With training, any puppy can grow into a loving and obedient family member and companion. However, a puppy’s personality, also known as his temperament, will stay with him for the rest of his life. It’s important to find a puppy with a personality that matches your lifestyle and your family’s needs; bad behaviors can always change, but personality generally cannot. Understanding some basics about dogs and their temperaments is a big help when purchasing or rescuing a puppy.
If you’re the type of person who likes lazing about the house and snuggling up with a good book, an affection-positive puppy is a solid fit. This is also true for families with children, as loving, lazy dogs tend to focus more on snoozing and snuggling than on tearing around the house wreaking havoc. Puppies are by nature energetic, but those with naturally calm personalities will be easy to spot. It’s worth noting that some breeds are more likely to enjoy affectionate attention than others.
Some dogs are fun-loving and energetic and require a lifestyle that matches. Social dogs want to hang out with their owners and other dogs; if you adopt a social puppy and leave him home for hours at a time, his energy will eventually get the better of him and you’ll lose a few pairs of shoes or a couch. Social, high-energy dogs require strict routines, strong obedience training and plenty of patience, along with an owner or family ready to take them on adventures and keep them exercised.
Large puppies that are exploding with energy or puppies of working breeds can be a real handful if your family isn’t ready for the challenge. Working dogs like border collies, German shepherds and Malinois will require considerable exercise and training to ensure their energy is expended in a positive manner. Working dogs aren’t as social as others and tend to focus more on tasks, so don’t expect to bring your GSD to the dog park and have him do all the work. Remember: Smarter, more motivated dogs are more challenging to raise.
Some obvious personality traits hint at future trouble and frustration for you and your dog. Puppies that cower dramatically from human touch or react with aggression and fear will need special treatment and are not appropriate for a home with children. The same can be said for dogs that respond to other dogs with aggression. The rescue organization or breeder should be able to clue you in on the various personalities on display in any particular group of puppies. Problem behaviors can be fixed, but it’s a tall task.
Every puppy is different, and even those with severe emotional trauma can, through affection and positive reinforcement, come out of their shells. That being said, there are some clear indicators of a healthy, happy pup that you can use as a basic guideline. Puppies that react warmly to affection, hold their tails high and lick your hands when picked up are showing positive emotional traits. Be sure to give yourself several chances to visit with a puppy before adoption — some dogs have off days, and moods can shift from one day to the next.
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