Based on the response to my Talent and Puppies post, there appears to be quite a bit of anxiety out there over slow maturing puppies.
I'll share my sleepy puppy story with you to give you hope. Mind you, this is just one dog, and yours could be different. Or not.
Cisu was my sleepy puppy.
I imported her from Finland sight unseen. I had "fifth" pick of the girls... that means not much choice at all.
Cisu's puppy test showed the following:
No retrieve or interest in the crumpled paper. No following of the stranger. No tug. Fascinated by a metal grate in the middle of the room. Calm and comfortable when held by a stranger, but not interested in people.
The breeder told me that his impressions of Cisu were more positive, and that he felt she was coming up in quality each day that he observed her. He also told me that puppies from a prior litter were slow to mature, and most did not show much talent for work until after they were finished teething. Indeed, I had seen the puppy testing video from the prior litter, and much of it was abysmal.
I waffled about whether or not to go through with bringing Cisu to the United States - those were not promising test results. On the other hand, what I really needed for my breeding program was a very strong and powerful bitch for schutzhund, and I believed that Cisu's pedigree held a lot of promise for those qualities. She also appeared to be a stable and thoughtful puppy; both qualities I was specifically looking for.
When she arrived, she did not play fetch and she did not tug. I found her personable, but not terribly interested in me over the alternatives.
For the first six months, she could do no schutzhund protection work - she was completely disinterested in playing tug with a stranger (the beginnings of protection). I could train her in obedience with food, but her attention span was quite limited, and her environmental interest was high. She was not a flashy worker, and she did not show any particular interest in becoming one.
I don't know when the change took place, but after a while I found myself with the opposite problem in obedience. Her toy drive kicked in. She was over the top excited to do work with me, but still that did not carry over into Schutzhund. Her interest in protection training remained weak. I was beginning to wonder if my schutzhund prospect was going to end up an expensive and lazy pet.
And then it all came together. It wasn't overnight; it was a gradual process over time. Between the ages of about one and three years of age, she became stronger and stronger, until as a "mature" adult no one would ever know that she had been the sleepy one. Indeed, she had become a powerful and high scoring working dog.
As a brood bitch, many of Cisu's puppies showed a similar pattern. Slowly and over time, they became faster in agility, driven in protection and more focused in obedience. They were not "born" with high drive and natural willingness to work, but they did develop it. Out of 11 puppies, most are titled to very high levels of achievement in their given sports, yet few showed extreme promise at eight weeks of age.
To this day, I'd describe Cisu as downright lazy in the house - her base temperament has not changed. I do think that temperamentally calm dogs often show their working drive more slowly than temperamentally lively dogs. Cisu also continues to have many other interests besides me, but when I ask her to work, she gives 110%. In my book, that's good enough.
Cisu is now nine years old. She showed today, so I taped her Utility run so I could include it in this post. Rather than uploading the entire thing, I've only included the signal exercise - heeling is where you can learn the most about a dog's working drive in obedience. Forgive my five point handler error - I forgot the pattern and went the wrong way.
You can say many things about Cisu's work, but "sleepy"? No, I don't think so.