With training, any puppy can grow into a loving and obedient family member and companion. However, many aspects of a puppy's personality, also known as his temperament, will be apparent quite early and stay with him for the rest of his life. Understanding some basics about dogs and their temperaments increase your odds of choosing a puppy with a personality that matches your particular lifestyle; bad behaviors can always change, but temperament generally doesn't.
The Cuddly Type
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 may hint at future trouble and frustration for you and your dog, should you be unprepared or unwilling to deal with behavioral issues. Puppies that cower dramatically from human touch or react with aggression and fear may 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 each puppy. ALWAYS ask questions regarding the particular personality traits of a puppy before bringing him home in order to make the right decision.
What to Look For
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.
By Todd Bowerman
About the Author
Based primarily in Austin, Texas, Todd Bowerman has been working as a writer since 2004. He has provided numerous independent clients with ghostwriting and SEO copywriting services. Bowerman currently serves as editor-in-chief of Button Masher Online. He studied English at DePaul University.