Picking a Poodle Puppy
It's a seemingly impossible task to choose a single puppy out of a whole, adorable litter. But if you're armed with an idea of the type of dog you're looking for and are buying from a knowledgeable breeder, you can get just the right puppy for you.
What's Your Ideal Poodle?
It's important to know what you're looking for in a poodle. Do you want an especially strong-willed or active dog? If you're planning to compete in performance activities, this might be the type of poodle that appeals to you most. A laid-back poodle might be better for a more sedate owner. The shy poodle takes a very patient, calm, and savvy owner to bring him out of his shell.
You should be very open with the breeder about your expectations for your poodle. Do you want to show him (a decision not to be taken lightly, because of the effort that goes into the coat and training), or do you aim to compete in agility or obedience? Or do you simply want a pet to take for regular walks and enjoy as a family member? The more information you can give the breeder about your intentions and lifestyle, the more successful she will be in making a good match.
If your household contains small, active children, the Toy might not be the best size poodle for you. While they're sturdier than they look, these small dogs are more easily injured than the Minis or Standards.
Behavior and Temperament
Within any given litter, each puppy will be an individual. They may all have good poodle temperaments, but each will be a little different. To figure out which puppy might be best for you, watch the puppies at play. Is there one that is clearly the leader? Maybe he jumps on top of the others or steals their toys. He's the one you might want to avoid if you're a novice owner, since a natural-born leader can be somewhat challenging to own.
Is there one that stands away from the rest, watching? Maybe he's the one the other puppies pick on. He might not be the easiest pet either, since he might be somewhat fearful. Look for the pup that joins in the play but isn't necessarily the instigator.
Get on the floor, and call the puppies to you. Look for those that turn and approach you eagerly. The vulnerability of the shy poodle that avoids coming to you might make him appealing, but if you buy that poodle, you might have to expend a lot of effort helping him get comfortable with the world. If there are pups that don't rush to greet you but that do come with a little coaxing, they might just be a little cautious about life. This isn't necessarily a bad thing. It's the poodle that just wishes you'd go away you have to be careful about.
Breeder Knows Best
The most important part of choosing a puppy is listening to the breeder, who has been observing these puppies from the moment they took their first breath. She saw which was the first to find the best nipple and which one took a nap rather than competing to nurse. She's watched the puppies interact with one another through their whole lives.
Breeders can arrange for temperament testing for young puppies. This involves a two-minute test that grades each pup on a scale of one (the active, outgoing leader) to six (the shrinking violet). The easiest puppies to live with fall right in the middle of the scale. And, happily, most puppies are those middle-of-the-road puppies.
A good breeder has a great stake in making sure the right puppy goes to the right home. She's also very familiar with the breed and has the ability to identify which puppies will make the better show dogs, performance dogs, or pets. So when it comes to matching puppies with owners, your breeder should have the ultimate say.
Signs of Health
When you're looking at a litter of poodle pups, you want to make sure they're healthy. You don't want to buy from a litter of sick puppies, as this is a sign that the breeder isn't responsible. Moreover, if your puppy is sick, his development might be affected, and your bonding might be impeded.
Some signs of good health you can look for are great energy, pink gums (unless the gums are pigmented), and shiny coats. Watch out for signs of poor health: eye discharge, smelly ears, loose stools, or dull fur. A little beer belly could be the sign of a parasite infestation. If you see signs of poor health in the litter, or if your inner voice says that the litter or kennel isn't optimal, walk away without a puppy.