Going to meet a litter of puppies is incredibly exciting—but how do you choose which one to take home? While love at first sight is certainly possible, this article has some more practical tips for selecting the perfect pup.
It can be hard to know how to choose a puppy from a litter. But before deciding which puppy you want, you have to make sure the litter itself is suitable for your family and lifestyle.
Choosing The Right Litter
Think carefully about the breed of dog that would suit your family best. For example, a Husky would be an excellent choice for someone living in a cooler climate who does long-distance running regularly. But for someone living in a small space without a lot of spare time, they’re probably not the right choice. Our breed selector quiz can help you narrow down your choices.
Don’t discount mixed breeds, especially if you’re looking to adopt a rescue puppy. But make sure you talk to the rescue centre about the characteristics the puppies are likely to show.
If you decide to buy a puppy, it’s essential to find a responsible breeder. In the UK, any breeder that advertises puppies for sale or breeds more than three litters of puppies a year must have a licence. Make sure you see this before buying a puppy! Lucy’s Law was also brought into force in 2020, making it illegal for people to sell puppies if they hadn’t bred them themselves. The breeder should be happy to give you details of any vet checks, and let you know if these were a routine visit or for a specific illness.
You want to look for a breeder where the puppies are raised in comfortable conditions, as close to a home setting as possible. Puppies raised in barns or gardens without human contact can be challenging to bond with and train.
When you visit the litter of puppies, the mother should be present. This will give you a chance to see how she interacts with her babies and check that she is healthy. It will also reassure you that the puppies didn’t come from an illegal puppy farm.
No breeder should pressure you to take the puppy earlier than eight weeks. Giving them these first two months with their mum will generally offer a puppy a more calm and stable foundation for you to build on.
Choosing The Right Puppy
Now that you’ve found a suitable litter, you’re ready to choose your puppy. (Don’t forget to get everything ready for them before you bring them home!)
Eyes, nose and coat
The condition of a puppy’s eyes, nose and coat are reasonable indications of health. The eyes should be bright and alert, not red or crusty. The nose should also be clear, without any discharge. A shiny coat is a great overall indicator of health, and the puppy shouldn’t have rashes or bald patches. Don’t hesitate to ask the breeder questions about the puppy’s health, and you should always take your pup to a vet soon after they come home with you.
Listen out for any wheezing or coughing. This is particularly important for breeds that are prone to breathing difficulties, like Pugs, Bulldogs or Boxers. Of course, you don’t have to choose a puppy in perfect health, especially if you’re adopting a rescue. But you do need to understand what you’re getting yourself into, both emotionally and financially.
If a puppy is very lethargic, it could signify illness. Puppies love to snooze, though, so don’t jump to any conclusions! You should visit your chosen puppy several times before they come home to get a good overall picture of their health. It will also make the transition less stressful for your new family member.
Fearful puppies may need more time and patience to settle in at home. With that in mind, very anxious pups may not be the best choice for families with young children. You should also be wary of a puppy that guards resources or shows aggression to its litter mates. No matter what character your puppy has, they will need lots of training in the coming months and years.
Go with your gut
You can never be 100% sure how a puppy will develop. But do listen to your gut. If after carrying out all the checks we recommend above, you feel particularly drawn to one puppy in the litter, that’s great. But remember that all puppies need time to settle in and relax once they get home. It may take a few months before they fully accept their new surroundings, so be gentle and patient while they find their paws.
What’s the most important thing you’re going to look for when choosing your new puppy? Head over to our Facebook page and let us know!