Choosing a puppy is easier said than done! These tips will help you make the best decision for you and your family.
You did your research and decided on the right breed for your lifestyle. You settled on a reputable breeder, and reserved a puppy from the next litter. Now comes the hard part — choosing the right puppy for you and your family! Who can resist an armful of plump and wriggly puppy, that melting wide-eyed look and wonderful puppy breath? But don’t be swayed by your emotions; make a clear plan with the following tips.
1. Visit the litter
Visiting very young puppies is really pointless as they will all look like well-fed little sausages. Only colour and markings will be evident, irrelevant for a family pet. The puppies’ immune systems are poorly developed at this early age, and strangers may unknowingly bring disease, so a reputable breeder will not allow any close interaction between you and the litter. The dam (mother) may be upset by a visit from a stranger when her puppies are very young, so control your impatience until the puppies are older – about seven to eight weeks.
It’s a red flag if a breeder refuses to allow you any access. Maybe there is a legitimate reason such as health issues in the home, canine or human, but you need to find out. Be cautious if the breeder suggests that she picks a puppy for you, or sends you photographs instead. These are only reasonable choices if you are physically unable to visit in person. Otherwise, you might want to look elsewhere for your puppy.
2. Watch the puppies
When you do visit the litter, sit on the floor and watch the puppies play and interact with each other and with people. A puppy of seven to eight weeks is already displaying its own personality, but don’t jump to conclusions. The quieter puppy may not be a gentle couch potato – it may be the liveliest one normally, but is tired on the day you visit because of earlier activity.
The puppies should not run and hide from you, nor back off and bark suspiciously. If several appear overly timid and shy, they may not have experienced normal household activity. The breeder should have been socializing the litter to the bustle and noise of an ordinary home.
Heed the advice of the breeder – she has been observing the babies from their first day and will have noted their individual personalities. If she points out one or two puppies that in her opinion would be perfect for you, pay attention. One or more puppies may have been earmarked as potential show prospects for herself or other buyers, so don’t be upset if those are not available for you.
3. Check the puppies
Look closely at each puppy individually. Healthy puppies of all breeds are round but not fat. Eyes should be bright and alert with no discharge, and ears should not smell bad. Coats should be clean and shiny, with no feces around the rear. The puppies should be not be coughing or sneezing or have any nasal discharge, and they should run and play without any limping or stiffness.
4. “The puppy picked ME!”
No, it probably didn’t. There are many reasons why one particular puppy might run up to you, chew on your fingers, play with your shoes, climb into your lap. It may be a little hellion and will grow into an annoying adult, constantly demanding attention. Or it may be more introverted and trying to get away from its siblings because it’s uncomfortable with the excitement and activity caused by your visit.
5. Male or female?
Differences in personality or trainability between the sexes are really minimal in most breeds, particularly if you intend to spay or neuter. Some believe that males are more affectionate and easier to train, while females are more aggressive and protective. There is really little truth to this, so choose whichever individual puppy you have set your heart on.
6. Walking away
If you are not comfortable with the puppies, or the choices that the breeder has offered, make the hard decision to walk away. There will be other litters in the future.
There is no such thing as pick of the litter! Different people will have different picks depending on their circumstances and plans. Some hope for show or performance potential, others for a working dog, and some for the perfect companion and soulmate. Often the best puppy for a family is the middle-of-the-road one – a moderately active, easygoing youngster, neither a bully nor shy. This puppy will usually be easy to train and should adapt happily to your life.