What breed do I choose?
There is a lot of debate in this field but there are some common factors that one should look for. Some breeds have a stronger drive and work ethic so I tend to stick with the working (herding) and sporting breeds. I also look for a breed that has a double coat (remember I am in Kentucky), good strength and good stamina. Each dog is different and looking at individual traits (which we will discuss later) is much wiser than just picking a dog because of the breed.
What traits make a good search and rescue dog?
When choosing a puppy or adult dog for search and rescue, the primary concerns during candidate screening are the presence of appropriate drives (particularly prey, play and food drives), tractability, temperament, and work ethic.
Choosing a Breeder
Once you have done your research and you have decided which breed is most suited to your lifestyle and expectations, it is time to choose a breeder. You can meet breeders at dog shows, through the local newspaper, or popular dog Magazines, such as The American Kennel Club Gazette, Dog World or Dog Fancy.
Here are some of the criteria you want to follow in selecting a breeder:
• Choose an experienced breeder, one who has had several litters and who knows his breed.
• Choose a breeder who has shown his dogs and has done some winning, which is a fairly good indication that his or her dogs conform to the standard of the breed and will grow up looking like the dogs you saw that attracted you to the breed in the first place.
• Choose a breeder who is using our Puppy Aptitude Test. If he or she hasn’t heard of it, show it to them; avoid one that says “I don’t believe in that.”
• Choose a breeder whose dogs are certified by the applicable registries against breed-related genetic disorders, such as eyes, hips, etc.
• Choose a breeder where you can interact with adult dogs, and get some idea how long they live.
• Choose a breeder where the dogs are well housed and everything is clean.
The majority of breeders today show a great willingness to have their puppies tested, and are interested in the results. It shows them the inherited behaviors of their breeding stock, valuable information for future breeding. The results make it easier for them to place the right puppy into the right home where people will be happy with them. After all, no breeder wants a puppy returned when it's 8 months old and may have been ruined by being improperly brought up.
Whatever you do, don’t try to pick a puppy by having the entire litter together - you will not be able to pick the right one for you. Always interact with a puppy individually, away from its litter mates.
Getting a Dog from a Shelter
Don’t overlook an Animal Shelter as a source for a good dog. Not all dogs wind up in a shelter because they are bad. After that cute puppy stage, when the dog grows up, it may become too much for its owner. Or, there has been a change in the owner’s circumstances forcing him or her into having to give up the dog.
Most of the time these dogs are house-trained and already have some training. If the dog has been properly socialized to people, it will be able to adapt to a new environment. Bonding may take a little longer, but once accomplished, result in a devoted companion.
While you can’t use the entire puppy test, there are some tests that will give you a good indication of what to look for.
1. Restraint - try putting the dog into a down position with some food, and then gently rolling him over and see what happens. If the dog jumps up and runs away or tries to bite you, this is not the dog for you. Rather look for a dog that turns over readily, but squirms around a bit. Apply just enough pressure to keep the dog on its back; ease up if it struggles too much. Intermittent squirming is OK, constant squirming is not OK.
2. Social Dominance - directly after the Restraint Test, if the dog didn’t struggle too much and if you think it’s safe, try sitting the dog and just stroking him, getting your face relatively close to him talking to him softly, to see if he licks you and forgives you for the upside down experience. A dog that wants to get away from you is not a good candidate.
3. Retrieving - crumple up a small piece of paper and show it to the dog. Have him on your left side with your arm around him and throw the paper with your right hand about six feet, encouraging the dog to get it and bring it back. You are looking for a dog that brings the paper back to you.
Guide dog trainers have the greatest faith in this test. A dog that retrieves nearly always works out to be a Guide Dog because it indicates a willingness to work for the owner. Other organizations that use dogs from a shelter, such as those who use dogs to sniff out contraband or drugs, and police departments, place almost sole reliance on this test. They know that if a dog brings back the object, they can train him to do almost anything.
Wherever you get your dog, use the tests that you can do and act accordingly. By the way, it’s not too late to use some of the tests with the dog you already have. It just might explain some of your dog’s behaviors.
The Least You Need to Know
• There are many breeds to choose from and if there is a secret in getting that “perfect puppy”, it is doing your homework.
• A good place to start is “The Complete Dog Book” by the American Kennel Club, which describes in detail the different breeds recognized by that registry.
• Carefully consider the time you have available for the necessary up-keep and exercise the dog requires.
• Don’t get a dog on impulse!
• Use the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test in selecting your dog, whether a puppy or an older dog.