your dog that comes from breeding, drive, and intelligence.
My process begins with knowing the puppy’s parentage. Hopefully in person (in a best case scenario), or by a pedigree that I can study and see where the dog comes from in a working background.
Next, careful observation from as early an age as possible. I met my current partner when he was 3 days old, in his litter, with his mother nearby. I didn’t even know which pup was mine, but I handled the entire litter. At 6 weeks of age, I again visited. My breeder, Rhonda Sellers of Omorrow German Shepherds in Butler, Ohio, has an uncanny knack for matching pups to the needs of her clients. I listened to her as we had honestly discussed my needs previously. This is no time for an ego trip…Listen to the person that sees these pups from womb to rainbow. Hopefully you have such a breeder.
During that visit, we performed something called a “Volhard Test”. Here’s a link. Read it, copy it, and get to know it. http://www.volhard.com/pages/pat.php In my case, I needed a dog with the heart of an explorer, the curiosity of a chimpanzee, and fearless. He needed to be a natural hunter. A dog that would chase a ball until the moon falls out of the sky. Observing my puppy, it was easy to see some of this. One test we performed was throwing a ball and observing what the pup did. Did he ignore it? Did he chase it and then not know what to do with it? Did he tackle it and carry back towards me? Another test we did involved a big armful of pots, pans, toys, whatever was handy, and dropped onto the floor near the puppies. Those that fled in fear were automatically set aside. Those that watched, were retained. Two of those puppies charged into the noisy pile before the clattering was finished and demanded to know who was in charge. I’d found my top two choices.
I followed the Volhard to its’ finish, and chose. I knew I had the foundation of a Working dog. But this is still no guarantee.
During the next two weeks, we bonded and played, threw the ball together, dragged a leash around, played hide and seek, and generally worked on the pups attentiveness and willingness toward me. Focus is an all important trait, and can be seen even at a young age.
As these traits proved to be available, our games became more complex. Hide something that smells like me, and have him find it. Run away from him while a partner held him, and have him chase me down by sight at first, and scent afterward. Eagerness, willingness, and a touch of crazy drive will hopefully be evident. During this time, we also developed Social Skills in a Puppy Kindergarten setting with 20 other puppies and their families. Good behavior, obedience, and a look in the pups eyes that says, “I’m thinking this all over and taking it in…” are something to look for. Also, getting along with different people and dogs.
I know I’ve I’ve started at a very early age, which is an advantage. But the same natural skills can be identified in a dog somewhat older. Look for the following: 1. Willingness 2. Eagerness. 3. Crazy for toys. 4. Anxious to be by your side 5. A bit of Self-Motivation to figure things out for himself 6. No Fear or apprehension 7. Curiosity – Into EVERYTHING
This is a short, quickly written, description. But it works! The next step? Find an actual Handler/Trainer that can help you work with your dog and identify the natural strengths therein. You’ll need a Guide.
Also? Get a great pair of hiking boots, get into shape, and prepare to WORK YOUR FANNY OFF. Feel free to message me any other specific questions you may have about evaluation of your pup!