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How to find "performance" dogs
Old 12-21-2012, 09:59 PM   #1
murraymonster
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How to find "performance" dogs

Hi! I'm a newbie here, so I apologize if I'm "stepping into something."

I adopted my little man, Murray, from a rescue about 1.5 years ago. He's a little over 3 now. The rescue thought he was a Havanese X... we don't know if he is... we jokingly call him a "Havaweenie" as he has the coat of a Havanese (from those we've met) and some of their looks, but also looks a lot like a wirehair doxie... though you can judge for yourself!

Anyways, we got into dog sports. I currently take obedience & agility classes with Murray and we started trialing in Agility a couple of months ago (we'll never do obedience trials as he is too fearful of touching to do the stand/sit for exam... but I do have a blast doing obedience exercises with him!) We definitely caught the agility bug and it's been an awesome way to build his confidence, do something fun & productive with the Murr, and meet plenty of great people. I'm always drawn to the Havanese that attend the trials... for whatever reason, all of the other 8" jumpers seem to be Havanese if they're not all-american.

Murray definitely likes other dogs, and we've talked about eventually getting a second dog. We're going to wait for at least another 2, likely 3, years, until Murray is a little older to spread out the ages. Our trainer said that even though it's a ways off I should start researching breeders and considering what we'll be looking for.

With the next dog we get, I'd definitely like a dog that would thrive in agility. I don't mean that it has to become a MACH100 dog , but that it would have the health/drive/aptitude to really love it. And whatever dog we get would be just like the Murr, in that it's a pet and companion first and a working dog second. The health I understand comes from responsible breeding, so I get that. But here are my questions:
1. How do you identify breeders that are breeding for performance? Or is that even a thing? (I've seen on some working dog breeds that they identify which dog sports a breeder breeds for)
2. Do you identify this in your initial point of contact with the breeder?
3. How early should you really reach out to a breeder?
4. Is there anything else I should consider?


Thank you so much in advance for your thoughtful comments!
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Old 12-22-2012, 04:58 AM   #2
HalleBerry
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There are plenty of breeders who do both performance and conformation - you might look for one of them. Halle is just a little longer legged - she's 10 1/2" at the shoulder and 12 pounds - which makes her heavy enough for the teeter and she's sturdy as an ox. She LOVES agility - I've really just started obedience training with her and she's almost finished with her AKC grand champion title. I didn't go looking for her specifically, but now I'd want another just like her. She had this attitude when I first met her - she's extremely outgoing, loves everyone and has complete and total confidence. She's a hoot in her agility class - she LOVES to run the course - and what we're doing is slowly channeling that joy.

If I wanted specifically a puppy to do anything - I'd talk to breeders and try to find out who does these things themselves. Anyone who does performance will have a better handle in evaluating a puppy for performance, if that makes sense. While you don't want a puppy now, you can spend this time getting to know a breeder so that they better understand you and what you're looking for when you're ready. Health testing is CRITICAL for performance - you can't jump without sound patellas, hips & elbows. You can't run a course without good vision (CERF). You need a dog with good conformation, so you'll want a breeder who shows.
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Old 12-22-2012, 05:09 AM   #3
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I wanted to do obedience and agility with my dog. When i contacted the breeder I let her know. SHe chose a puppy from the litter that she thought would be well suited (personality and physical). My girl was the most "sturdy" of the litter. She's still too young to start agility but we're having fun doing obedience.

The other option once you've chosen your breed is to talk to other agility people that have that breed and ask what breeder they got the dog from.
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Old 12-22-2012, 08:16 AM   #4
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While Halle's mother doesn't compete, her uncle does - agility, obedience & rally - and it was his trainability that made Halle's litter so attractive to me. Once I saw Halle (at about 6 weeks) I was done for

The people who own Halle's uncle were the people who suggested I look at Halle's litter; I've known them for probably 20 years and they know me to know what it was that I would want.
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Old 12-22-2012, 09:41 AM   #5
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I agree with what Sara and Tuss said. I'd want a breeder who is familiar with, and regularly does temperament testing. Besides a healthy, well conformed, sturdy individual from fully health tested lines, (and preferrably with performance dogs in the family!) you also want an individual with strong play drive, food motivated and people oriented. Temperament testing can give you clues to all of that.

I was specifically looking for a performance dog when I got Kodi. I not only looked for a breeder who had dogs fitting the above criteria, but I also took a trainer with me to assess the puppies and put her "seal odf approval" on the pup I got. Her only admonishment was that if she told me none of the puppies were the "right" pone for me, I had to PROMISE to leave without a puppy... She said too many people asked her to help find the right dog, than fell for a "cute face" in spite of her warnings.

It was really interesting seeing her temperament test the puppies. All of the, with sweet, and all scored extremely well in terms of "pet qualities". But among the three, there were subtle differences to be seen. One was VERY bold and adventurous with great play drive, but had a bit of an independent streak... He was not as "people oriented". Another was a bit distractable (we started referring to him as the "ADD pup") but was the MOST food motivated of the three. The third was also pretty brave and had strong play drive (thou not to the extent of the first) but was VERY people oriented. A quiet "Pup, pup, pup!" was enough for him to break off playing with his sibs and come bounding into your lap!

The trainer explained to me that all 3 of these puppies were eminently trainable, but that you would probably need slightly different approaches for each. The first would probably challenge authority a bit more, but had the high drive you want in an agility dog, and the independence to willingly work away from the handler. The second, though distractable, still had a good "hook" in that he was so food motivated. The third, though not as high drive as the first, had the advantage of innately WANTING to be a "people pleaser". After talking about all 3 pups, the fact that I wanted to do obedience as well as agility and that that "people pleasing" attitude would go a long way toward winning over my less-than-enthusiastic husband i went with the 3rd pup.

Kodi has been everything I wanted him to be and more. He competes successfully in formal obedience, rally and agility. He snuggles with us at home and goes for long, off-leash walks in the woods with us. He's a fantastic competitor AND the perfect pet! He is a touch on the sensitive side, and I have to be very careful to be very encouraging in agility, and not EVER let him think he's made a mistake. (as you no doubt know since you are already doing agility, most "mistakes" are handler errors anyway!). But i can't even show frustration with myself, or he is liable to shut down. So we are taking it slow in agility, and building his confidence without letting him get stressed. He's got his first two novice standard legs in two trials, so he IS doing well there, in spite of a novice handler!!!. OTOH, he is BRILLIANT in the obedience and rally rings, where he is more sure of himself.

Since you seem to have a lot of Havanese competing in your area (we don't around here... Kodi is the only one most of the time in obedience and rally, and there are just a handful who do agility) I'd do what Sara suggested and talk to the people at trials who have dogs you like. Ask who their breeders are, then talk to the breeders and tell them what you are looking for. I can highly recommend my breeder, but it's a long way for you, coming from CA. OTOH, I do know they'e sold puppies to CA, so it's not out of the question.

I've already told my breeder to be on the lookout for the "right" puppy for me in the next couple of years. Just like not every litter is going to have Grand Champion potential puppies, not every litter is going to have a top athlete who also has the perfect mind. I'd rather wait another couple of years for a puppy... Ideally, I'd like Kodi to be working on his UD in obedience, and at least at open in agility before starting another rug rat!. But if she called tomorrow (I'm safe there... She won't have any more puppies until spring!) and said she had the perfect puppy, I'd be lobbying my DH HARD to change the time line. To me, the perfect dog is more important than the perfect timing!
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