What to look for when buying a puppy
Temperament is determined by both genetics and environmental influences. It is therefore essential to meet the puppies parents, see where the puppies are being raised and ensure that they are having appropriate, positive experiences.
You need to ensure that you meet the mother, though ideally both parents and have sufficient time with them, to assess how calm and confident they are. Ideally the parents should be happy to greet you, but not too enthusiastically. Persistent jumping up and trying to lick you, rolling over on their backs or avoidance, are generally signs of concern. If the parents show any signs of fear or anxiety, you should avoid purchasing the puppy.
One of the most critical periods of behavioural development, is between 3 and 12 weeks of age. As most puppies enter their new homes at around 8 weeks of age, a large proportion of this time is spent at the breeders. During this period, it is essential that puppies are exposed to a large number of novel, social and environmental stimuli. A puppy that has experience of a television, vacuum cleaner, kids toys and other household stimuli, will be more able to cope with a domestic household, than one that has been raised in an outhouse or kennel. The puppies also need to be accustomed to gentle handling and this should be gradually increased, with different types of people. It is therefore essential to see where the puppies are being raised and not just where they are brought in for viewing. If they have limited experience during this time, they are more inclined to show anxious behaviour in adulthood.
Puppies also learn to make social relationships up to 12 weeks of age. If they do not experience sufficient socialisation during this time, they can find it more difficult to form appropriate social relationships in adulthood. Negative interactions can have huge impacts at this stage and so appropriate socialisation is essential. It is therefore important to ask about the temperaments of any other dogs in the household, or dogs that the puppies have encountered and where possible to meet these dogs.
Ideally you want to purchase a puppy from a litter where all of the puppies are not only physically well but calm, confident and content. Puppies that are shy and withdrawn, or over exhuberant and unable to settle, may be predisposed to behavioural problems.
To put a stop to bad breeding practices and the increase in anxious puppies, try to follow your head and not your heart!
Happy puppy hunting!