*This post may have affiliate links, which means I may receive commissions if you choose to purchase through links I provide (at no extra cost to you).
How To Pick A Puppy Out Of A Litter
The decision to give a puppy a furever home is a big deal, and should not be taken lightly. After you’ve zeroed in on a breed that suits your lifestyle and found a trustworthy breeder, the final and likely most challenging step in the process is choosing a pup. In this edition of Animal Facts, we’ll look at the factors you’ll need to consider when selecting not just “the pick of the litter,” but your pick of the litter.
Before you visit the puppies or even before they’re born, you should ask the breeder if it is the mother’s first litter with their father. It is a good idea to wait until her third litter with a particular sire. If a pair has produced at least two groups of healthy offspring, they are very likely to continue to make strong babies with agreeable personalities.
Be sure to ask the breeder about the general health of the litter. Listen for red flags such as hesitancy or inability to answer questions. If the breeder is confident, it usually means that the puppies are healthy. It may also be in your best interest to visit the mother before the puppies are born. The mother’s physical and mental health is key to the overall well-being of the litter than that of their father. A frail or weak mom will probably produce a litter of the same constitution, even if the dad is robust.
The next step is to visit the litter as soon as possible. Typically, breeders won’t show a litter until they are about eight weeks old, so make sure you get a spot at the top of the visitation list. Keeping in contact with the breeder before the puppies are born will increase the probability of your getting an early visitation, because you will have built a rapport and shown them that you’re serious about adding one of their pups to your family. Securing a visitation as early as possible will give you a wider selection to choose from and allow you to view the entire litter, as the best pups will go first—and fast.
It’s very easy to become emotionally attached to a soft, wet-nosed snuggle bug even if you know they’re not the one for you. So, it might be a good idea to take a wing-man or woman with you—a trusty, level-headed sidekick who can objectively help you assess the puppies.
First, observe the interaction between the puppies. Unless your lifestyle would be a good fit for an aggressive or shy adult dog, avoid the dominant pup that pushes the others around or the one that cowers in the corner. Look for a puppy with an even-keeled demeanor that will interact with its siblings and you. A pup that is playful, curious, and easy-going is much easier to train than one that is too brash or too timid.
Don’t allow the breeder to downplay aggression or fearfulness in a pup. These characteristics may be hereditary, and if so, there will be very little you can do to change their personality. An aggressive or fearful puppy will likely grow up to be an aggressive or fearful dog.
Next, figure out what puppy personality type is right for you and shift your focus to the pups with that personality. Keep in mind that every dog breed has a set of distinct personality traits.
There are six basic puppy personality types. Ranging from the most dominant to the most submissive they are the bully, the rebel, the independent thinker, the eager to please pup, the, relaxed pup, and the timid pup.
At first glance, the “bully” pup is may appear to be very outgoing and playful, but if you take a closer look you might notice that they play a little rougher than their siblings or that they snatch toys from the other puppies. These little go-getters might even try to climb the walls of the enclosure, or literally walk all over their litter mates. This type of puppy is fearless, intelligent, and stubborn, and although a strong personality is not typically seen as a flaw, it can be a problem if you don’t have the time to properly train or interact with them. Physical and mental stimulation are paramount to the well-being of an assertive puppy. A naturally aggressive pup that is bored or has a lot of pent up energy needs something to do. If you don’t keep them occupied, they will find something to do…and you may not like it. This type is usually not the best fit for a person who is rarely at home or for a family with small children.
The “rebel” is an adventurous, playful, and charming extrovert. They can be assertive, but are rarely, if ever, aggressive. This type of pup is a great match if you have energy to burn, older children, or teens.
A puppy that is sociable and fun-loving, but is also content sitting or playing alone with a toy has an “independent thinker” personality. This type of pup is like a chameleon. It has no problem going with the flow. They’re usually game for whatever the day brings, whether it’s hike, a trip to the beach, or a lazy afternoon in a hammock. These pups do well in a balanced, stable home, perhaps one with older adults or no children.
The “eager to please” pup will get extremely excited when it interacts with you. It may even get excited at the thought of interacting with you. If you make an instant BFF that constantly wags its tail or licks your face, or makes little puddles of joy at your feet, then you’ve probably met a pup that aims to please.
This type hates to be left alone, so be sure you have plenty of time to devote to spend with them. With firm training and positive reinforcement, this canine makes a wonderful family pet.
A “relaxed” puppy may not be as bright or energetic as its litter mates, but it will shine at balancing socializing, playtime and restfulness. This laid-back pup might be the one for you if you’re mature or have young children at home.
Our last type, the “timid” pup, is shy and completely submissive. Instead of walking over to you, this puppy might cautiously “army crawl” on its tummy to get to you. It may even submissively arch its back when you pick it up. A timid pup may steal your heart with its sweet, docile temperament, but this little lump of sugar will need you to be very patient as it becomes more comfortable and confident around people and other animals. This type of pup tends to be more compatible with single people with no children.
Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you can change a pup’s personality. If a pup is a bully or timid, it will almost certainly grow up to be an overly aggressive or shy adult. Ever dated someone you thought you could change, but it didn’t take? Well, it works the same way with pups—they are who they are.
Select a few pups that catch your eye and fit your personality type. Then, evaluate them individually. Pick each one up and hold it in your arms. If it wiggles or whimpers continuously, it may be a sign that it hasn’t been socialized properly. If it struggles a little bit then settles down quickly when it looks at you, then you may have a keeper. Another way to gauge its comfort level is to touch its mouth, paws and ears. A puppy that has been handled properly will have no problem with you touching those areas.
You can also sit or kneel and try to call the puppy to you. Snap your fingers, or pat your thigh to get its attention. If it responds quickly, then it may have a strong affinity for people.
Once you’ve narrowed your choice down to one or two pups, look them over for any apparent health problems. Make sure they’re not over or underweight, and that their eyes and ears are clear, clean, and free of discharge.
Unless they’re a hairless breed, their coat should be thick and shiny. Their teeth and gums should be also be clean. Check their rear end and genital area for redness and pus, both of which are signs of infection. These areas should also be clean and free of dirt and fecal matter.
Observe the pup as it breathes, walks and runs. A physically fit puppy should breathe quietly without coughing or sneezing. Keep an eye out for mucus or discharge in or around the nostrils. Watch how the puppy runs and walks, and take note of any limping, stiffness, or signs of soreness which could indicate hip or joint ailments that could advance as it gets older.
Finally, test the puppy’s jaw control by letting it gently nip at your hands. As it starts to use a little more force, respond with a high-pitched verbal reaction. Ideally, the pup should react in a concerned or apprehensive manner. It is also normal if it briefly stops, then continues to happily munch on your hands.
If your puppy responds properly to people and other pups who are in pain, they are more likely to grow into adult dogs that excellent control over their jaws. Once your dog has mastered jaw control it can engage in a playful romp with another dog without causing serious injury.
Once you’ve selected your new bundle of joy, take it to a reputable veterinarian for a more comprehensive health screening. Be sure to get your puppy’s vaccination and worming records from the breeder before you make the purchase, and bring them to the appointment.