How to choose your puppy
So how do you choose your puppy? How do you decide which puppy to buy?
You have decided that the time is right to get a puppy, and you think you know what breed you will have, but what else do you need to think about?
Trying to choose your puppy to buy is often a hard job, but it can be an easy one if one of the litter pulls at your heart strings. Sometimes though, that is the wrong choice of puppy for your family.
This blog is not going to address which breed you should choose; rather it is going to address what you should be looking for in a puppy and the breeder.
Let’s start with you, your family and what you want from your puppy:
Will it fit?
Every family is different and the first thing you have to think about is how your puppy will fit in.
Are you an excitable household with lots of shouting, laughter, running, screaming or are you a very quiet household with only one or two people and very little noise and activity. Or you may be somewhere between these 2 extremes. Do you automatically shout, get angry quickly or are you calm and measured?
Your puppy has to fit in with the household. If you are an excitable family and you bring a hyper, energetic puppy into it, are you going to be able to cope? I know all puppies will be energetic, but some breed specific behaviours will indicate whether that breed is likely to be more demanding than another.
Have you researched the breed and met a number of adult dogs of the breed, not just one or two?
Have you researched your breeders, not just picked the one closest to you?
Let’s look at the breeder
What should you look for when you go and meet the breeder and the puppy?
The first thing is that the breeder will be interviewing you, they will want to know that their puppy is going to someone who is going to look after him, someone who can afford to look after him and is in it for the whole life of the puppy, not just the cute stage. They will need to like you too.
Make sure you see the puppy’s mum at the very least, the father too if you can.
How are either of the dogs with you? You might need to meet the mum away from the puppies as she may be very protective of them. Are they friendly, aloof, ill-mannered, boisterous or scared and really nervous? Some breeds are naturally aloof, but that does not mean they would show any type of aggression. If the mum does show some aggression, then remember the puppies are seeing and learning this behaviour from their mum which will require a lot of help from you right from the start to overcome this.
Ask the breeder about the health certificates the parents should have (your investigations should also show you what is required for that breed). Ask to see them.
What are the puppies being fed and will they send some home with the puppy so that you can keep it on the same food for the first few days?
Ideally, you want to meet your puppy at least twice before you bring him or her home although I appreciate this is not always possible.
Find out what socialisation the breeder has done. Has the puppy been in the car more than once? Has it seen lots of visitors, male, female, children and maybe other dogs they know are safe. What about noises, strange things?
Let’s look at the puppy now.
Whatever you do, unless you know what you are doing, or you have tons of time, patience and are willing to consider the possibility that you may always have a scary dog, do not go for the lone puppy sitting at the back, the one that doesn’t come forward eagerly. It may just be not feeling well or it may be very scared. You will be unable to tell. If this puppy is scared, it will take a great deal of time and effort from you from the very start. It is not an ideal puppy for a family, especially not a first-time owner.
You want a puppy that is happy to see you, has bright eyes, can move freely. Ask the breeder to show you its mouth (you need to know what type of bite the breed should have) because a misaligned jaw can be expensive to fix and you do not want this surprise.
If you watch the puppies play, they will be energetic and noisy and possibly very growly, fighting and grabbing each other. This is normal puppy play and explains why they try to bite you and grab at your feet as you move. Up until you take it home, it is normal and acceptable behaviour but, us humans, do not like it at all.
If the puppies have just been fed or have spent a while playing, they will fall asleep and possibly not want to play, but please be wary of a listless puppy. There could be something wrong.
Let’s look at the environment now.
Some breeders nowadays are doing a lot with their puppy and there will be a variety of toys around, articles hanging off the sides of any play-pen and different surfaces for them to experience. This is a breeder starting off the socialisation for your puppy, trying to let the puppy experience many new things at a time when their vital socialisation window is open.
The area the puppies are in should be relatively clean. With a number of puppies, it is a full-time job keeping them and the area clean and therefore, you might see a wee or poo, which the breeder hasn’t got to yet. Also, if the puppies have just been fed, they could be covered in food, but generally the area and the puppies should be clean. Lots of wee and poo is not a good sign.
What if I like more than one puppy?
I have known a number of people who have gone out to buy one puppy and have come away with two, usually because they are buying the penultimate puppy and they can’t bear to leave one puppy behind all alone. Please try to avoid doing this. It is hard work bringing up two puppies of the same age. You as an owner have to have the time to separate the puppies and train them individually and also together. Yes there is the argument, that they will keep each other company, but unless you work at it, they will have more interest in each other than you. It is not something that I would generally advise. I have seen it done very well, but I have seen far more examples where one of the dogs is rehomed and this usually happens at a critical (growth phase) time too.
For more information on life with more than one puppy, please read my blog on buying more than one puppy.
Once you have your Puppy….
I hope this information has helped you and given you an idea of what to consider when you go to a breeder to choose your puppy.
Once you have your puppy, it is important to understand what growth phases it will go through and when they occur. It will help you understand what is happening to your puppy.
My Puppy Guide contains a short summary of the phases and other vital puppy information. It is FREE and you can download it here.
Thank you and have fun with your puppy.