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God gave us two ends - one to sit on and one to think with. Success depends on which one we use!

By Kathy V. Moll
Deep River Collies

We've been looking at our collie puppies daily since birth and have probably gotten attached to a favorite. However, don't allow your heart to overrule common sense. If you are inexperienced at puppy selection, ask for help from folks you know and trust who have experience. If you have a mentor, that's the place to start. Take the observations of others as constructive criticism and use it to your advantage.

Next, look at all of your data, including aptitude test scores, structural evaluation results and observations about head properties and expression. Commit the Collie Standard to memory. Make a list of virtues you can't live without and a list of faults you cannot tolerate. Watch the puppies play and run around the yard as often as you can and see who stands out to you.

In a really topnotch litter, there should be more than one quality puppy. "Pick puppy" is often very subjective. How you make your selection may also be based on what you need at this point in your exhibiting career or at this juncture in your breeding program. If your goal is to establish a line with a particular "look," then your selection may be different than the one you'd make if you were looking for the puppy who may be easiest to finish.

The age at which to choose your puppy depends on a number of variables. If you know your line well, then you may be able to select as early as 10 weeks. If you're new to selection, then you may want to grow your two favorites out until 4 to 6 months. Keeping littermates can be tricky. They may play together, but give both plenty of alone time with you so that they will not bond with each other more than they bond with you.

Matching the remaining puppies to suitable homes is an important obligation as well, so be selective. Pets may be ready for new homes by 8 to 9 weeks. My personal belief is that a spay/neuter agreement for family pets is the responsible way to go. Fenced yards and indoor time are important to me as well. You may be fortunate enough to have a show home or two waiting for a quality puppy. Rule of thumb - if you couldn't finish what you're selling yourself, don't expect someone else to! Sales contracts, eye check, health record, aptitude test results, and pedigree should all accompany the puppy to his/her new home.

Begin leash training at 8 to 10 weeks. A jewelry link chain collar and a thin snap on leash are my preferences. I use a treat held in my leash (left) hand to encourage the puppy along. This is the "donkey/carrot" method and works like a charm. Reward with a tiny piece of the treat, frequently at first, decreasing as the puppy catches on. Sometimes the puppy will resist the leash. Simply stand your ground and let the puppy work it out. As soon as he approaches you, reward him with praise and a treat. Usually after two short training sessions, your puppy will offer no more resistance.

Teaching the puppy to stand and show is also a simple process. Your puppy will probably want to jump on you when you begin. Gently push the puppy down and reward with a small treat and praise when the puppy is standing on all fours. Associate your show word such as "cookie" or "show" with the training. Teach the puppy that this means stand still, and back from you with ears alert. Use body language along with correction and praise. Timing is very important. Never give the puppy at treat when he is jumping, creeping up on you or when he is not using ears. Always reward when the puppy is doing what you want him to do.

If you have show handling classes close by, start taking your puppy as soon as the class will accept him. Sometimes you can find generic puppy socialization classes; they can also be helpful. Take your puppy on short car rides and allow him to see new places and meet new people. Puppy matches are great training grounds to get your pup ring ready. Take advantage of all the resources available to you.

Meanwhile, continue your puppy's table training. Put him on the grooming table frequently. Give him a good brushing, trim his nails, trim his feet, check his teeth, clean his ears, and trim a few whiskers to get him accustomed to the process. Reward him with praise and tidbits when he's behaving on the table. Don't take "no" for an answer if the puppy resists. He needs to accept you as the pack leader. Keep the sessions short and end on a positive note.

Next time we'll introduce our young hopeful to the world of dog shows. Do your homework, and this next part will be enjoyable for you and your puppy!

Kathy Moll of Deep River Collies has been breeding Collies since 1974. She has owned or bred between 70 and 80 collie conformation champions, approximately 30 to 40 in each variety. She also earned the Collie Club of America Presidential Award for Smooth Collie Breeder of the Year for 1998 and was tied for the same award for Rough Collie Breeder of the Year in 1999.