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How to Pick Out YOUR Puppy

Updated: Apr 27, 2020

Cute English Cream Golden Retriever Puppies and girl in wagon
English Cream Golden Retriever Puppy wagon

Puppies are adorable. And it's quite possible that Golden Retriever puppies are the most adorable of all. Which makes it pretty difficult, okay, seemingly impossible to pick out the ONE that's right for you and your family.

Picking out a puppy can be overwhelming and even more so if you are trying to do it from 2 states away. People often think that if they meet the puppies that one will 'pick them' somehow. Sometimes that may be the case. However, often the first puppy that runs up and licks your face IS NOT actually the one you want to bring home to your family for a variety of reasons.

At Ross Fork Retrievers, we use a variety of strategies for best match our puppies with their forever families. These strategies can be useful not only for our English Cream Golden Retriever Puppies, but for any other breed or even a potential shelter or rescue dog you may be considering to add to your 'pack.'

We find that there really is no substitute for time spent with the puppies both as a group and individually to really get to know their unique personalities. Our puppies look very similar to each other so we fit each of them with a different colored collar and keep detailed notes on subtle personality differences as they appear. We watch our puppies interact with each other, their mother, our kids, strangers, toys, other animals and the world outside which provides valuable insight. We know who was he first to climb out of the whelping box, who is first in line for food and/or snuggles, who wins at tug-of-war, and who seems to find the most joy stretched out for a puppy nap. We take all these things into consideration in matching our puppies with their families.

By 6 weeks old, the puppies are ready for the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test. This is an empirically validated aptitude test developed specifically for use with puppies to predict future behavioral traits of adult dogs. The Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test (PAT) uses a scoring system from 1-6 and consists of 10 tests. The tests are done consecutively and each is scored separately and interpreted on its own merits. There are no winners or losers, as the entire purpose is to select the right puppy for the right home.

English Cream Golden Retriever Puppy Aptitude Testing
English Cream Golden Retriever Puppy Aptitude Testing

The tests are as follows:

  1. Social Attraction - degree of social attraction to people, confidence or dependence.

  2. Following - willingness to follow a person.

  3. Restraint - degree of dominant or submissive tendency, and ease of handling in difficult situations.

  4. Social Dominance - degree of acceptance of social dominance by a person.

  5. Elevation - degree of accepting dominance while in a position of no control, such as at the veterinarian or groomer.

  6. Retrieving - degree of willingness to do something for you. Together with Social Attraction and Following a key indicator for ease or difficulty in training.

  7. Touch Sensitivity - degree of sensitivity to touch and a key indicator to the type of training equipment required.

  8. Sound Sensitivity - degree of sensitivity to sound, such as loud noises or thunderstorms.

  9. Sight Sensitivity - degree of response to a moving object, such as chasing bicycles, children or squirrels.

  10. Stability - degree of startle response to a strange object.

Check out this link for the full Volhard PAT scoring sheet that we use to score each puppy.

English Cream Golden Retriever Puppy wants to snuggle
Golden Retriever Puppy

Soooo... those puppies that 'pick' their owners in the movies by running up and licking their noses might be cute, but this behavior may indicate a puppy scoring the 1's or 2's on the Volhard test. This indicates strong leadership aspirations which is great for a police dog with a professional trainer, not so great as a family dog after the 'cute' wears off and he or she is running your house.

Something else to be aware of in selecting puppies is timidity. Though they may seem sweet and in need of extra love, timid puppies- puppies who score consistent 5's & 6's- are more likely than their counterparts to run away at the slightest stressor, eat your couch because they are scared you're never coming back home, or even inadvertently bite when frightened.

Typically all of our puppies score in the 3-4 range. This makes sense, since Golden Retrievers tend to be mellow and loving in general. So what do these scores tell us? Read on...

A score of 3 tells us that the pup is outgoing and friendly and will adjust well in situations in which he/she receives regular training and exercise. He/she has flexible temperament that adapts well to different types of environment, provided he/she is handled correctly. A puppy with consistent 3's would likely make an ideal therapy or service dog.

A score of 4 tells us that a pup is an easily controlled, adaptable puppy whose submissive nature will make him continually look to his master for leadership.  This pup is easy to train, reliable with kids and though he/she has less self-confidence than a pup scoring consistent 3's, this makes him/her a high-quality family pet.  A bit less outgoing than a pup scoring in the 3's, this puppy's demeanor is gentle and affectionate.

Once our puppies have been aptitude tested and vet checked, we combine their PAT results with our detailed notes and some glamorous head shots to create individual puppy biographies. See example bios from a previous litter here. These bios are then circulated via email to our puppy parents in order of their 'picks.' We welcome puppy parents to visit our puppies as often as they would like to help with picking. However, if this isn't feasible and a family is stuck between a 2 or 3 different puppies, we are happy to schedule a phone and/or Facetime chat or chats to talk with and about each puppy and share candid photos to help with this decision. Feedback from past puppy parents on this process has been consistently positive. In fact, puppy parents seem to appreciate the objectivity created by being able to compare photos, PAT results, and personality impressions to choose the right puppy for their unique situations.

Please feel free to contact us at Ross Fork Retrievers with any questions on our English Cream Golden Retriever Puppies.

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I picked a lab that was raised to be a family dog And he was wonderful My daughter husband brought home a lab ment to hunt Oh dear he was so much work So I understand the scores you are talking about

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