My journey training students and hundreds of dogs has been remarkable. The experience has been and continues to be enjoyable as the students, like their dogs, are diverse and unique. The dogs have been all sizes, shapes, breeds, and mixes of dog breeds with their histories as dramatic and varied as the dogs themselves. And every dog has its own quirks, perks, and idiosyncrasies. I have personally trained some of those dogs, but the bulk of my training has been invested in my training those dogs’ owners.
Many of my students train their adult dogs, or dogs older than 6 months. Many had serious behavior issues, dogs out-of-control, or reactive or volatile dogs. I also have had many puppy students, who came to me with puppies that completed my Mannerly Puppy Course and went onward to become Graduates of my FOUNDATION Course, my Retrieve Course, and other courses. These students are a joy to work with, to train, and to help them shape their puppy into a great dog.
I always ask, “How did you choose that puppy?” The answers vary from, “It choose me,” to “It was the shy quiet one in the corner, “to “It was the last puppy left,” to “It was sooo cute! I liked the color of the puppy.” But none of these reasons tell the new owner anything about how that puppy will react naturally. What if there is a better way to choose a puppy? There is a standardized test that will pinpoint and identify which puppy will have a natural aptitude for a specific purpose – a test that shows which puppy will fit into a family and their environment. This goal can be achieved by having a trained Evaluator test a litter for natural aptitudes and temperaments. I am a PATT (Puppy Aptitude Temperament Test) Evaluator and believe strongly in the results these tests provide.
When students or breeders hire me to test a specific litter of pups, I can help match the right puppy with the right owner. Once I have tested those puppies, mind you I only handle them for 11-15 minutes, I am imprinted in that puppy’s mind, forever. And THEN WHEN I AM THE TRAINER FOR THAT STUDENT AND THEIR PUPPY, ah, the joy for me as a Nationally Certified Obedience Instructor is substantial. Why? Because I already know the strengths of that puppy, I know where it is lacking, and I know how to train that puppy to strengthen that gap. I understand that puppy’s overall compatibility with people, I know that puppy’s stability, intelligence, and willingness to work for a person. And that puppy remembers me, so as a trainer I have a unique advantage.
Personally, as a Nationally Certified Obedience Instructor, I will not purchase a puppy without first testing the litter and getting the puppy I need. I research breeders and pedigrees (part of my business is providing that service for my potential new puppy owners), so I know what I am looking for with genetics. I usually end up educating the breeder on what I want to do and once the breeder has seen their litter tested, reviewed the videos and I does a debrief on what they are seeing, then the breeder supports Temperament Testing for their future litters.
I’ve had interested people inquire, “But what happens if you put down a deposit on a specific litter, go do the testing, and none of the puppies test well for your obedience business? What then?”
I tell them the truth, “Then, I walk away from that litter and leave my deposit.”
They look puzzled and often reply,” Really? You would walk away? The testing is THAT important?”
I smile and say, “It is THAT important. I base my business on my personal dogs working in my obedience classes with a variety of dogs. I must have balanced dogs that are stable in constantly shifting situations, including working near volatile, reactive, and sometimes dangerous dogs. And personally, I love the field work, so my dogs must also be able to work in the field.
I believe it is important to educate people to go beyond, “But I just want a dog!” to choosing the right breed, from a reputable breeder, and then getting that exact right puppy from a specific litter. Everyone always just wants ‘a great dog’. These ‘great dogs’ can be found using a logical, standardized, test approach to choosing EXACTLY what is the best fit for your family and your lifestyle.
Genetics DO matter, that is the beginning of a good dog. BUT, when you marry good genetics together with known natural aptitudes and temperaments, that is the beginning of a terrific dog. And the final piece? Excellent training takes genetics plus + known aptitude and temperament to owning that ‘great dog.’ I am a professional dog trainer and have trained multitudes of dogs. But I have found it far, far easier to pick the right puppy based on temperament testing and then the training journey is so, so much easier.
The truth is people will LOVE any puppy that comes home. So why not invest choosing that right puppy as that puppy is a living creature which will be with you for more than ten years? Ten plus years is a long time to live with a dog that does not fit your family or lifestyle well. Or to live with the disappointment of a dog purchased for a specific purpose and to have that dog fail to perform well. The ultimate heartbreak is to purchase a dog and if it becomes unsuitable or unstable, it is given away or dumped into a shelter or in some cases, euthanized.
To me, life is far, Far, FAR easier with a dog chosen to suit its new home, to fit in with its owners and to be a joy to all that know it.
THAT dog is a ‘great dog’.
And that great dog begins with choosing the exact right puppy.
“Puppy, puppy, puppy, here puppy!” Let the testing begin.
Roxanne Lee #1115N