The Working Dog Candidate

Raising the working dog, police or sport dog candidate

Over the years I have talked to many people that went out and got themselves a puppy for either sport or law enforcement work.  Most of them went blindly without even considering some important factors.  I would like to address some of the most basic questions, ones I think are important in picking and raising a puppy for the working future.

The most important question to ask when you are about to start looking for a puppy for either police work or sport is pedigree!  Remember folks, chips don’t fall far from the tree when looking for working class puppies. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at mother and father of the litter to tell if you will most likely have a fighting chance of getting one good working puppy.  As a rule, if mother and father of the litter have good strong working drives, good nerves and good athletic abilities (good structure), most likely they will have a decent chance of passing that good genetic trait on to their progeny.

If you are going to go out and find Uncle Joe’s back yard breeding operation where there is no working pedigree, then most likely you will get just that…a minimal chance of the puppy ever developing into anything. If the mother and father of the litter show signs of fear or aloofness, it would be best to reconsider the purchase.  If you are going to pay $500 or $600, or even more for a puppy and in 1 years time the dog will be passed off as not having what it takes, what have you done but wasted your time and efforts?

The next thing to consider is testing the pup in the litter.  Many have their own test procedures but I have 3 or 4 tests that will help you make a decent decision. The first thing I look for is play drive and the willingness to play tug-retrieve.  Even puppies have drives to test.  As the puppies grow it will only get stronger if worked properly.  If you test puppies and they don’t show signs of willingness to play and tug, I can assure you they won’t do so at an older age.

I also test for noise sensitivity.  If a puppy is scared of noise as an 8 week old, then most likely he will have it the rest of its life.  I usually drop a pan on the floor near by or slap two boards together for my test.  It is my opinion that this sensitivity is hereditary.  One other thing I will look for in puppies is pain sensitivity.  I like a puppy that is willing to take what his owner dishes out and also can forgive the owner afterward.  I usually do a scruff shake or pinch the webbing of the foot on the puppy.  Any yelping or signs of unforgiving and I eliminate that candidate.

Now the do’s and don’ts!!!  Most of the time folks think you must start with obedience on a 5 or 6 month old puppy. Well this is absolutely the worst thing you can do to a working puppy.  It is my opinion that a puppy selected for a working program should be taught to work and to enjoy his work.  The puppy must learn basic things first before he is ever started on the obedience aspects. Hunting, retrieving, exposure to all environments is the absolute most important steps to be taken with a working puppy.  It is my opinion obedience at an early stage kills drive and heart.  Remember this… Never let a young puppy lose!

This will ensure you later that his full potential has been reached.  At early ages I think it is best to take the puppy to every slick floor, dark room and stair well that you can find.  Loud noises (starting slow) and every situation you can think of that could be scary will only make your puppy sure of it-self in the future. Also when you start with a puppy, remember what job he is going to have in the future.  If he is going to be a single purpose dog, make sure you teach him retrieve, make sure he is good on the hunt inside rooms and outside fields.  Remember, exposure, exposure, exposure! It is imperative!!!

If a puppy is struggling with a task, try, try again and keep it simple until he is confident with it.  Then move on.  Make it all a game. If the dog is going to be dual purpose dog, make sure you incorporate the tug game and then when he is 6 or 7 months of age, have someone start him on proper bite work.  A good decoy is very important.  The dog should never lose in any fashion when doing his work as a young dog.

I hope this has helped some and made sense to others.  I have seen many fine puppies ruined by a strong hand too early in the game of training and exposure. It is important to have a good balance in all phases of the game so don’t neglect the puppy stage.  I think you will see a great deal of success if you start slow and work upward with proper care and patience.