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I connected with a PCA-recommended breeder a few weeks ago and learned that she was expecting a litter in mid-November. I filled out an extensive questionnaire and then had a phone conversation with her in which she revealed that she also had a 10 week old puppy, the last of the litter, that she thought would be great for me based on how I answered her questions. She typically holds her puppies until 10-14 weeks old and very much handpicks the owners. Long story short, we are heading to see this puppy and assess whether he is right for us and we are right for him! She has said that if he's not, she will hold a puppy from the litter about to be born. I would really appreciate some advice on how to evaluate this puppy, and what other questions to ask, as we will come home with him if all goes well. I have no real concerns about health as the parents were appropriately tested. I have seen a video of him with his 2 litter mates and a photo.
 

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I am looking for an affectionate but not needy dog who is independent but not to the point of being difficult to train. My husband and I both work from home at the moment. My husband plans to retire at the end of March, and when my office reopens (possibly next fall?) I will still be working 2-3 days/week from home. I have not had a dog as an adult, so I am a novice in many ways. I've been reading a lot, thanks to recommendations from you all, and really like Ian Dunbar's approach---he seems so joyful in his training methods and I want that for my dog.
 

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Oh that's so exciting!

Here's a basic guide from Dr. Dunbar, which you may have already read:


From personal experience, I would say that "bounce-back" is #1. Give a few delighted claps and see what happens. I also like a puppy that naturally follows. Peggy, at 17 months, has never lost this quality. It's very helpful for training. Try trotting away from puppy and see what happens.

Another thing I really liked when we met Peggy was that she went as far from us as possible to potty. We were all sitting in a little circle in the grass, and she toddled away to pee. Not surprisingly, she was the easiest dog I've ever housetrained. Since your puppy will be a little older, I think this is even more important.

Make sure, too, that the puppy looks robust and healthy. No oozing eyes, well groomed, that sort of thing. I'm not sure if this will be possible with covid, but I also asked for a tour so I could see where Peggy was raised and learn more about the breeder's overall process. I needed to know that all her pups and adults—past, present, and future—were well cared for. Dunbar stresses this in his books, but it's worth repeating: You don't want a puppy that's been raised like livestock. Poodles especially should be raised underfoot and very much part of the family.

Will you get to meet the parents? Peggy's dad was independent, clownish, and very easygoing. Her dam took her job as guard poodle very seriously (they live on a farm), but showed no signs of aggression when we approached, even through a fence. Knowing these things from day 1 helped me better understand Peggy.
 

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Your puppy is over the age where they would do these tests, but even so information about Volhard ranking might be useful. Scroll down to see the tests and the explanations of what certain reactions indicate. Choosing Your Puppy (PAT) | Volhard Dog Nutrition
Some breeders do this testing for all pups in a litter. A friend who breeds English Cockers just had a litter and she had all of them tested by the Volhard method at 49 days. Ask if this breeder did so.
 

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Oh that's so exciting!

Here's a basic guide from Dr. Dunbar, which you may have already read:


From personal experience, I would say that "bounce-back" is #1. Give a few delighted claps and see what happens. I also like a puppy that naturally follows. Peggy, at 17 months, has never lost this quality. It's very helpful for training. Try trotting away from puppy and see what happens.

Another thing I really liked when we met Peggy was that she went as far from us as possible to potty. We were all sitting in a little circle in the grass, and she toddled away to pee. Not surprisingly, she was the easiest dog I've ever housetrained. Since your puppy will be a little older, I think this is even more important.

Make sure, too, that the puppy looks robust and healthy. No oozing eyes, well groomed, that sort of thing. I'm not sure if this will be possible with covid, but I also asked for a tour so I could see where Peggy was raised and learn more about the breeder's overall process. I needed to know that all her pups and adults—past, present, and future—were well cared for. Dunbar stresses this in his books, but it's worth repeating: You don't want a puppy that's been raised like livestock. Poodles especially should be raised underfoot and very much part of the family.

Will you get to meet the parents? Peggy's dad was independent, clownish, and very easygoing. Her dam took her job as guard poodle very seriously (they live on a farm), but showed no signs of aggression when we approached, even through a fence. Knowing these things from day 1 helped me better understand Peggy.
I am very excited but want to keep a level head too! Your comments were very helpful. I will be able to meet the puppy’s mom, but the sire is not owned by the breeder. All pups are raised in the house, not kenneled, and she has been breeding since 1987 but in low number of litters. All the puppies are bathed weekly and groomed regularly. The photo of my potential puppy shows a shaved face. I will look again at what Ian Dunbar says about puppy selection. Thanks again!
 

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Your puppy is over the age where they would do these tests, but even so information about Volhard ranking might be useful. Scroll down to see the tests and the explanations of what certain reactions indicate. Choosing Your Puppy (PAT) | Volhard Dog Nutrition
I am fairly sure that the breeder doesn’t do Volhard testing so I will look again at that. Thanks for the reminder.
 

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Thanks again, everyone. This opportunity to get a puppy has fallen through. It turned out that the dam’s test results were not on OFA, the hips have not been done even though she is 4 years old, and there were various other warning signs. Lesson: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. I will say that I am discouraged at seeing breeders seeming to post on OFA selectively, for some of their dogs and not others, and some tests but not others.
 

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It sounds as if you dodged a bullet.
Yes, I feel that way. I am really committed to finding a breeder that is honest about testing and bettering the breed. It just might take longer. I had a very encouraging conversation this morning with another breeder who seems to be doing all the right things. Fingers crossed! It's a learning process and I know I have to be patient.
 
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