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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was wondering if there were any tips or tricks to share about evaluating puppies as potential show prospects? What do you look for when evaluating puppies?

Also, what are the chances of changes happening to the puppy as they mature? Such as a puppy with not much front developing more front? Or more brisket? Or a topline straightening out slightly? Are these kind of case specific things or, is this breeders just doing some wishful thinking. ;)
 

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Sea Hag
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sundobe said:
I was wondering if there were any tips or tricks to share about evaluating puppies as potential show prospects? What do you look for when evaluating puppies?

Also, what are the chances of changes happening to the puppy as they mature? Such as a puppy with not much front developing more front? Or more brisket? Or a topline straightening out slightly? Are these kind of case specific things or, is this breeders just doing some wishful thinking. ;)
What do I look for when evaluating puppies? A puppy that looks like a miniature show dog. :) You look for a square puppy that's balanced, has straight legs, a nicely shaped neck that flows smoothly into the shoulders, a short back with a solid topline, pretty paws, a nice head, etc. I also always look for a puppy that likes to show itself off, that has a fair amount of ego. I pay more attention to what they look like "au naturel", on the ground, than I do when someone stacks them on a table.

Seriously, a lot of your questions are dependent on the age of the puppy you're trying to evaluate. The general rule of thumb is to grade litters at eight weeks, the theory being that at that age they have the same proportions they'll have as adults. After that, they can have some weird growth stages start happening...LOL, some people say you shouldn't look at at them again for months.

But a lot of this IS really specific to different lines, they all have different rates of growth, traits that are likely to improve (or not). What might be the kiss of death and not likely to improve with one line might be only a temporary problem with another line, something that *will* resolve itself with time.

A puppy that doesn't have a lot of visible forechest due to a short upper arm isn't likely to have that improve. Angles tend to get straighter if they change.
Toplines may or may not improve, depending on the line and what's wrong with the topline. If a puppy doesn't have the brisket down to the elbow at 8 weeks, I wouldn't be looking for that to ever happen.

Evaluating puppies really is an educated guess at the best of times..it's not something that a newbie is going to be able to do with any degree of accuracy. It takes seeing lots and lots of litters being graded, and then mature. The best thing to do is find an experienced breeder who has consistently produced generation after generation of viable show dogs, they know their lines and are the ones most likely to be able to predict which of their pups are top show prospects and which are not.

And even then, you don't really know about what's going to happen with dentition until it happens, unless you xray mouths looking for tooth buds.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 · (Edited)
Thanks MD, I am well aware of all this and I am glad you shared this info. It has helps confirm some thoughts I've been having.

I guess what I was actually hoping for in my above post is the kind of things that not common knowledge or something preferential to each breeder. Is there certain qualities that are deal breakers for you? Is there qualities that will get you looking at a pup that you may feel is otherwise moderate at best?

Is there a kind of 'attitude' you look for? I know, puppies are trained for the ring and all that, but I see many dogs in the ring, even moderate ones, that will just grab you. It's like they have this built in showmanship, a 'look at me' quality. Is it your experience to see this from puppyhood?
 

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Sea Hag
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sundobe said:
Thanks MD, I am well aware of all this and I am glad you shared this info. It has helps confirm some thoughts I've been having.

I guess what I was actually hoping for in my above post is the kind of things that not common knowledge or something preferential to each breeder. Is there certain qualities that are deal breakers for you? Is there qualities that will get you looking at a pup that you may feel is otherwise moderate at best?

Is there a kind of 'attitude' you look for? I know, puppies are trained for the ring and all that, but I see many dogs in the ring, even moderate ones, that will just grab you. It's like they have this built in showmanship, a 'look at me' quality. Is it your experience to see this from puppyhood?
I think you mean mediocre when you say moderate. There are a lot of mediocre puppies that are placed as "borderline" show prospects by some breeders-I think they should be spayed/neutered and placed in pet homes. The lack of any major faults doesn't mean the dog has an abundance of virtues.

Deal breakers for me? A bad neckset. A long body. Lack of balance. A funky head. An overly rounded croup. Sickle hocks/cow hocks. Upright shoulders..LOL, now that I think about it, there are A LOT of things that are deal breakers for me.

Yes, some puppies are just "natural born show dogs". They're outgoing and enjoy showing off. They have good body language-tail up, animated, etc.
 

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sundobe said:
I guess what I was actually hoping for in my above post is the kind of things that not common knowledge ?
Well..one of my mentors told me something at the time I was thinking of buying Razzle that I'd never heard before. She said you should always look at puppies in even numbered weeks. So look at them at weeks 8, 10, 12, etc. rather than at week 7, 9 or 11.

Is there any validity to this? I dunno..but I'm going to be keeping it in mind and trying it out in the future. Although no longer actively breeding, she had a very successful breeding program for many years, along with a few top producing stud dogs. She hasn't steered me wrong very often.
 

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I agree with most everything that Murray already said........no sense in re-posting it. I hope to breed my first litter in the next couple of years. I know that I will rely heavily on experienced breeders to evaluate the resulting litter. I can see some stuff, but it takes years to really develop an eye for overall conformation. In the lines I have seen, the 8 week old puppy should have a lot of angulation front and rear because if anything it will straighten some .......never the opposite. Briskets can drop some - Velma's did, but if it is not there as a puppy, it may never be there. I think heads are difficult to see in a young puppy, but neck into withers can be seen. A low tailset in a puppy would really concern me - I don't think that would improve at all. I really hate rounded croups and low tail sets....... just my preference.

I have also experienced the growth spurts that make you want to wear a blindfold when you are around your dog........ taller than long, longer than tall......it is as if they grow up then out and up then out. You only hope that when it ends, they will be well proportioned :)

The following pics are Louise at 8 weeks and again at 15 months...........she at almost 20 months is STILL not done maturing and changing.

I personally would never spend a fortune on a show prospect puppy........ looking at that 8 week old puppy and trying to determine how good it will be as an adult is an educated guess, and some people are very good at it....... but there are no guarantees.


 

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Murreydobe said:
Well..one of my mentors told me something at the time I was thinking of buying Razzle that I'd never heard before. She said you should always look at puppies in even numbered weeks. So look at them at weeks 8, 10, 12, etc. rather than at week 7, 9 or 11.
It seems that everyone has their preference but personally I don't think it's smart to limit yourself to particular weeks. For me, I'm watching the puppies *always*.

I know a Doberman breeder / former handler / present-day judge that says 5 weeks. Choose at 5 weeks and that's that. I'm sure he thinks he's right, too.

And then there are those that are cocky enough to say they choose them when they are wet and just born...

Anyway, I've waited out my share of "funkiness" in some puppies and I'm learning what is likely to change in mine and what probably isn't going to change. And then you go and breed to a line you don't know as well, and you go through the waiting again because maybe it's different in that line.

Overall, I agree with what Cheryl said in her first couple of posts.
 

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MaryAndDobes said:
It seems that everyone has their preference but personally I don't think it's smart to limit yourself to particular weeks. For me, I'm watching the puppies *always*.

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Oh, I think a lot of breeders do watch puppies on a daily basis..I was specifically talking about an outsider going to look at a litter of puppies or an individual puppy. The advice I got was to go look during an even numbered week, rather than an odd numbered week. I'm not saying there's any validity to the suggestion, but it's an interesting concept that I'll be paying attention to when I look at pups.
 

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velmadobe said:
A low tailset in a puppy would really concern me - I don't think that would improve at all. I really hate rounded croups and low tail sets....... just my preference.

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Overly rounded croups and low tailsets are very difficult to overcome in the ring, no matter how good the rest of the dog might be.

I used to think seeing croupiness at any age was the kiss of death, that it would never improve..until I got Razzle! Her croup and tailset was fine when the litter was graded at 8 weeks, and fine when I first saw her at 12 weeks. Then she went through a long period of time where she was so croupy it was almost painful to look at, and we really wondered if she'd ever be showable.

When I talked to someone who had seen a lot of puppies from her sire's line, they said that wasn't at all unusual, and almost always resolved itself in time.
And that's exactly what happened-although it took until she was about 7 months old to be able to look at her croup without gagging.

I'd definitely worry about a puppy that had an overly rounded croup and a low tailset at 8 weeks, but if it occurs at a later point as a function of growth, it CAN improve in certain lines.
 

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There are definitely times when the only sure fired way of evaluating a puppy is to know the lines and have looked at lots of litters from those lines and have watched them grow up. For most people I think choosing a breeder who knows their own lines is the most practical way to pick a puppy.

Murreydobe gave a very good outline of things to look for in puppies--and Velmadobes comments are right on. So are Mary And Dobes.

Over the years I've thought that around 8 weeks is the best time to try to grade a litter but by then I've usually seen a litter at least weekly from four weeks on. I don't even look at them until at least four weeks--I think they are much too generic "puppy" looking until then.

When I look there are a couple of places I look for a puppy to be a little overdone. I've never seen forechest get better if there doesn't seem to be much on the puppy. Angulation doesn't increase and generally in the lines I've been familiar with it straightens out as the puppy grows. Loins that look long on puppies don't get shorter and a puppy that looks rectangular at 8 weeks will probably be rectangular rather than square as an adult. I like to see toplines on the ground--but they change as a puppy grows and most pups have toplines that are pretty straight from neck to tail--withers develope as the puppy grows. Gay tails stay that way. Low tail sets remain low tail sets but I've seen enough fairly round croups straighten out to correct if they were correct at 7, 8, 9 or so weeks they'll probably end up correct. Bad feet don't get better after about 10 weeks--some pups have feet that look pretty flat at 6, 7 and even 8 weeks but after that if the feet look thin or have long toes or are oval instead of round and if the toes are not nice and tight they probably will still be that way at maturity.

Rear angulation also straightens out with age and if the upper and lower thigh are equal in length and the puppy has a bend of stifle a bit too much angulation in the rear at 8 weeks that doesn't bother me but relative bone length doesn't change and if you are looking at a long lower thigh then chances are you will have an overangulated dog as adult.

Puppies that don't show much angle front or back at 8 weeks will probably be very straight front and rear by the time they are grown.

Heads are almost the only thing I don't try to do a lot of evaluation on--this in spite of the fact I'm a head hunter. I do look, at 8 weeks, for a puppy to have a fairly blocky looking head--at that age if they have wedge shaped head they are probably going to be snipey. The blockiness goes away as the head lengthens and that happens with age. I don't want to see deep stops though because they tend to stay too deep. Eye shape stays the same--a round eye in a puppy will be a round eye in an adult.

For heads I usually rely on what kind of heads the parents have keep my fingers crossed that the puppy will grow up with a good one ('cause I don't really look at prospects whose parents didn't have good heads).

And after you look at them and look at them it's still sort of a crap shoot--there are just about a zillion things that can go wrong before they are of an age to show and win.

I always figure that I've been lucky in the dogs that I've chosen for myself and that breeders have chosen for me.
 
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