How we evaluate puppies and select puppies for their new families
Evaluating and grading a litter of puppies is a long drawn out and multifaceted process. With each breeding we do we look for something special that will carry on the genetics for the next generation. So we will be looking for a puppy that exceeds or at least matches the quality of it's parents. When doing a breeding, it is more than just a combination of mom and dad's physical and mental attributes of what we see in front of us which is called "phenotype" a combination of observable characteristics. We also need to consider "genotype" which is the set of genes that would be inherited from it's parents and other ancestors. These two base ideas need to be kept in mind during any evaluation. There are characteristics we can expect when doing a breeding that will come from parents and grandparents and so on. A "breeding program" means that over a period of time, selections are made and breedings coordinated to improve (in the breeder's opinion) the characteristics of the offspring.
A show prospect or breeding potential dog must pass all kinds of "tests" to determine if he/she is worthy of being used in a breeding program or enter a show ring. Things that we look for is general conformation, coat texture and amount, how the teeth come in and line up and for boys, do the testicles come down fully. Just how close they come to the written standard is what we need to keep in mind when breeding and judges apply when judging.
There are also things we look for in puppies that go into pet homes. The importance though is based more on personality and trainability. There are also requests from pet homes for certain things like which sex or which colour that come into play as well. Some people will request a male puppy might potentially end up with a female puppy if that seems to be the best match and of course they wish to take that particular puppy. The less definite the request the better but we certainly understand the "look" people are after in their potential companion.
So as you can see it is not real simple. It's like having a baby and wondering if he/she would make it as a super model. Sure it's a cute baby but what happens over the years will determine whether the genetic influences pick up the best or the worst of the traits of the parents and their ancestors.
Every day we look at the puppies and watch as they develop and some days they look particularly good and other days not so much. With personality being so important for both the pet and show prospects that doesn't really develop for many weeks. Both the teeth and testicle issues will be determined after 9-10 weeks at the earliest and more likely 3-4 months. We do understand buyers not wanting to wait that long so we try our best to determine the possible future of a puppy by about 9-10 weeks. Many quality show prospects have ended up in pet homes because we are very particular in our grading.
For the first 2-3 weeks the puppies are long tubular bodies and short little legs and most of what they do is look for the warmth and food that mom provides. Shortly after 2 weeks of age their eyes open. The colouring on most puppies will begin to change, most lightening as they age. Many of the Reds have black mixed in with the red and that tends to fade as they grow and for some you won't see black in the coat at all in a mature adult. The Wild Boars almost appear black or black and tan at birth, they will lighten as well and the base colour with the black will vary in shades of tan, gray or shades of red.
Now there is a predictability of what these puppies will look like, act like and grow into because of the breeding program and the pedigrees and bloodlines we are using. So there shouldn't be a huge difference between one puppy and the next.
In this litter of six puppies, three were Wire Haired and three were Smooth or Short Haired. As the American Kennel Club lists all Dachshunds as one breed with 6 "Varieties" and in the United States those 6 varieties can be interbred. So a Standard Long Haired Dachshund "could be" bred to a Miniature Wire Haired Dachshund. Most breeders do not cross coat or size unless there is something specific they are looking to add to their breeding program. In the development of the miniatures, it was not uncommon to use a small Standard bred to a Mini to bring in some of the attributes of forechest, keel, length of ribbing, coat texture or other factors to the smaller dog who could be lacking in some areas.
Still today mini smooths will be crossed with mini wires to perhaps bring better coat texture to the wire or a more outgoing personality to the smooth. We in Canada can produce smooths in a Wire to Wire breeding and the resulting smooths are registered with the Canadian Kennel Club as a Smooth from a "recessive" gene. If you see the letters of MW at the end of our dogs names that is an indication of it being a Mini Wire. If you see a MS that is a Mini Smooth. Because the American Kennel Club simply refers on the registration that they are a "dachshund" most breeders when registering the puppies will indicate which variety so when looking at pedigrees you will know what is involved behind a dogs genetics.
Here you can see variation of coat between three litter mates. The puppy in the middle has a very tight coat. The puppy to the right has a fuller and softer coat and the puppy to the far left is somewhere in between.
Sometimes puppy selection will come down to coat texture. The softer the coat texture the more facial and body hair the puppy will have. They are adorable puppies and people love them. But keep in mind that is a harder coat to maintain if your going to "hand strip" the coat to maintain a good wire texture. So what most people will do is groom them like you would a pet Schnauzer, just use the clippers and it is quick and easy. The hair will be softer but they will have plenty of character with the fuzzy beard, eye brows and fuzzy legs. Now the puppies with the hard wire coat, what we sometime refer to as "pin wire" have nearly no top coat to begin with.
They almost look like a smooth dachshund, which is exactly what the standard calls for. The beard and furnishings do come in but it takes longer. The good thing is it is well worth the wait as once it comes in it is very easy to maintain.
Here are two puppies with variations on coat. They are littermates which show that there is variation from quite short and tight (or even smooth) to medium in texture right through to show and thick coats from the same breeding. When we brought in genetics from Europe we no longer got smooths in those litters produced by them as Europe cannot cross coats like the US. We have integrated bloodlines from Italy with Marie Lisa Zanmatti - "Zerlina"