How to pick show potential puppies
  • No, not for me! But as I'm waiting to see how pups from an Akita litter* turn out, I became curious about the process. What are breeders looking for when they make decisions on a litter, and which will go to show homes and which to pet homes? What are they looking for, beyond the obvious conformation to the breed standard (and how can you tell about that when the puppies are so young?)

    I know Pat Hastings has a book about it (The Puppy Puzzle, I think?), but I'm not showing or breeding so it doesn't seem worth it to buy it just for curiosity. But I do wonder--what are people looking for? How do they choose if it is immediately obvious (say a dog with a fault, like a long coat or cream or whatever faults there are in the breed). And if there are two pups that conform well to standards, how to pick the best one? What have people learned about picking potential show pups with experience?


    *and this time around, I'm much more sanguine about the whole process. I would be delighted to get a puppy from this litter, but on the other hand, our house is very calm and peaceful right now, so if the possible pup goes to a show home, that's ok too. There will be other puppies....
    Lisa, Toby (Shiba), Oskar and Zora (American Akita), and Leo (Kai Ken)
  • CaliaCalia
    Posts: 3975
    Some breeders I've noticed, especially working line ones, will keep several pups from a litter to have more time to make a decision on which one works out best. The breeder I'm getting #4 from is keeping 3 of the pups, raising them up to see how they work in the harness and those who don't do as well as she likes will be re-homed to a pet home (usually before 2yrs old).

    I've also seen breeders keep the litter to 12 weeks instead of 8, as the older they get the easier it is to tell their potential. With experience of raising several litters, and assistance from other experienced breeders, they start to get an eye for what pups will develop in to good prospects.
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  • @shibamistress - I know Phil (@tengai) usually has a puppy party where he invites friends over for additional feedback. I think if you have an experienced eye you can look at structure and proportions and have a decent idea of how the pup will turn out but it is usually still very much a crapshoot. I think ears can be easy when they're so young too (pitch, angulation, thickness). Coat (texture and color) I think is most difficult to predict when young.

    If you're curious you can always have the breeder walk you through. We found Phil was happy to explain to us what he was looking at (even though Lily, Vi's littermate, was one of those rare few where it's obvious starting at only a few weeks, that she would turn out very nicely). It's always interesting to hear. I also think with a good breeder, personality plays a big role, and that tends to be pretty obvious when they're still young.

    [edited to add]

    What @souggy says is very true. Sometimes the pup you pick doesn't quite turn out as expected, and often times a pup that was placed turns out way nicer than expected.or at least that's what I've heard from quite a few breeders.

    @souggy - what do you mean by latest fads?
    Post edited by violet_in_seville at 2013-08-19 13:28:42
  • aykayk
    Posts: 1979
    The Pat Hastings puppy puzzle assesses all parts of the dogs body. Proportion of height to chest depth, shoulder angles, necks, loin length, gut length, elbows, knees that turn out, popping hocks, etc. Her late husband was the head expert and so she's de-emphasized teaching that in seminars.

    With this information in hand, a breeder can weigh in whether the individual's weaknesses or faults are something easy to breed away from or not, and the general availability of dogs in the breed that can correct the weakness/faults.

    For instances, I've heard some people regard a bad front assembly (shoulders, upper legs, etc.) as something that takes 7 generations to correct. Where as a short tail could be one generation. But if everybody's dogs have a short tail and there's a different pup in the litter that has an appropriate length of tail but has another fault that might take 2 generations to correct ... well, that might change up the priority.

    So, a breeder's pick could be based what they want. Having an outstanding show dog vs. a showable dog that also has an "out" to a fault in a breeding program.


    Another factor in selecting a show dog if all things are equal conformation-wise (which isn't typical) is temperament/outlook. People want a confident dog to show. Otherwise the dog isn't having fun, and the owner/handler won't be having fun.
  • CaliaCalia
    Posts: 3975
    Another factor in selecting a show dog if all things are equal conformation-wise (which isn't typical) is temperament/outlook. People want a confident dog to show. Otherwise the dog isn't having fun, and the owner/handler won't be having fun.


    It's funny, when we picked up Tikaani, his breeder said that (from his results of the puppy test) he wasn't confident enough for the show ring. He sure could have fooled me, but that could have just been that he needed a home that could give him more one on one attention instead of in an established kennel.
    image
  • MirkaMMirkaM
    Posts: 1248
    I always look puppy's body structure but it's challenging cause you have to look it when the puppy is just born. And of course this depend on breed but with Kais also expression is important but in Schipperkes it's not so important. I kept two females from Ife x Nuuk litter in my breeding program. Let's see how they turn out :).
    Kai will lay down its life to protect its master.
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  • I can send you a digital copy of Puppy Puzzle btw. I ripped my DVD so I could rewatch it anywhere. If you like it please buy it though.

    As for me, first I cull any pup with a DQ fault. Then I look for major faults, structural issues, and whatever specific problems I was seeking to fix with the breeding. (For example this last litter I was looking a lot at hocks, eyes, and tightness of skin.) Lastly I look at minor faults, which will generally be pigment, color, and pattern for a JA -- for which there are very specific rules unlike the AA. It pretty much comes down to choosing the least flawed, since no dog is perfect.

    Had two litters and a favorite pup in each and in both cases my favorite wasn't my pick. I don't regret my choices (although I still wish I could have Fuji's head on Angirasu's body).

    EDIT: The judge at the last AKIHO show said the four traits which make up a great JA in order of importance are Structure, Head, Coat, and Mental. I try to keep he same priorities. H also mentioned that regrettably too many JA breeders focus on head or coat first and severely neglect the other two.
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    Post edited by PoetikDragon at 2013-08-19 03:39:29
  • souggysouggy
    Posts: 247
    Most of the wisest breeders (10 to 40 years of breeding experience) I know of just admit it's not possible to get a show-quality dog from picking a puppy despite following the latest fads religiously. One can try and pick one by 8-weeks or 12-weeks to keep themselves based on temperament; but they always share stories about how there is one or two in a litter originally thought to be unsound they are jealous of their puppy-buyers of having and wished they kept those pups for showing.

    So, instead, they just have breeding contracts with all their puppy-buyers which state they have the right to breed the dog or bitch until 3- or 5-years old. After that time-frame, breeder cannot ask.
    Blog: Prick-Eared - now featuring primitive dogs
    Post edited by souggy at 2013-08-19 04:06:33
  • lindsaytlindsayt
    Posts: 3425
    I like that Pat Hastings had Shibas in the past. Her idea of "good" type and my idea of type may not coincide, but I definitely take her input on form for function to heart. For many in my breed, selecting a strong rear and well angulated shoulders comes at a sacrifice in "good" NIPPO type. I'm fortunate in that my breeder has already been faced with this and overcome it in her program, so my goal is to build on that, and continue selecting for well built dogs with strong rears, good shoulders and great heads ("good" type).

    Since my choices were small with my first litter ;) I am keeping what I got to grow up for 3-4 months before I make a real decision, as there are no faults immediately apparent. What I like for type, and want to refine in what I have, is harsh stand off coat over the entire body, small correct ears, loose tails, intense clear reds, cat feet, dynamite heads, excellent rears, and moderate size. I appear to have gotten that in this breeding at this point. I also want easy to live with more biddable temperaments, and hopefully I can continue breeding to and from dogs with the level of drive I personally prefer for performance sports, and the physical ability to endure it (quickly).

    Edit to add: if I had a larger litter and they were all built equally nice and had nice type, but one was more moderate then the rest and not extreme in any way, that would be my pick. The rest would be more of a "watch and wait" gamble to see if maturity helps them. This criteria will be entirely different if you asked someone else, depending on what they are wanting in their program, so that's why it isn't a one size fits all recipe...
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    Post edited by lindsayt at 2013-08-19 15:09:30
  • Sorting a litter is both easy and difficult, depending on the litter, pedigree at hand, the phenotype of the parents/grand parents, and the breeding goals that inspired the breeding in the first place. I refer to my 8 week old puppies as "Show Potentials" and do not consider them "Show Quality" until at least 6 months of age. We can only grow them out and wait and see. I've seen some very pretty puppies fail to turn out for a variety of reasons. Most common are teeth, testicles and size. I've rarely had a puppy I placed as a pet intentionally turn into a beautiful prospect unless it was done out of a specific need, ie missing teeth, bad bites or size, etc. All creams are considered pet quality as they do not meet the breed standard. I have a couple of creams that I sure wish were reds! lol

    I have found that evaluating a litter isn't a one time shot. I watch my litters critically from birth through 8 to 10 weeks very carefully, every day. I watch how they use themselves, move and interact with each other and their environment and mess with them with stacking and standing and feeling how their bones are coming together with regards to angulation. I also look at faces, and how the skull comes together, eye expression, eye angulation and shape, and ear pitch and shape and is not to small or to big, but in balance with the head. Color is also very important but is more difficult to evaluate as it takes several coat changes for color to develop, esp in black and tan and sesame. I am not tied to a goal in specific angulation past the moderate, and will take a beautifully balanced puppy with strong tight bodies over a loose body and perfect angles. I also will take a correctly placed, correct shaped, short tail over a tight long tail or low set tail. The tail is a rudder and is better to be to short than to long. To tight and they can't use it properly either.

    I tend to disagree that NIPPO Shibas lack in correct fronts and structure. They aren't any farther away then some of the AKC dogs I've seen over the years and in the rings today. It's just not easy to get these high quality NIPPO dogs from Japan over here. I have NIPPO dogs and I find their structure just as nice as my AKC dogs, and in some instances better.

    Picking a puppy is a give and take and like it was stated before, it comes down to what your goals for the breeding are and what you hope to accomplish with the puppy. Also helps to see lots and lots of puppies! And lots and lots of puppies mature to have a good guess on how they will turn out as adults.

    Edit: the fore stated opinion on evaluating puppies as show vs pet is of course done with the bred standard in mind. With that, as I've said, it helps to know and understand how traits develop in your breed from puppy hood through adulthood. If you don't have that personal experience, ask your breeder, stud owner and mentor for advice.
    Kobushi Shiba
    NIPPO Registered Shiba Inu
    www.kobushishiba.com
    Post edited by KobushiShiba at 2014-03-21 21:03:31

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