Picking the Best Puppy for You
Obviously, this is the moment of truth. What kind of animal will you choose? There are several important things to remember when picking a new puppy, especially if the puppy is part of a large litter.
First, break down the decision process into two stages. The first stage is observing the puppy with the rest of the littermates. This can tell you a lot about the puppy's personality. The second part of the process involves you and the puppy alone together. This is also very revealing if you know what you're looking for.
Watching how a puppy interacts with other dogs, especially its littermates, can tell you a lot. Judging a puppy's position in the pack is extremely important. Is it the dominant puppy? Is it the weakling? These personality extremes are best for novice dog owners to avoid. Why? As appealing as their rambunctiousness may seem, dominant puppies usually turn out to be dominant dogs that can be difficult to control and train. They may bully their new “littermates,” who will be your kids and your kids' friends.
There are three things to remember when evaluating puppies before choosing: position in the pack, sociability with humans, and intelligence. These three things are key in helping to establish the dog you should choose.
Many people are moved by watching the litter's weakling puppy. They want to rescue it from the rest of the pack and nurse it because they feel sorry for it. These dogs present their own problems. They usually lack confidence, both in the canine and the human world. This can lead to trainability problems and problems with human interaction later on.
Are either of these two dogs ever going to find a home? Yes. A more experienced person can better understand these puppies' needs. For newcomers to dog ownership, a more stable-tempered, middle-of-the-road pup is best. Such a pup is neither pushed around too easily nor overly dominant with its littermates or mother.
The next thing to judge is how the puppy responds to your presence. You probably shouldn't go for the first one who comes rushing at you. Neither do you want the one who won't come at all. You want one of middling temperament. A follower? That's a good dog. You certainly don't want your dog to be a leader. That's your position.
A little pup too busy to come over to you or too afraid to come over to you probably isn't a suitable pet. While socialization with dogs is important, socialization with people is also key, since your puppy is going to be living night and day with you and your family, and not his.
The pup's relative intelligence is probably the most difficult trait to figure out. You want a pup who will make the effort to understand you. Calling the puppies in a friendly voice is the best way to get their attention. Do not command them, as you will probably frighten them. Using a friendly tone to entice them, which puppies turn their attention to you and return your interest? The ones who don't understand your entreaty are probably not for you. Again, do your best to judge not the boldest, but the smartest.
Remember that even if you weigh less than 100 pounds, you are a giant to a young puppy. Just the sheer size of you can be scary to them. The best way to entreat a little puppy to approach you is to bend on one knee and place your hand lower than its head. The idea is to offer something that is not so intimidating. You're trying to get a real read of the dog's personality. You are not trying to scare the heck out of it.
What you're really trying to judge here is how well these puppies will take to obedience training. You want a puppy that is interested in human interaction — not just playing, but understanding.
Just You and the Puppy Alone for a Minute
This is the second part of the choosing process. What is it about? The idea is to see if the puppy responds to you alone, when it is not being distracted by its littermates. What would be best is if you can either go out in the yard or at least in a separate room for a moment, so that you spend some quiet time alone. Some breeders will want to be with you and the pup, and that's fine. When you're alone and quiet with the pup, here are some questions to consider:
Is the puppy responding to you?
Is the puppy too distracted by other things to interact with you?
Is the puppy responding to your entreaties?
Is the puppy willing to play with you?
Is the puppy too shy to respond to you?
The conclusions you draw based upon the answers you get will help you to be better prepared to make a final decision.