You have done your homework and are confident in the breed that you have chosen. Now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of picking the actual pup.
If you are opting for a pedigree breed, getting it wrong can be an expensive mistake, not simply because of the initial cost of the pup (between £500 and £1200), but because of generic health problems that affect many pedigree breeds.
Choosing a Good Breeder is the key. Local breed clubs, The Kennel Club and your vet will prove invaluable in offering advice and referrals on reputable breeders.
A good breeder will answer your questions about the dog’s ancestry. Remember to ask about the temperament of the puppies parents and grandparents which will give you great insight into the litter.
Also ask for contact information of other people who have adopted the breeder’s puppies. If this information is not forthcoming, then there is more than likely a worrying reason why.
As tempting as it may be, avoid buying your puppy over the internet. You will often be buying a dog from a puppy mill, one of the cruel breeding farms that churn out litters of puppies in the worst of conditions. For ethical reasons, why support people who make a living out of mass-producing damaged puppies in dreadful conditions?
So, you have found a breeder who you feel confident with, or you have located a litter of mixed breed pups. You find yourself with seven sets of eyes gazing up at you adoringly, each one pleading you to ‘pick me.’
Who do you pick?
There is no such thing as the ‘puppy test’ which will enable you to pick the ‘perfect puppy.’ There is also no guarantee that the ‘pick of the litter’ will turn out to be a well-adjusted adult dog. You will however have a far greater chance of choosing a puppy who will grow into a well-adjusted adult, if you know how to screen the litter of puppies for problems that may already be apparent.
First, make sure that you see several puppies and that you get a good choice of the litter. Follow your head and not your heart! That small weak one being trodden on by the others may pull at your heart strings, but may pull even harder at your purse strings over time with countless vets bills!
Pay attention to behaviour. If a pup is bouncing off the walls at the breeder’s, he’ll probably do the same when you get him home. Similarly, a pup that is too lethargic is that way for a reason. A healthy puppy who’s well rested should appear alert and energetic.
There are other important heath signs to look for too:
Eyes: A healthy puppy will have bright, clear eyes without crust or discharge.
Breathing: You want your puppy to breathe quietly. A pup that coughs or sneezes a lot and has crust or discharge at his nostrils is one to avoid.
Body condition: A puppy should look well fed, with some fat over his ribcage.
Coat: Look for an attractive coat without excessive dandruff, dullness, greasiness or baldness.
Gait: Avoid a puppy who is limping or seeming stiff or sore.
Hearing: Clap your hands behind the pups head, if he doesn’t react, he clearly cant hear you!
Vision: A puppy who can see properly will notice a ball that rolls by slowly within his field of vision.
How a puppy interacts with his litter mates is a good indication of how social he will be as an adult dog. Therefore observe the entire litter in their own environment and watch how the puppies interact with each other, and with you.
Look out for the puppies who appear to enjoy the company of the other pups and which ones seem to be loners. Puppies who like the company of their litter mates are more likely to be social in the company of other dogs as they mature than puppies who are asocial.
Watch how they play. The puppies who don’t mind being on the bottom of the pile when they play fight and wrestle, or puppies who are flexible and can play either role, top or bottom, will usually play well with a wider range of dogs as adults.
Observe the reaction of puppies who get yelped at when they bite another puppy too hard. Puppies who pull back when another puppy says ‘Ouch!’ are more likely to respond appropriately when they play too roughly as adults than puppies who ignore the yelping of their playmates.
This final tip is one that I believe every ‘would be dog owner’ should try with a potential puppy; pick up the puppy and hold him up towards your face. The puppy should continue to wriggle and attempt to lick your face. Occasionally a puppy will stop wriggling the moment you hold it to your face and will stare you in the eye instead. If this happens, avoid this puppy, however many other boxes he may tick in terms of heath and behavior. This is a strong indication of an unpleasant temperament in a mature dog.
Remember when you have chosen your puppy, he will more than likely be too young to bring home. No good breeder – and this is something to remember – will ever let you take home a puppy that is younger than eight weeks.
A key to all dog’s mental and emotional development is to start their training as early as possible, so why not engage us at K9 Control for some essential puppy training.