HOW TO: Picking a Puppy that is Right for You!
Picking a puppy is an incredible and exciting event! My goal is to help you choose the right dog for you. Believe it or not, there are a lot of potential pitfalls when choosing a dog.
As a professional dog trainer, I often see clients that choose either the wrong breed or the wrong dog for their lifestyle and I want to steer you in the right direction. This article is focused on helping you pick out the puppy that is right for you. Some of the same thinking can also be applied to adopting an adult dog.
Picking a Puppy - Choose the Right Breed
The first thing you need to do to start your puppy search is evaluate what you want out of a dog. Do you want a protective dog that will help guard the house? Are you looking for a hiking buddy? Or do you prefer a couch potato?
There are a ton of dog breeds out there and it can be quite overwhelming! If you want expert help, you can try our Picking a Breed Selection Service. One of our experienced dog trainers will walk you through a detailed questionnaire to learn what you are looking for. Unlike free online services they will help you ensure the breeds selected are a true match for the pup your family desires!
The chart below gives some simple examples, but in our Breed Selection Program we will go into far more detail:
|If you are looking for...
|A medium to large active dog that is easy to train
|A large dog that will usually fit a less active lifestyle
|A large dog with lots of energy to fit your active lifestyle
|A small dog with plenty of energy for your active lifestyle
Does Previous Dog Experience Matter When Picking a Puppy?
Previous dog experience should also influence your decision. Certain dogs do not make great pets for first time dog owners.
If it is your first time and you do choose one of these dogs it is not the end of the world. You will just need to expect that you will have more work on your hands than if you choose an easier breed.
Should You Get a Purebred Dog when Picking a Puppy?
Please keep in mind that you do not need to choose a purebred dog. When considering mixed breed dogs simply research each breed that a particular dog contains. If the breeds that make up the pup are appropriate for you it should be a good fit. Doing this will help you make an informed guess of that dogs future tendencies.
All that being said, my biggest piece of advice when picking a breed is to do your research. Don't pick a breed solely based upon looks or because they are in your favorite tv show. This is the most common way that someone gets a breed that isn't the right fit for them.
Purchase or Adopt Your New Puppy
After you have decided on a breed, it is time to decide where to get your puppy. Should you purchase a dog or adopt one? Both rescue groups and breeders can be great places to find a dog.
Even if you have your heart set on a purebred dog it is still a good idea to check local shelters and rescues. There are often breed specific rescues that specialize in various breeds and can help you find the puppy of your dreams!
Research Breeders and Rescue Groups when picking a puppy
Whether you decide to buy a puppy or adopt one, you should do your research. We have a whole article on Choosing a Dog Breeder.
Meet with the owners/managers and discuss what you are looking for in a dog. A good rescue group or breeder will be able to help you determine if you are looking at the right breed.
If you don’t like the vibe of a specific facility, there are plenty of other ones out there. Don’t feel like you should purchase a dog from someone simply because of dog bloodlines or championship pedigree, etc. For the average dog owner this may not be very important information.
Picking a puppy from the right breeder
If you do decide to get a dog from a breeder, you should evaluate the breeder carefully. Good breeders will allow you to meet the parents of the litter so that you can evaluate their temperaments. Just because the parents of a litter have a good temperament doesn’t guarantee that the entire litter will, but it is certainly a good start.
Most breeders will be open about their breeding history, so feel free to ask questions if you suspect inbreeding may be an issue. Some breeders will even provide you with DNA Test results from the parents to give you a full picture of the dog's lineage.
I would also inquire about Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) certifications and other health information on the parents. Having some knowledge on the health of the parents’ hips, eyes and knees will certainly give you insights on the likelihood of the puppies being healthy.
Picking a Puppy Questions for a Breeder
- How long have you been breeding dogs?
- How many litters do you breed each year?
- Do your puppies come with a health guarantee from all genetic defects?
- Looking for More? Check out Choosing the Right Breeder
Here is a list of recommended businesses that we have met or worked with in the past, the breeders on the list would be an excellent place to look for a pup.
Where Shouldn't You go to get Your Perfect Puppy?
Health in the long term is always a roll of the dice, no matter where your puppy may come from. But there is one type of puppy you should certainly not buy: never buy from a place that carries puppy mill puppies!
These places don’t care about dogs and don’t treat them well, so it is important to not reward them by purchasing a dog from their facility. Although pet stores seem like a great place to get a dog, they generally source from puppy mills, so make sure to do your research. Puppies from mills are often plagued with inbreeding, and genetic abnormalities are common.
Should I get a Male or Female Puppy?
After you have decided on a breed and either a breeder or a shelter, it is time to determine what sex of dog is right for you. If you already have a dog I would suggest getting a puppy of the opposite sex. Male dogs are much more likely to fight other males while female dogs are much more likely to fight other females.
Same sex dogs can get along and often do. But, why not play the odds and make things easier on yourself? If you don’t have another dog then the sex doesn’t matter all that much. Female dogs are often a little easier than male dogs, but in many breeds this difference is not very pronounced.
Meeting the Puppies!
Red Flags When Picking a Puppy
- The Most Assertive Puppy
- Poor Health In Parents
- A Rescue/Breeder That Won't Answer Questions
Now for the fun part: meeting the puppies! When you actually meet the litter please don’t fall into the trap that countless people have before. I often have clients tell me, “The dog chose me.”
What that usually means is that the client chose the dog that ran up to them first. Although this may work out well, it might also mean that they have chosen the most assertive and excitable dog in the litter. If they want an assertive dog this is great. If they want a lazy and calm dog this might not be an ideal fit.
Picking a Puppy from a litter - which puppy should you pick
Keep in mind that although each breed of dog is unique, there can be huge personality differences within a particular breed. Two littermates can vary in temperament more than you might imagine. Some Rottweilers are stubborn and may challenge their owners while others may be the most submissive pups in the world.
Regardless of what the breed standard says, each dog has its own personality and may not be anything like what you read about online. My best piece of advice here is to use the expertise of the breeder or the rescue. They know the puppies better than anyone and can help you choose a puppy that fits best with your personality and goals.
Have a Dog Trainer Help Pick Your Pup
If you would like professional help in picking the right puppy, you can have a professional trainer help you evaluate potential dogs. There is a test for screening a puppy’s temperament called the Volhard Puppy Aptitude Test. This test should be administered when the puppy is seven weeks old. The test isn’t perfect. However, it is a very useful predictor of what a puppy’s temperament will be like when it is an adult dog.
Professional trainers can also use their years of experience to supplement or even replace the Volhard Test in certain situations. At Suburban K9 we utilize our In-Home Lessons in order to provide help for owners looking to have a trainer help pick the right puppy!
Closing Thoughts on Picking a Puppy
My last piece of advice when picking a puppy is to just get one at a time. Although bringing home littermates sounds like fun, it is often a bad idea. Not only is it hard to train two dogs at once, but there is a very serious behavioral issue that can arise called Littermate Syndrome.
Littermates often bond to each other too tightly and don’t develop socially the way they should. Littermate syndrome doesn’t come up every time people raise littermates and it can be remedied once it arises, but my suggestion is to simply avoid the chance. Get one puppy now and get another in 4 or 5 months if you really want another dog right away.
I hope this advice is helpful and that it allows you to pick the right dog for you and your family. Although picking the right dog may take some research and a little legwork, you and your new puppy will both be happier if you are the right fit for each other!
Request our Puppy Timeline
Once you have your puppy, you will want to know what important milestones are and when you should start training. Sign up to receive a free copy of our exclusive Puppy Timeline.
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