Responsible breeders strive to make the best possible match between their puppies and new owners. Approved homes have been screened for breed suitability and the prospective owners queried about their lifestyle and their needs and wants in a dog.
Multiple factors must then be considered by the breeder when determining which puppy is the best fit for each type of home: the show/breeding home, the companion home, the performance sports home, or the livestock-guardian home.
In addition, specifics regarding the family including children and their ages, elderly or special-needs family members, cats or other pets, the level of experience of the new owner, and gender preference should be considered.
An important tool the breeder can use to match puppies with a compatible family is puppy aptitude testing. There are various methods used for aptitude testing litters of puppies. Breeders who are spending adequate amounts of time interacting with and observing their puppies, both with the litter in its entirety and with each puppy individually, should already have a very good idea of each puppy’s temperament by age 7 weeks.
Within the same litter there will be puppies with different personality types, with most puppies falling across a midline of behavior. Temperament extremes occur, but they are rare. Aptitude testing at age 7 weeks, utilizing volunteers unfamiliar with the puppies and therefore providing a fresh look at each puppy, is an additional tool, albeit a “snapshot in time,” that can both reinforce the breeder’s observations as well occasionally yield a few surprises.
The basic characteristics examined in various temperament/aptitude testing include factors such as energy level, social interaction, trainability, independence, dominance, and sensitivity to the stimuli of sound, sight, and touch.
A very general description of the right puppy for the right home might be as follows:
• The show/breeding home — In addition to having excellent physical structure and breed type, the puppy best suited temperamentally for this home is confident and outgoing. A fearful, shy, or very stimulus-sensitive puppy, no matter how structurally wonderful or perfect in breed type, will be more difficult temperamentally for the conformation show ring or whelping box and would require a very experienced and patient owner to bring out the best in the puppy.
• The performance home — In addition to the sound physical structure necessary for the rigors of performance sports, the best fit for this home is the confident and sociable puppy who follows with enthusiasm and bounces back resiliently after a slightly scary/startling experience. As with the conformation show home, a fearful, shy, or stimuli-sensitive puppy is not the first choice for the performance arena without an additional amount work by an experienced owner.
• The companion home, especially with small children — The middle-of-the-road, calm, and confident puppy with a higher threshold for all types of sensitivity is best for this situation. The high-energy, pushy, dominant, or shy puppy is not the best choice for this family.
• The livestock-guardian home — In addition to having sound physical structure, the confident puppy who likes to investigate new sights and sounds and does not show a high prey-drive is best for this situation. The more independent puppy can also work well in this type of home. A puppy who constantly solicits social interaction with humans may not be a good choice for a role in which he may be without humans much of the time.
These are general guidelines for puppy placement. Individual puppy and owner circumstances may vary beyond the scope of this article and are best addressed with the puppy’s breeder. The breeder is evaluating nature and potential, yet ultimately the nurturing so crucial to actualizing the potential of the puppy lies with the owner. —R.M.
Guest columnist Robin Miller is a longtime Kuvasz breeder and rescue volunteer. She and her husband, Tony, breed under the kennel name Rebel Ridge.