Online matchmaking giant eHarmony has made millions fine-tuning the science of compatibility so that men and women can have an easier go at true love.

Well, I have a method to help you find a little dHarmony — your perfect dog, assuming perfect for you means well-adjusted, playful, affectionate and responsive.

Recently, I got a new puppy: Frankie, a Cardigan Welsh Corgi and the cutest little thing you ever saw.

But I didn't bite based on cute. What pooch isn't cute? No, here's how you do it so you don't end up with the cutest little nightmare you ever laid eyes on:

In our case, we had four puppies to choose from, and the first thing we did was watch the four of them interact with one another to see whether they would peacefully romp and play. They did.

Next, we added toys to the mix to determine whether they would play with the toys and share. That, too, went well — no fighting, no guarding, no growling or bullying. That's what you want to see: dHarmony.

After they played for a while, we tossed a handful of car keys into their play space to startle them and gauge their reaction to the noise. What you want at this stage is dogs showing curiosity rather than standoffishness, nervousness or reluctance.

Two of the pups backed away from the keys while the other two approached, sniffing around and nudging the strange, shiny objects with their tiny paws. Frankie even picked the keys up with his mouth — a great sign!

Now narrowed to two, we administered a quick physical sensitivity test. This test is done in three parts:

One: Grab the pup's tail and pull gently. Observe his reaction. If he looks at you quizzically or becomes playful, you're onto something. If he begins howling like a banshee, keep looking.

Two: Using finger and thumb, press lightly between the pup's toes expanding them outward. Gradually increase the pressure for several seconds until he shows signs of discomfort. If he licks you or tries to turn it into a game, you're in business! If he tries to escape or, worse, wants to turn it into a battle of the wills, beware.

Three: Pull the pup's skin near his rump, gently at first, and then increase the pressure. If he shows no signs of aggression, he's a keeper. If he cowers, assumes a submissive posture or asserts dominant aggression, he's definitely not a dog for small children and you'll have a harder time handling him from the get-go. Be prepared for this.

There are gray areas in between each of the positive and negative reactions described above. For details on the physical sensitivity test, visit unclematty.com or read my book, "I Just Got a Puppy, What Do I Do?"

After the test, we went in for a little more playtime, this time one on one with each of the remaining pups. They both followed us around and were responsive, playful and affectionate, which is exactly what you want in a puppy. At one point, I whimpered in a high-pitched tone, and Frankie cocked his head and came right over. ... That's my boy!

Taking the time to perform these little tests when looking for a new pooch will help you weed out problems from the beginning. They'll also put you in tune with your pup's personality, which is essential to determining the most effective training method.

For most people, getting a puppy is an emotional move, rather than a realistic one. By my lights, there's no reason it can't be both.

Woof!


Dog trainer Matthew "Uncle Matty" Margolis is co-author of 18 books about dogs, a behaviorist, a popular radio and television guest, and host of the PBS series "WOOF! It's a Dog's Life!" Send your questions to [email protected] or by mail to Uncle Matty at P.O. Box 3300, Diamond Springs, CA 95619.


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