Select a puppy that, at the age of six to eight weeks, will approach you readily with a confident posture and a happily wagging tail. Well-socialized puppies are pleased to greet new people in a calm, friendly manner and should be content when picked up and gently restrained. Avoid puppies that flatten as they approach or that try to avoid you. If you have already bought a puppy that is concerned about human contact, you will need to work very hard to overcome this fear and shyness while your puppy is still young.
Seeing the mother with the puppies gives a good indication of your puppy’s future temperament. Nervous traits are usually inherited, and it is also likely that puppies that experience their mother’s fear and aggression toward strangers at an early age learn this behaviour and will show it later as they mature.
Often, when I have seen people whose puppies have a nervous-aggression problem and ask if they saw their dog’s mother, they say, “Oh, yes, but you couldn’t get near her” or worse, “Yes, but she nipped me.” One couple, whose dog was very aggressive toward strangers and who had bought the puppy knowing that his parents were guard dogs, commented that they wanted their dog to be a guard, too, but not to bite people!
Breeders may tell you that the mother cannot be seen because she has become aggressive to strangers since having her puppies. This means that she had an underlying aggression problem that eventually revealed itself with the stresses of giving birth and the extra visitors, so it is not wise to take one of her puppies.
Lastly, beware of the many unscrupulous breeders and dealers who use puppies as a way of making money. I know of one man who breeds German Shepherds that have highly unreliable temperaments and sells them with the assurance that he will take them back should anything go wrong. He usually gets them back again at one year old because the owners are unable to handle them, and then he sells them for a second time, as guard dogs.
If you enjoyed this article, why not purchase a copy of The Perfect Puppy by Gwen Bailey. You’ll find the book at major retailers near you. The Perfect Puppy is published by The Reader’s Digest Association, Inc.
Please note that the advice provided in this article, and in the book, is not a substitute for advice from a licensed veterinarian in a particular situation.