Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.
You have done your homework and researched the right breed of dog for you. You have also found a breeder that is reputable, and now you need to figure out how to choose a puppy from a litter.
Choosing a puppy is a very exciting task, but one that should not be taken lightly. The puppy you choose will be a part of your family for a long time, so you want to make sure that you choose the right puppy for you.
There are certain things that you need to look for and consider, when picking from a litter of pups. I will discuss below what you need to know so that you will be confident in finding a puppy that matches you.
Determine Your Lifestyle
Puppies are a huge commitment, and they require a lot of time and patience from you. Depending on the breed you have chosen, that puppy will grow up to be a dog that lives on average 10-15 years. You need to make sure you have the time it takes to spend with your new family member.
The first year of puppy hood can be the hardest and most challenging, especially if you are a first time owner. A puppy will need to be trained, and requires consistency and patience from you.
Certain breeds require more exercise and have higher energy levels that need to be met, and you need to take that into consideration. Some breeds crave human interaction more than others, and do not do well if left alone for long periods of time.
If you are an active person who enjoys being outdoors most of the time, hiking, running, jogging, swimming, cycling, etc., then you will be happier choosing a dog breed that is highly active as well.
If you are the type of person that is not home very often, then you should not get a dog that craves human interaction.
Determining what your lifestyle is, and how a puppy/dog will fit into it, should be your first step in choosing the right puppy for you.
Do You Want Male or Female
Some people know right away if they want a male or female dog, to some it doesn’t matter, they have no preference, and to others it can be a hard decision.
There is little difference between a male and female when they are puppies, they are equally lively and playful. Size is really the only difference at this stage, male puppies are slightly larger than females of the same litter.
Puppies don’t stay puppies for long, and you need to consider the differences between male and female.
Differences can be more noticeable when males and females reach their sexual maturity. An un-neutered male will tend to roam and run off, and an un-spayed female will come into heat. You may choose to neuter your male dog, or spay your female dog, and the cost of these procedures will differ in price. Female spaying is generally more expensive, and it is more invasive.
Female dogs mature faster than male dogs, and many people say male dogs are more hyper-active than females, and are harder to train. This is a generalization, and could be different among breeds.
Some people choose the gender of their dog based on size. A female dog will be smaller than that of a male dog in the same litter.
I have heard the saying that female dogs are more independent than males, and that males tend to be more affectionate. Again, this is a generalization, and could be a myth.
Many dog owners have a natural preference for either a male or female, and this can be based on their past experience, or their perception of the temperament of male and female dogs. Preference for one gender over the other can be based on appearance, or sometimes for reasons that can’t be explained.
When it came time to choosing between a male or female dog, I chose a female. You can read some of my reasons in the following article. Male vs Female Golden Retriever
Visit The Breeder and Parents of Puppies
When you have found a reputable breeder, it is very important to visit before you even choose a puppy. You want to see where the puppies are living, how they are taken care of, and meet the parents of the puppies.
A reputable breeder will be happy to welcome you to see the puppies surroundings, and to show you around. This is your chance to meet with the breeder and ask questions, and see firsthand how their dogs and puppies are being handled.
A good breeder will be very knowledgeable about the breed, and should know all the standards and temperament of the breed. The first visit with the breeder will be a chance for them to ask you questions about yourself, and your lifestyle. A good breeder wants to make sure that their puppies are placed into loving and responsible environments.
Spend some time with the parents of the puppies. Check their health and temperament, and see if they are happy and healthy. The personality of the parents will determine how your puppy will develop once grown.
Ask The Breeder Any Questions You Have
How long have you been breeding this particular breed?
A good reputable breeder will have several years of experience breeding dogs, and will have many references, and will not hesitate to give them to you.
Are you a member of a breed club?
(examples are American Kennel Club, Canadian Kennel Club)
What is the health history of the puppies parents?
You will want to know whether the parents have been tested for common diseases that are associated with their breed, and you will want to ask about any genetic diseases that are prevalent in the breed. An example would be if you are getting a Golden Retriever, you will want to know if the mother and father have been tested and cleared for Hip and Elbow Dysplasia, which is common in that breed.
What is the temperament and characteristics of the breed?
The breeder should be able to list several characteristics of the particular breed, and will be able to tell you if this breed is good with children, seniors, other animals, etc. They will be able to tell if this breed is a match to your lifestyle.
Will the puppies be examined by a Vet before they leave?
Puppies need to be examined by a vet before they leave the breeder. They will need to be dewormed, and vaccinated at certain intervals in order to prevent being at risk of contracting life threatening illnesses. The breeder should give you the puppies medical record as proof of getting all necessary vaccines and dewormings.
Do you offer a health guarantee?
A good breeder will offer a health guarantee on their puppies, and the guarantee should ensure that the puppy is in good health, and it should offer reasonable terms in the case of a genetic disorder.
A responsible breeder will often help the owners when their puppy becomes ill, and may offer a replacement or refund if the puppy dies, or must be put down.
Is there a return policy/refund?
The breeder will have a contract for you to sign, which protects the buyer, breeder and the puppy. A good breeder wants what is best for their puppies and dogs, and will often have a return policy in their contract, so that if the owner for any reason can no longer keep or take care of the puppy the breeder will take the puppy back.
At what age can I take the puppy home?
The most common age for a puppy to go home with their new owner is at 7 to 8 weeks. This age is the most important time in a puppy’s development, and is called the formative period. This is the best time for you to create a strong bond with your puppy.
The Different Personalities Within a Litter of Pups
When it comes time to choosing your puppy from a litter, you will want to take your time and watch each puppy closely, to see how they play with each other and how they act.
Each puppy has a different personality that can be judged in the early weeks, and the personalities that puppies show will be signs of what their future personality and temperament will be like.
The following are the different personality types of puppies:
The Boss Puppy
This puppy will likely be the largest puppy of the litter, and may already show signs of being the alpha puppy in the group. This puppy will push the other puppies out of the way in order to get food, and will instigate games and play fighting.
The boss puppy will likely be the puppy that is trying to climb out of the enclosure to escape. This shows determination, intelligence and will power.
This puppy will likely grow up to be a bold and outgoing dog, and will need a confident and experienced owner, that has time to challenge this puppy.
The Rebel Puppy
The rebel is a quick thinking, energetic and fun-loving puppy. Just as playful and full of energy like the boss puppy, but more sensitive and less aggressive.
Rebel puppies turn out to be personable, without being stubborn or headstrong. They make a good match for active owners, or families with children.
The Independent Thinker
This type of puppy can be seen interacting and playing with the rest of the litter, and also happily playing with a toy on its own.
A puppy with this personality would be suitable for a calm and stable environment, possibly a good match for older owners without children.
Eager To Please Puppy
Always happy and excited, the eager to please puppy will be the one that is trying to get your attention.
This puppy is one that is fun to be around, and can be easily trained. These puppies are wonderful companions, but will require an owner willing to train and give direction.
The Relaxed Puppy
This puppy will simply do what it wants when it wants, and likes to balance sleep, interaction and play. Puppies with this personality are often less intelligent than their other active siblings, and require some creative motivation from their owners.
This puppy would be suitable for a relaxed home environment, and are not very ideal for the type of owner that is controlling.
The Runt of the Litter
Not every litter will have a runt, but this puppy is the smallest one of the litter. This puppy needs special care and attention to make sure it gets enough food. This puppy is often pushed out of the way and left out by the other puppies.
The runt is the smallest puppy of the litter, but that doesn’t mean it is the most submissive. Runts have to fight for their food, and learn how to protect themselves, this puppy could grow up to be the most outgoing, and dominant puppy in the group.
The Shy Timid One
This puppy will be the one that keeps away from the rest of the litter, and will watch from a distance. When the rest of the litter comes to you, the shy timid one will be the puppy that is fearful and might be hiding in the corner.
A shy puppy might appear to be sweet and sensitive, but they will need a lot of time and patience in order to boost their self-esteem and get them comfortable around others.
This puppy is more suitable for single owners who have the amount of time needed to give them training and attention. Probably not suitable for families with children.
How To Choose The Right Puppy
After you have observed the puppies, some of these different personalities may seem obvious to you, but some may be harder to spot. If you have a personality type that you really want then talk to the breeder, as they will have a better understanding of what the puppies are like.
Most families will do best with a puppy that is not too bossy, and not too shy. Look for a puppy that is somewhere in the middle, a happy good-natured puppy that comes up to you with excitement.
Handle The Puppies
Make sure to interact and play with each puppy to see how they respond to you. Pick up each puppy and hold them in your arms, cradling them like a baby.
If the puppy tries to wiggle its way out of your arms, that is a sign that the puppy is more dominant, and more of an independent thinker. A puppy that is relaxed in your arms is more easygoing and submissive.
Another test you can do to determine whether the puppy is more dominant or submissive is by holding the puppy in the air and looking into their eyes. If the puppy tries to wiggle and move around and look away, it is more dominant and independent thinking, and an easygoing submissive puppy will look at you and not move around.
Touch the puppies on the paws, ears and mouth to see how they react. Puppies that have been handled from an early age will not mind being touched.
Try calling the puppy to you by snapping your fingers, to get the puppy’s attention. A puppy that comes to you quickly might be an eager to please puppy, and a puppy that doesn’t come to you right away and gets distracted, might be an independent thinker.
The Puppy Should Be Healthy
Be sure to look at each puppy to check their overall appearance and health. Puppies should have clear, bright eyes, with no discharge. Their ears, teeth and gums should be clean as well. There should be no discharge coming from the puppy’s nose, and a puppy should not be sneezing or coughing.
The puppy’s coat should be clean, and shiny. There should be no bald spots, or red irritated areas.
A healthy puppy will have a sturdy body, not too skinny and not fat either. The puppy should have a playful energetic behavior. Playfulness has a lot to do with personality, and each puppy will be different, but a puppy that shows no interest in you, or its surroundings may be sick.
Check the puppy’s hearing by clapping your hands, or dropping something on the ground behind them to see if they react. Do a vision test by putting a toy, or treat on the ground near them, and make sure that they can see it and find it.
You’ve Made A Choice
Hooray, you have chosen your puppy from a litter. When you first see all the puppies, it can be a hard decision, especially when they all look alike. But when you take the time to observe and handle each one and talk to the breeder to determine the right puppy for you, it is very exciting and you should now be feeling confident in your choice.
How About You
I hope you have learned a lot from this article, and you are well-informed in choosing the right puppy for you. Have you picked your puppy from a litter? What personality type did you choose? I would love to hear from you, please leave a comment below.