There are few things more fun than sitting down in the middle of a litter of puppies and soaking up the cuteness. Puppy breath, puppy slobber, puppy doe eyes – no one can resist! Yet each individual puppy has his/her own personality, and there are better ways to pick your puppy than letting your puppy ‘pick you.’ To have the best chance at taking home the right puppy for your family, consider these five tips:

1. Don’t Get Hung Up on “Pick Of The Litter”. There really is no such thing as ‘pick of the litter’ because the best ‘pick’ will be based on the home and circumstances into which the puppy is going. Usually a breeder will keep one or two ‘show picks’ based on their conformation structure. ‘Pick of the Litter’ show puppies are often bold, outgoing, and require a good deal more training and management than most families are ready for. ‘Pick of the Litter’ for your home should be a puppy with an easy going, moderate temperament, one who would enjoy and adapt to family life with ease.

2. Let Temperament and Observation Over Time Rule the Day. After the show ‘picks’ are designated, the remaining puppies are matched with homes and families based on their temperament as observed by the breeder *over time.* This is key, as the puppy who is sleepy during your visit today may actually be the one who has been bouncing off the walls for the past four weeks! Good breeders or caregivers will evaluate the litter for temperament and potential between 7-8 weeks of age, and be able to match you and the puppy based on the evaluation results *and* their observations of the puppy over time.

3. Good Breeders Will Insist on Making the Match. Having the breeder pick your puppy “takes all the stress off everyone,” notes local Labrador breeder Becky Dannaker of Nipntuck Labradors. “People can visit the litter often, and not worry about having to choose their perfect puppy. While individuals are welcome to give input, please understand we have decades of experience and will make the match we feel best for your family.” She is even adamant about not identifying puppies (usually with color-coded collars) so no one–including her–gets biased for superficial reasons before they are even old enough to properly evaluate.

4. Don’t Be Fooled By “The Puppy Picked ME!” Myth. Sitting in the midst of the litter, your mind can play all kinds of tricks on you, making up stories that can carry your emotions away from good critical thinking. A puppy who ‘picks’ you by coming when called first, gnawing on your shoe, or climbing up into your lap is not ‘picking’ you at all. That puppy may in fact be a little tyrant, controlling your body and blocking access to it from other puppies. Conversely, the puppy may be introverted and trying to escape from the commotion. There are all kinds of ways that puppies behave during a visit that have everything to do with temperament and nothing to do with you. Ty to keep your imagination – and ego – in check.

5. Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away. The only thing harder than trying to hit a 100 mph fastball in the major leagues is trying to walk away from a littler of puppies without taking one home. If you are unsure about the match that the breeder has selected for you, share your concerns with your breeder and determine if there is another puppy that would also be a good fit. If not, there will be another litter, another day. It will be harder to live with a dog that you don’t feel good about or isn’t suitable for your home, than it will be to wait for another litter.

So, enjoy your puppy-picking adventure, and have a clear, thought-out plan on how to handle your emotions before you sit down with the potential litter. (And of course, please don’t rule out picking out a rescue puppy, or an older dog, which might be an even better match than a puppy!) If you are set on a puppy from a breeder, in general look for the most unassuming, non-standout, most moderate and easygoing puppy of the litter – that is the one most people want to live with. Selecting (or having the breeder select) the puppy who is neither first or last when called, is neither shy nor a bully with littermates, and is neither outstanding or underwhelming in the litter will often be the best match for a happy family: easy to train, travel with, manage, and adapt to your daily life.

Want more advice on selecting your next dog or puppy? Come see us for a Complimentary Consultation!

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