What to look for in a show puppy? - Havanese Forum : Havanese Forums
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post #1 of 27 (permalink) Old 02-28-2020, 05:39 PM Thread Starter
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What to look for in a show puppy?

How can people tell the show potential of a havanese when its a puppy? What do people look for? What is the best age to be able to tell traits?
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post #2 of 27 (permalink) Old 02-28-2020, 06:48 PM
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How can people tell the show potential of a havanese when its a puppy? What do people look for? What is the best age to be able to tell traits?
The best thing you can do is to find an excellent breeder to mentor you, and TELL them that you are interested in showing. Ask them to help you pick a puppy with show potential. Be aware that just because a puppy looks good at 8-12 weeks does NOT mean that it will for sure mature into a show puppy. Sometimes a contract can be written so that a puppy can be returned if it can not be shown for one reason or another. But you need to be steel-hearted and prepared to do that. Bites DO go off, puppies DO get too big or stay too small, legs that looked straight at 8 weeks can become terribly cow hocked by 6 months. None of those things would make a puppy ineligible as a pet puppy, but they would keep them out of the show ring. There are no guarantees.

I was lucky that when I picked Panda out of her litter, and told her breeder that she was the best puppy in the litter (not even knowing at the time that she would become mine!) that she ended up living up to her potential. But I took her as a performance prospect and was pretty darned sure she could do that job. It was icing on the cake for me that she has ALSO been an awesome little show dog. If she hadn't been it would not have been a huge disappointment.

I have an acquaintance who has tried very hard to find a potential show/breeding prospect. She bought two puppies on her own, without knowing enough, fell in love with them, but then learned enough to realize that they were not god enough quality, so they became her spayed pets. Realizing she could not continue to collect pets if she really wanted to breed, she bought two more pups from excellent breeders (not at the same time; one after the other) and had to make the heart-wrenching decision to return each when it became apparent that they would not have the qualities needed. She is now raising a third puppy, ALSO from an excellent breeder, and I have every finger and every toe crossed for her that this one works out. But this is NOT an unusual string of bad luck. This is a pretty common occurrence when someone gets started with breed showing, unless you have a really strong mentor who can take you under their wing.

The likelihood of going out and figuring it out on your own is much, MUCH lower.
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post #3 of 27 (permalink) Old 02-29-2020, 05:11 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks for responding! Yes I will be working with a breeder. I just wanted to have a little knowledge going into it. Im meeting with a few breeders to decide and one of them mentioned that the show world can be quite competitive and some unethical breeders actually sell you a show pup that they know is not going it win anything, so that they can put their real show pups against you and win. After hearing that I want to have a little background knowledge so I can hopefully tell if I am being duped! Also it would just be nice to have. How did you pick Panda? What was it that drew you to her?
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post #4 of 27 (permalink) Old 02-29-2020, 10:06 AM
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Thanks for responding! Yes I will be working with a breeder. I just wanted to have a little knowledge going into it. Im meeting with a few breeders to decide and one of them mentioned that the show world can be quite competitive and some unethical breeders actually sell you a show pup that they know is not going it win anything, so that they can put their real show pups against you and win. After hearing that I want to have a little background knowledge so I can hopefully tell if I am being duped! Also it would just be nice to have. How did you pick Panda? What was it that drew you to her?
I was asked to temperament test the litter for a friend. I was NOT looking for a puppy... I already had an 8 month old puppy. When you do temperament testing, you have never seen the puppies before, and they are sent into the room to you one at a time. Panda was the first puppy sent in. The first test requires the tester to be quiet and not engage with the puppy for two minutes while the puppy explores the space. You are looking to see how the puppy "settles" in a strange space, whether they fairly quickly become comfortable and start to explore, etc. Then after scoring that segment, you start to interact with the puppy and continue to other testing.

Well. Panda was completely unscorable on THAT segment of the test. She walked into the room on her hind legs, spotted me and the person scribing for me (we both tried not to giggle and avoided eye contact) and spent the ENTIRE two minutes doing her absolute BEST to get our attention!!! I have NEVER seen a puppy do that, before or since! Otherwise, she aced the rest of the temperament testing.

She was bold, people-oriented, food and toy motivated, recovered appropriately from startle responses. She also was beautifully balanced, (she stacked naturally) with nice, straight legs, what you could see of her bite at that age (7 weeks) looked good, and she had a beautiful head and (although this is not strictly necessary, it was a plus for me) very nice markings.

I was NOT looking for a puppy, though. When we got done testing all the puppies, I told her breeder that IMO she was the "pick" puppy in the litter. She said that she was sending the puppy to a show home across the country. I was shocked! I asked why she wasn't keeping her for herself, and she said that with two intact males in the house, she just didn't want to keep a bitch. I could understand that, so let it go. She was keeping two boys, one which I liked, and did go on to become a champion, and another who is a nice performance boy, as she planned. Then two days later, she called me to say she had talked to the people she had originally planned to send Panda to (that was not her litter name) and told them that she had changed her mind, and decided to keep her. "No pressure", she said, "But if you want her, you can have her." So we co-owned her for the first year, and now she is mine.

But as I said in my previous post MANY things could have gone wrong along the way. I worked hard on her training, and on her coat and keeping he in good physical shape, but there was a lot of luck involved too.

She has a number of perfomance titles, and finished her championship last weekend with a second 5 point major.

If you are not already involved with Havanese, I advise you to go slowly and carefully. Get involved with your local breed group. GO to meetings. Get to know people. Get to know who you feel comfortable with. Ask the local people you come to trust to teach you about conformation. Put you hands on a lot of adult dogs and a lot of puppies. This is NOT something you can learn from a forum, or even a book It takes a lot of study, and a lot of hands-on learning.

I would NOT feel confident going out and picking a show prospect puppy with any certainty, even with 10 years of Havanese and one champion behind me. IF I were going to look SPECIFICALLY for a show prospect, I would still do EXACTLY what I am advising you to do. I would use my own knowledge, yes, but I would also be working with a breeder I really trusted, and listening to their input too. I would probably also be asking for the input of a couple of other trusted breeder friends for their input on any puppy I was really interested in.

You should also understand that you can finish a dog even WITH faults if you put them with the right handler and they are groomed and presented properly, and shown strategically, to the right judges against the right competition. A lot of AKC showing is a big "game". It can be fun and kind of a rush to dabble in it, but you should go into it with your eyes wide open.


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post #5 of 27 (permalink) Old 02-29-2020, 10:57 AM Thread Starter
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Thanks! Yes I do have Havanese experience (6 years) but no show experience. Im not as concerned about my ability to pick a dog with good temperament (Ive dealt with so many rescues and fosters and dogs of my own I have a pretty good sense of how to tell temperament). I was more curious about physical traits. That is interesting that they can stack naturally at a young age. Ive heard of people soaping legs and doing other things like that to tell other traits.
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post #6 of 27 (permalink) Old 02-29-2020, 11:54 AM
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For every person who enjoys conformation competition, I can show you 10 who hate it and left it. It is very political, subjective, and frustrating. Although I have never shown Ricky in conformation, his previous owner did show him at the Havanese National Specialty when he was 6 months old and won several other conformation competitions. He placed in the top 5 nationally. I was given 6 ribbons he won. By age 9 months, he developed physical traits that made him ineligible for conformation showing. He became available to me at that time. It was my good fortune. Today Ricky is a happy, healthy dog and we compete in obedience where he does quite well and has a title.

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post #7 of 27 (permalink) Old 02-29-2020, 12:55 PM
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Thanks! Yes I do have Havanese experience (6 years) but no show experience. Im not as concerned about my ability to pick a dog with good temperament (Ive dealt with so many rescues and fosters and dogs of my own I have a pretty good sense of how to tell temperament). I was more curious about physical traits. That is interesting that they can stack naturally at a young age. Ive heard of people soaping legs and doing other things like that to tell other traits.
Please remember that the disposition of a rescue dog has NOTHING to do with the temperament of an infant puppy. Two completely different animals.

As far as Soaping... Absolutely. I would never buy a puppy without soaping first. But if you don't know how to assess the conformation of a soaped puppy, where does that get you? You can go to the Starborn Havanese website to see a bunch of good examples of straight legs in soaped Havanese. This should be a bottom line.

I am mostly interested in sports, and would not buy a dog who DIDN'T have straight legs, because it would compromise their athletic ability. Forget about its show quality. But that can change... A dog that is straight at 8 weeks COULD toe out or be cow hocked at 6 months. It happens.

But it has also been my experience that the puppies that are likely to STAY the most balanced are likely to "plonk" onto the table in a proper stack without any sort of manipulation at 8 weeks. They will just stop in a balanced stack as they move across the floor. Those are the puppies to keep your eye on, IMO.

Here are Panda's 8 week soaps. She was very balanced and straight, with a lovely head even at that age. We soaped her again at 8 months, 1 year and finally at 2 years.
Attached Images
File Type: jpg 2015 12 11 Panda Soaps (21 of 69).jpg (57.2 KB, 5 views)
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File Type: jpg 2015 12 11Panda Soaps (24 of 69).jpg (61.8 KB, 3 views)
File Type: jpg 2015 12 11 Panda Soaps (42 of 69).jpg (44.4 KB, 3 views)
File Type: jpg 2015 12 11 Panda Soaps (33 of 69).jpg (46.3 KB, 4 views)
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post #8 of 27 (permalink) Old 02-29-2020, 01:11 PM
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Originally Posted by Ricky Ricardo View Post
For every person who enjoys conformation competition, I can show you 10 who hate it and left it. It is very political, subjective, and frustrating. Although I have never shown Ricky in conformation, his previous owner did show him at the Havanese National Specialty when he was 6 months old and won several other conformation competitions. He placed in the top 5 nationally. I was given 6 ribbons he won. By age 9 months, he developed physical traits that made him ineligible for conformation showing. He became available to me at that time. It was my good fortune. Today Ricky is a happy, healthy dog and we compete in obedience where he does quite well and has a title.

Ricky's Popi
Yup! Conformation showing was an "add-on" for us. It was not why I took Panda. I wanted to do obedience, rally, and agility with her. (which she does quite ably!) I had shown her a little as a puppy and we had done pretty well owner-handled, but then we got busy with her performance career and didn't go back. Then this last year, I had some physical problems that kept ME out of the performance ring, so I thought, "what the heck!" So I showed her at the smaller shows on carpeting and found a great professional who was willing to handle her at the bigger, but still local shows, which are held on cement floors. These were too tough for my hip, but are where all the big entries are, where you can get the majors needed for a dog to finish.

I was unwilling to put her on the road with a professional. which most pro's want. This gal was perfectly happy to have me drop Panda off with her, show her, and have me take her home again. She understands that, first and foremost, Panda is my "under the desk buddy" and our "bed bug". She was NOT going to live the life of an "on the road, show dog". If that's what it took, she was not going to get her championship.

When I first talked to this pro, and she went over Panda, she felt that she could finish her quite easily that way, and that's what she did! So there was no "grind" for Panda, and no stress involved. She slept at home, or in my hotel bed. (occasionally in a friend's home) I am not passing judgment on people who do it other ways... People do what they feel is best for their dogs and their breeding programs. But this was what was best for me and my PET dog!


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post #9 of 27 (permalink) Old 02-29-2020, 04:38 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Ricky Ricardo View Post
For every person who enjoys conformation competition, I can show you 10 who hate it and left it. It is very political, subjective, and frustrating. Although I have never shown Ricky in conformation, his previous owner did show him at the Havanese National Specialty when he was 6 months old and won several other conformation competitions. He placed in the top 5 nationally. I was given 6 ribbons he won. By age 9 months, he developed physical traits that made him ineligible for conformation showing. He became available to me at that time. It was my good fortune. Today Ricky is a happy, healthy dog and we compete in obedience where he does quite well and has a title.

Ricky's Popi
Yes one breeder mentioned something about puppies getting championship then going on to develop bad traits. I believe the ckc (Im in Canada) just changed the rules so at least 2 points must be obtained after 12 months of age, in order to prevent that.

Out of curiosity what traits did Ricky develop that made him ineligible?
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post #10 of 27 (permalink) Old 02-29-2020, 04:40 PM Thread Starter
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Please remember that the disposition of a rescue dog has NOTHING to do with the temperament of an infant puppy. Two completely different animals.

As far as Soaping... Absolutely. I would never buy a puppy without soaping first. But if you don't know how to assess the conformation of a soaped puppy, where does that get you? You can go to the Starborn Havanese website to see a bunch of good examples of straight legs in soaped Havanese. This should be a bottom line.

I am mostly interested in sports, and would not buy a dog who DIDN'T have straight legs, because it would compromise their athletic ability. Forget about its show quality. But that can change... A dog that is straight at 8 weeks COULD toe out or be cow hocked at 6 months. It happens.

But it has also been my experience that the puppies that are likely to STAY the most balanced are likely to "plonk" onto the table in a proper stack without any sort of manipulation at 8 weeks. They will just stop in a balanced stack as they move across the floor. Those are the puppies to keep your eye on, IMO.

Here are Panda's 8 week soaps. She was very balanced and straight, with a lovely head even at that age. We soaped her again at 8 months, 1 year and finally at 2 years.
Thank you, that is useful! I am also into sport (I do agility with my current havanese). I am looking into breeding though, so conformation will have to be a part of my future. Not my favourite part, Im particularly not interested in dealing with catty, competitive people, but it is what it is!
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