a Show-Prospect Puppy
Adapted from an article by Leslie Crawley
with the momentous decision of choosing a puppy from a litter,
one thing in particular must be kept in mind. You are looking
for perfection! You may not find it, but that is what you
are looking for. Even the puppy that appears to be nearly
perfect at two months of age can develop something undesirable
in its physical appearance as it grows up.
young pups on for show can be a heart-breaking business with
many disappointments. Selling one you have put much time and
care into, and probably love very much, is not for those who
have a weak constitution. I always think when selling one at
six months of the tremendous amount of pleasure that dog will
give someone else. After all, I am not the only person in the
world who can look after a dog well; and the dog benefits from
being the only one, getting all the love and attention.
There are several obvious pitfalls when picking a puppy and
one of the most common is making up your mind before they are
even born which sex or color you are going to keep. If you want
a good one for yourself, then choose the best regardless.
Moving on from there, you must remember few litters contain
a show dog, let alone a champion. Just because the parents are
champions, or you have used a top stud dog, you don't necessarily
get a top show dog.Temperament is the most essential thing whether
you are evaluating a litter for show or as pets. The most perfect
looking Maltese is useless without being happy and animated.
Good pups of any breed are rarely produced indiscriminately.
Much thought goes into researching the pedigrees of the potential
sire and dam, and then the correct feeding of the dam throughout
pregnancy has a bearing on what the offspring will look like.
Evaluating a group of pups correctly depends entirely on how
well the puppies themselves have been fed, as assessing poorly
weaned or wormy pups is extremely difficult.
Experienced breeders have some idea of which pup has show potential
at birth, just by noticing how short-backed it is, where the
bones are placed, how the head looks, as there is a certain
quality about the best ones even at this stage. From then on,
pups grow in bits and pieces until around eight to eleven weeks.
Watch the pups constantly from the age at which they first begin
to leave the nest for temperament. I have found that it can
often be the lazy one who takes his time to rise to his feet
and come to see what is going on who has the right show temperament,
and not always the first one out of the box as is often quoted.
They do not hang back or hide in a nervous way either. Their
feelings and emotions do not swing the extremes so often, they
are sensible and emotionally stable. If these things are coupled
with an abiding interest in everything and a tail position which
seldom deviates from the vertical, then you have the right temperament.
The pup who always rushes out first and fusses around your feet,
tail wagging in a fast and furious fashion, can be hyperactive
at a later age and difficult to keep weight on. Their emotions
soar from excitement to worry or despondency, being seldom satisfied
by anything for very long, making them a moody and unpredictable
So having assessed the temperament, look for the cobbiest, shortest
looking pup with the heaviest bone and substance -- this is
not necessarily the largest pup by any means. Notice which one
is balanced overall with no part out of proportion to another.
Now stand the puppy on a table, check over the head; is it generally
square-looking when viewed face on? Has it a broad, slightly
rounded skull; deep stop; dark eye; short, strong muzzle with
no sign of narrowness; good bite (although some overbites can
correct)? Look again from the side angle; has it a short muzzle
with a definite stop?
As far as possible, the pup must be perfect for even the smallest
deviation from the standard at this age will be exaggerated
in the adult. Check the lay of shoulder; does the head virtually
sit on top of the shoulders? If so, it will have too short a
neck later on. How straight are the front legs? The slightest
turn at this age is bad news. Is the topline level with a high
set tail; do the hindquarters have the correct amount of angulation;
is the hock short enough? Feel the spring, length and depth
of the ribs. Is the loin short? Are the legs and back both short?
If one is obviously longer than the other, then as an adult
the dog will be incorrectly balanced.
Place the pup on the floor and notice how he moves. Can you
see the elbows moving out from the body when he comes toward
you? If they are noticeably in any way, they are incorrect.
Do the hocks flex well when seen from the side; do they move
too close together when moving away from you? Feel the bone;
does it feel so fine you could snap it like a matchstick? If
so, it is too fine. If it has a thick, rounded feel, that is
If you are examining a male, don't forget to check gently for
both testicles. They can usually be felt by ten weeks, though
some descend later on. Check for missing teeth. Check the texture
and quality of the coat -- generally speaking, the smoother
the coat on the legs at this age, the harsher the coat will
be. However, a completely smooth looking puppy may be too short-coated
when adult, with no eyebrow or whisker at all and a rather thin,
though harsh, topcoat. Neither do you want an over-profuse coat.
Last of all, check the feet. They should be firm, rounded, high-arched
cat feet, not thin and flat.
Now stand back and once more assess the puppy as a whole; don't
just look at the faults or the virtues, but notice what the
overall picture is. Sometimes a fairly serious fault is put
back into perspective when the animal is seen as a whole, and
sometimes a pup with an outstanding virtue such as a good head
does not look right because it is not a well-balanced pup or
has a very poorly made body. Sometimes a rather plain puppy,
without any major faults or virtues, can grow into an outstanding
adult, so it is well running on.
Two other essentials to assess are elusive: style and quality.
They are quite impossible to describe easily, but if a pup "hits"
you as soon as you see it, it has these two qualities whatever
else it lacks.
Having run your pup or pups on, do be objective about them when
they are six months. In my experience, for every three run on,
only one will make the grade, if you are lucky, so if it is
not good enough, sell it as a pet. A poor specimen will not
do you or, if you bought the pup, the breeder any good whatsoever.
Looking at it from another point of view, remember that the
quality and reputation of your breed depends totally on the
quality of the dogs you, the exhibitor, shows.
ANTIC, Fall, 1994
What to Look for
"Show Hopeful" Maltese