At what age do you determine a show prospect vs. companion?

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QUESTION: At what age do you determine show prospect vs companion?  Have you ever made a mistake?

YOUR ANSWERS

Usually at eight weeks and, yes, of course I have made a mistake. After 50 years in dogs, no one is perfect. —Pamela Bradbury

 

First “sorting” of the litter at six weeks then at eight weeks, just as they leave the nest. Anybody who says no to making mistakes isn’t looking close enough. We have all made mistakes. 
—Anonymous

 

My mentor evaluates the litter between eight to nine weeks old. Yes, we all make mistakes, because we’re human. —Wendy Ball

 

Believe it or not I start from a week old. Watching them nurse you can see the arch in the neck, shoulder placement, turn of stifle and length of body. Born pure white I keep track of the puppies by the color of their birth collar. Being Dalmatians, we must wait for the eye and nose pigment to fill in. Then the spotting pattern. At six to eight weeks we do the BAER (hearing test). The Dalmatians are a coaching breed so movement is paramount. Have I been wrong? Many times. But the disappointment is when you have a puppy that fits exactly what you bred for and you learn it’s deaf. —Anonymous

 

Eight weeks is a good age to look at the outline on my Whippets. But my pick always takes into consideration the one puppy I’ve become particularly attached to as they’ve grown. Whippets go through the most awful, gangly, ugly stage, often at around six months to ten months. It can take a lot of patience to wait it out and not place the puppy. Then, like swans or butterflies, they start to blossom again.

 

Once I offered an unlovely six month old puppy to someone and they turned her down. Two months later, I was so happy they did, as she turned out to be one of the most shapely and lovely of my champions.

 

Ch. Paris Panther was unique from the moment he was born. I can still remember looking into the whelping box and seeing his neck arch as he reached for his mom. He grew up to be an important sire in Europe, a dog whose arched neck, smooth outline and powerful movement gave him “something to give away,” as is said about stallions. My favorites are the puppies who look great when they are born and always look great thereafter. So that you never have those days of doubt where you’re thinking, “Should I sell her?” But you don’t always get that. —Sharon Sakson

 

Eight to ten weeks and, yes, I have made mistakes. 
—Anonymous

 

Six weeks and yes, over 40 years, two were not finishable. 
—Anonymous

 

Normally six to nine months. Yes I have made mistakes. 
—Anonymous

 

Between 9-12 weeks and yes, sometimes good, sometimes bad. —Anonymous

 

Much has been written and debated about his subject. Many of those authors leave out the most vital component necessary is evaluating any breed of dog.

 

The absolute working knowledge of the breed standard. It does not matter how long you have been a breeder, handler or exhibitor, without this absolute working knowledge of the breed standard everything is smoke and mirrors. A guessing game. Puppies rarely, never, ever grow into or out of a breed fault or deviation from the standard. Only dreamers see it that way.

If one has the absolute working knowledge of the breed standard and has bred to that standard for a lengthy period of time, called experience, only then can one expect to be able to look at young stock and determine what is the best of the next generation.

In having bred for several generations you can see at a very young age in the new crop those traits that were successful from previous generations and can choose accordingly.

Speaking from experience, begin evaluating as soon as the puppies get on their feet. Poor shoulders, weak necks, wrong color eyes, etc. can all be seen and using the absolute knowledge of the breed standard along with a non emotional evaluation the best can 
be selected.

The lack of an absolute knowledge of the breed standard is the greatest failing of any breeder. That statement is as valuable now as it was 100 years ago. Lack of knowledge leads to an ego bound, emotional guessing game.

In over 40 years this formula proved successful. I can not recall these facts failing me.

My answer to your question is that I begin evaluating my puppies at about three weeks of age and then I take another look each week till about eight weeks. That is when, based on an absolute knowledge of the breed standard along with experience and knowledge of previous generations, selections are made.

Have I ever been wrong? I have sold many “pet” puppies that could win a championship. I never sold a poor specimen as a show dog. Ethics. Ego nor the drive for a cash reward ever influenced evaluation of my stock.

Keep in mind that there are several levels of “show prospect”. There are those puppies that will finish a championship, yet, not be worth future breeding or a campaign for national ranking.

Show prospect and show quality are not a guarantee of greatness. You know greatness at the end, not the beginning.

Working with the absolute knowledge of the breed standard a person can quickly see that the majority of dogs at any show are not the future of the breed. Yes, many will become champions, but few really worthy of the future. Over the years I have seen ego over ride knowledge at the highest level.

Time spent with any breed does not make a person successful. It is the absolute knowledge of the breed standard that does that. I was friends with a man that proudly stated he had been a breeder-exhibitor for over 45 years and in that time had finished six champions. He also bred six to eight litters a year and his most famous quote was, “If I breed enough litters, I might get something good.”

After all those years in one specific breed this person failed to have an absolute knowledge of his breed standard. What a waste. If in fact the average time a person spends in the dog show business is a mere five years, that knowledge will with rare exception never be found.

The questions you posed will not be resolved here. So long as there are those who lack an absolute knowledge of the breed standard there will be discussion. —Anonymous

At eight weeks, with my Miniature Pinschers, I can tell if any will likely grow too large (or too small) or any DQ mismark. Those are the easy ones to pick for companions. After that I look for best toplines and tailsets and keep those until four months.

By five months, I usually always pick my keeper for myself to show. Rest are usually looking for show homes. Of course, as my mentor told me, “Think about the three T’s: temperament, topline and tailset.”

I don’t believe I’ve ever picked it wrong. Thanks to learning from the best and 37 years in my breed. However, I always try to keep learning. —Anonymous

 

 

About four to nine months. Sometimes I’ve kept some I should have placed in a pet home and sometimes I’ve placed some I should have kept. —Anonymous

 

Eight weeks. Have I ever made a mistake? Haven’t we all? Remember, there many variables involved. I.e., each puppy inherits a different set of genes and their environments are varied; there are pups that are borderline show prospects; puppy temperaments/attitudes vary; bloodlines mature differently than others, etc., etc. —Jean Heath

 

Anywhere from eight weeks to eight months, though with the older ones, it’s more likely that what looked like a show prospect gets downgraded to a companion. —Anonymous

 

Sixteen weeks (Wire Fox Terrier). Have I made a mistake? Yes, when I selected what pup to keep when litter was fewer than 16 weeks. old. Observation: at 16 weeks, the proportions of the mature adult are present, unlike when pups are younger or older. When older (but not mature), proportions can vary greatly—legs may lengthen, while back length remains the same, or the reverse could happen, etc.; but, when mature, as stated, the proportions will be as they were at 16 weeks. —Anonymous

 

Around ten weeks. At six weeks I start looking. And watch from months seven to ten. I know by then as I start leash training. I watch attitude; attitude starts around four weeks. And I watch the pups with the ‘it” factor—they stand out. —Anonymous

 

Normally, with Basset Hounds, I can tell by the end of the fourth month. That determination is a direct opposition to the tactics employed by AKC, penalizing dogs not registered within sixty days. That is a money grab. Different topic, but AKC doesn’t care, as long as they get the money. —Anonymous

 

For Brussels Griffons, one year or more. Have I made a mistake? Yes. —Anonymous

 

I look at puppies at exactly eight weeks. Yes, of course I’ve made mistakes in the 40 years I’ve been breeding dogs. —Marilyn Lande

 

First solid evaluation is at six weeks. In large breeds it can take another eight or nine months to feel comfortable with the decision. The puppies go through miserable growth stages and can come out the other end gorgeous or mud ugly. Anyone who says they haven’t made a mistake in grading a pup is not being truthful. I definitely have made mistakes in grading pups and I have been doing it for over half a century. —Anonymous

 

I can make my first cut at four weeks of age, by then they are steady on their feet and yes, used to stacking. By six weeks I re-evaluate my show prospects seriously and eight weeks they are closest to what they will mature out to be.

Then I don’t scrutinize them again (to evaluate) until about 16 weeks. Their different growth phases will make them look too tall, not enough leg, long-backed and their heads change their stop dissipate, their head balance goes off. So I love, groom and ring train them without being overly critical. Yes, I’ve made a few errors but more of “average” puppy turns stunning then sitting on something that doesn’t pan out. —Judie Posner

 

I’m not one of those breeders who looks at a newborn and decides this one is a Best in Show winner. I start to evaluate my Norfolk pups around eight weeks of age and certainly by 12 weeks I’ve decided which I’m selling and which one I’m keeping. The one I’m holding onto I keep evaluating and make my final decision at around seven to eight months. Sure I’ve made mistakes but thankfully not very often. —Anonymous

 

Normally 12 weeks. Have I made mistakes? Not from a structure perspective, but missed on a couple of soft temperaments. 
—Anonymous

 

As the saying goes. “There’s many a slip twixt the cup and the lip.” I make an initial evaluation around eight to ten weeks. Gait and soundness doesn’t change much. Good coat is apparent then. But the fine points of breed type such as head-to-body proportions can change, as late as 8-12 months, especially regarding the stopping of growth. What can look like substantial bone in a pup can end up just being a bigger adult (here I’m talking about the difference between an average champion and a specials quality animal). And to the folks who claim that they can pick the best puppy when it is a wet newborn: if after a half century in a breeding program I don’t have more uniformity than that, I need to stop breeding.

And if you have never made a mistake, you are keeping too many prospects. —Pat Rock

 

Of course I’ve made mistakes! Right now I have a gorgeous pick-of-the-litter male who’s almost eight months old and still has no testicles. Sadly I’ve reached the decision that they’re never going to show up so he’s leaving soon to go into training as a Service Dog. I’ve placed gorgeous pups as show prospects and seen them not turn out to be what I expected and more often, pups I thought would be just pet quality turned out to be incredible examples of our breed. Granted I’ve got better over the years (30+) but I’ll probably still make some wrong calls in the future. —Ginger Corley

 

I look at them (Cavaliers) at eight weeks and then again at six months and then again at 18 months. Yes, I’ve made mistakes but not often. —Anonymous

 

For me, the time frame doesn’t appear to be fixed. Re my present special, Brightwood Elrond of Primavera, and my bitch special, Primavera’s Birthday Barbie, I knew as soon as I removed their sacks. Happily I was right both times. Barbie won three groups, hand multiple placements and even won a rather large specialty. Ronnie went second in a Toy Group when he was 11 months old.

But, in all honesty, the great majority of my puppies cause me to sweat out the process of choosing. And G-d only knows that I make mistakes. Case in point, I kept a puppy because he looked a lot like his Grandmother, another specialty winner of mine. HAHA! He did indeed grow up to be a doppleganger for his mother. Unfortunately, his Granny was a showing fool while her grandson is scared of robins in my backyard!

I wish I could offer an immutable set of parameters for puppy selection. Unfortunately I don’t have one. The best advice I can give is:

1) Learn everything you can about the specifics of whatever breed has stolen your breath away. By the way, don’t even consider become a crazy person like the rest of us breeders unless your heart and soul demand that you do this. I say this because of the laughter, the tears, the disappointments, and the tragedies that you will encounter in this fancy. And you won’t make a lot of money either.

2) Next, learn everything you can about dog movement and structure. These two are inextricably intertwined.

3) Now here’s the tough part, combining type, structure and movement. This can take years but once you’ve done it it’s very very exciting. —Maxine J. Gurin

Usually by eight weeks of age. I make my show picks at six weeks but reserve the right to make my final decision at eight weeks of age. Not really any mistakes. I have let some go that were pick of the litter but I knew they were structurally very good, but for some other reason they were placed. —Anonymous

 

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