For all our new owners, we spend a lot of time interacting with our puppies and learning their personalities, so that we can match them to their new families in the best way we can. In addition, for the show person and the breeder, we've completed a survey that details how we go about evaluating puppies for conformation purposes:

1. When do you start evaluating?

We start at birth. As they’re born, we hold each pup in our hand and get a sense of how well they fill the hand. From day one on, we watch them as they lie together and as they’re nursing, comparing length of body, length of tail, ribspring, and as they nurse we watch to see which pups are strong and wide behind and which pups bend their hocks inward as they nurse. We mark down which pups look strongest at this age and keep track as they grow.

2. What are the things you look for as you’re evaluating your pups? What things do you think you can tell when they’re pups and what things do you feel you can’t judge?

In the first days,we look at neck length, length of body, shoulder angulation, width in the front and rear, rear angulation, width across the hips and spring of rib. As they grow and start to walk, we start watching how what we first felt is being used as they motor around the whelping box, how their angulation looks when they stop and stand for just a minute, comparing one pup to another in the litter. They begin to show neck carriage at that point, too. We continue this on a daily basis, sitting and watching them as they play after they go outside. Here we start watching fronts and rears for width and strength, as well as looking at ear size and carriage. We also look at eye color now. We watch to see what pups look most balanced, and begin to see temperament in action, with each other and with us.

Can judge: We think we can judge things like angulation fore and aft, spring of rib, soundness, length of body, length of neck and how it’s set into the shoulders, earset, and overall balance and solidity. We can judge side movement fairly well--one of us trots with the pups as the other one evaluates, and we can see those pups that show balance and reach and drive.

Can’t Judge: We believe it’s difficult to predict whether tails are going to curl, ultimate ear size, and what the head will develop into. Coats, too, can be unpredictable--usually a hard coat is obvious, but often a softer puppy coat can turn into a very acceptable adult coat.

3. Do you take photos as they grow? Definitely.

4. If so, when do you start?

We do 4, 6, and 8 week photos as a minimum. We like to start at 4 weeks to get first impressions and to get them accustomed to being up on the table. Sometimes they come out well--sometimes we take a photo of a pup lying down!! We feel we can see width in the front and rear, body length, and get a sense of balance at 4 weeks. By 6 weeks, we can see more--rear soundness, a bit more about front soundness, beginning to see neck length and set, and more in terms of shoulder & rear angulation. By 8 weeks, we’re making our final evaluation. We feel this is the time we see a snapshot of what the pup will look like as an adult. Rears should be wide and strong, fronts beginning to show strength in the pasterns and looking true. Shoulders and rear angulation is (should be) more obvious. It’s important here to say that there should be 2 or 3 shots from the side to give a good picture of the pup’s overall balance and angulation.

5. When do you make your decisions?

We have a good idea by 6 to 7 weeks, and our final decisions are made at 8 weeks. Of course, we are studying pups every day in addition to taking photos.

6. How successful do you feel you’ve been in your selections?

We feel that we’ve developed the ability to predict successfully what our puppies are going to turn out like, given the proper nutrition and exercise. No puppy can develop into what they have potential for without that.