Last week I posted an article on the validity of temperament testing when it comes to choosing a baby puppy. My argument was that it is a waste of time to use a formal test. Following on from that, this article explains that there are many other ways to go about choosing a puppy that is right for you.
Dogs have litters that are sometimes very large. When you see a litter of puppies (even for a seasoned professional) it melts your heart. How do you choose between all of these cute critters? Well, there are a few things you can do to make the choice a little easier.
Ideally, you should visit the puppies as regularly as possible from the time they are born. Understand that in the first few weeks you may not be able to touch them due to maternal protectiveness, and this is OK.
Regular visits are a great opportunity to watch the pups (big time wasters), and socialise them to strange people. Your regular visits will increase your familiarity with the litter, and you will start to get to know each pup.
Spend some time getting to know the litter and the breeder. During this visit talk to the breeder about the pups and their personalities. Talk to the breeder about your expectations and needs for a dog.
Through your discussions with the breeder and observations of the puppies your choice should have been narrowed down. Within the litter there will be more livelier and quieter personalities. Lively puppies tend to do well in a working environment, one where you have time to devote to lots of training, playing and walking. These pups make great competitive obedience/sporting dogs. The quieter pups (not to be confused with shyness) do well in family homes as pets, where time and experience is often limited. They are easy to have inside but may be a little ‘slow’ to pick up and perform new skills.
A litter of six week old pups should greet everyone with joy. At this age fear should not be a factor in their lives at all. When you sit amongst them you should have them crawling all over you, wagging their tails, biting, jumping and wrestling with each other. The puppies should also be kept inside the family home, and as they grow, have daily access to outside.
The puppies should be busy, chewing, playing, eating, wandering. They should smell good (I love the smell of a healthy puppy), have clear eyes and ears, clean rear ends. Watch a feeding session and you will soon see how interested in food they are. They should have healthy appetites.
Food drive– this is probably the most important thing I look for in a puppy. A good breeder will allow you to bring some treats for the puppies. Offer them to determine how food driven the pups are. If your dog loves food it is going to make training so much easier. A good breeder will give their pups all sorts of food to guard against fussiness.
So now you have chosen your pup based on observation and the breeders recommendation. When should you bring your puppy home? I advise people to leave the puppy with it’s siblings for as long as practical. This is of course only if the puppy’s environment is perfect. The kind of socialisation your puppy will get from their siblings, you could not possibly replicate at home.
Stay away from the following…..
Any breeder that does not allow visits.
Puppies living in back yard sheds and runs.
Puppies that are smelly, not to be mistaken for fun stinky. You will know a bad smell when you smell it. It’s a kind of moist, musty stench.
Puppies that cower away from you, or take a long time to recover from a mild fright.
Taking home a puppy under eight weeks of age.
Follow your instincts on choosing a puppy. If something does not feel right, then do not take the puppy. If you bring a puppy home because you feel sorry for it, be prepared for some hard work ahead. Get in touch with your local great trainer and discuss your concerns with the litter with them.
Choosing a puppy is so much fun, enjoy the process, take your time and be picky. You will have this dog for many years and getting off on the right foot will make your life with your dog so much more enjoyable.
Many people do not adopt a dog from a breeder, so, my next article will discuss choosing a puppy or adult dog from a rescue organisation or shelter.