How to Pick a Puppy (or Not)

When I met Jasper, I knew he was not your typical happy to lucky puppy.  The vet who gave him his second round of shots called him a worried rocket scientist.  The plan had been for me to foster him, and I had not been looking for a puppy.  In fact, I usually preferred adult dogs.  But, his worry made me worry, so, I started talking to other trainers about what they thought about him.

Cydney Cross of Crossroads for Dogs met him first, Jasper sat in his crate in the car and looked at her, and processed things.  He stepped back when she came close, and when she tossed him a treat, he watched her for a bit before trying it.  When I took him out of his crate, he stuck to my side.  He was four months old.

Jasper was clearly attached to me but was not that interested in other people.  I showed off some of his tricks, and Cyd told me what a great dog he was – she loved how smart he was, how observant, and how well he focused on me.  I was relieved, and I asked if she thought that meant he would be easy to adopt out.  She told me no, he was the type of dog who might find a home quickly, but who also was likely to be returned at a year old after having bitten.  Not because he was aggressive, but because he was a worrier, and if someone did not help him with his worries, they would become fears.  Cyd suggested I keep him.

What you typically look for in a puppy is the social one, the one coming to greet people, eager to interact.  The one that hears a noise and while they might be startled, they rebound quickly.  Jasper was none of those things.  But he was smart, and he was sensitive, and with the right support, he could build confidence and overcome his worry.  Jasper would never be a social butterfly, but, he did not need to be.

I was not in the market for a puppy, but, maybe a puppy had found me.

Not sure what to do, I brought Jasper to Suzanne Clothier.  When it comes to puppy assessment, there are few with more experience, or a better eye.

Of course he hopped out of the car far less worried then expected after an hour plus drive, and while he did not run up to greet her, food soon won him over, and Suzanne got to know Jasper. We saw him with other dogs (German Shepherds were scary), with people (John was also kind of scary), we saw him when I left (WHAT MOM COME BACK!) and I eagerly awaited her verdict.

Suzanne agreed with Cyd – he was a worrier, and he was smart, and he was a bit of a project.  But she also told me with the right socialization he thought he would be an awesome dog – was I up for the challenge?

Well, we are a year in and still finding that out.

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