How do I pick a puppy?
June 6, 2010 3:49 PM   Subscribe

My friends dog just had nine (!) puppies. I told him I would take one. How do I pick the best of the litter?

The mom is a Husky/Shepard mix, with a good temperament. Six of the puppies resemble her, one resembles the dad (Lab mix, we think) and two are a blend. Is there a correlation between looks and personality in your experience? I was thinking I should just see which one makes the least noise because I don't really like barky hyper dogs, but the personality might change as it grows.
Also, I have a cat who thinks my world revolves around him. Will he be resentful and try to hurt the puppy?
posted by ambulocetus to Pets & Animals (14 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
We don't pick animals, they pick us. You will know which one wants you. Don't rush. Take your time and play with all of them.
posted by zombiehoohaa at 4:00 PM on June 6, 2010 [9 favorites]

Meet the puppies, more than once -- several times if necessary -- and you will probably just know. If your choice is still hard, I would go for the one who's the most social, the most interested in you.

Wait until eight weeks or so, since that's the time that puppies are old enough to leave their mothers, and are just starting to come into their own personalities. Don't worry about "the least noise" -- they're babies, they may well change their barking habits. I know my puppy was a crier, but she doesn't make too much noise as a grown dog.

Your cat will probably be able to teach the puppy manners by running to high surfaces and/or popping him one on the nose when he's too playful. This is the traditional way to get a dog that behaves well around cats.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:01 PM on June 6, 2010

Best of litter can mean different things to different people, but it sounds like you're more interested in sociability and intelligence than looks. When I was looking for dogs to do obedience trials with I used my car keys. While the pups were busy with there own things, not already looking at me, I'd shake the keys several feet away and see which ones reacted quickest. Then I'd have them follow me around the yard and see which were most interested in games. Once it was down to about three, I'd see which one I could settle down the quickest too. It was all about finding the most curious and the most responsive.

It's improtant to this when they aren't already tuckered out, an have to be six to eight weeks old, but I had some very good luck (I also had some that were curious and loving, but not all that quick at learning. I loved them anyway.)
posted by Some1 at 4:02 PM on June 6, 2010

I always pick the puppy who stays the furthest from me. They know what is going on, and they don't want to get picked. Pick them anyway.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:39 PM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

You have some time. Read Ian Dunbar's Before and After Getting Your Puppy for all kinds of excellent advice.
posted by judith at 5:39 PM on June 6, 2010

Spend as much time as you can with all of them and it will become clear, it'll certainly resolve into just two or three of them to choose from, a lot easier than one out of nine. Then spend time with those two or three, and observe them closely, and yourself also, how you are with them all.

I'm glad you're taking the time to choose as best you can; this relationship is a long one, and a rich one, you'll see this friend through every stage of his or her life, giving and getting more love than you'd ever imagine if you've never had a pooch before.
posted by dancestoblue at 5:45 PM on June 6, 2010

In a similar situation, I advocated strongly for the fattest one....I figured he was the healthiest. As much as we loved him, he also turned out to be a real alpha (we figure he was the bully getting the most food), which was a challenge after only having experience with a very "beta" female dog before him. One old saw I've heard is that a gentle, submissive pup will easily allow you to roll him/her onto her back for a belly rub.
posted by availablelight at 5:47 PM on June 6, 2010

Well, yes, there is some correlation between looks and a desirable trait - health. Also, if you think one of them is particularly gorgeous, that's a good sign that you are falling for that pup and should take it away. 6-10 weeks old is the right period to adopt.

But what you really want to look for is 1) curiosity and friendliness 2) responsiveness to you 3) decent social manners and 4) that "click" that makes you love your dog to be.

I'd beware of pups that are very shy, with you or the other litter members, and conversely those that are aggressive toward you or littermates - unless you really love those qualities in a grown up dog. Puppies, like people, have personalities right from the get go.

Going forward, I strongly suggest you train with positive reinforcement techniques only -- Karen Pryor is a great resource.

Speaking as a member of a family that bred a litter of purebred collies, and the adopter/raiser of a line of beloved mutts and rescues since then, I want to nth everyone else that you are about to fall for one of the dearest friends and companions you will ever know. Have fun and enjoy this special start of a uniquely wonderful relationship.
posted by bearwife at 6:16 PM on June 6, 2010

We picked our dog at 6 weeks, and he had exactly the same personality traits then as he had for the rest of his life. He wasn't the first of the litter to come over -- that dog was too energetic and aggressive. But he was intrigued and attentive. We didn't pick the ones that weren't interested in us, either. Just the one in the middle who wanted to play but didn't want to force himself on us. Gentle, but alert. That was how he was for the rest of his life.

Oh, I miss him.

You can tell a lot about a puppy by rolling him over on his back. If he struggles a bit, but then settles, he'll probably be a good dog. If he doesn't resist at all, he may be too passive, and if he won't settle, you'll wind up with dominance problems.

But basically, if you spend time with the pups, you'll know.
posted by musofire at 6:38 PM on June 6, 2010 [1 favorite]

Find the energetic and aggressive one, and then pick the one who follows that one around. That is a dog who is up for a good time, but not all in your face about it.
posted by gjc at 7:23 PM on June 6, 2010

Seconding taking a pass on the most energetic and aggressive one. Made that mistake once, and it wasn't pretty.

When I chose our current dog, I hung out with the pups for half an hour, voting a few off the island for bad behavior (such as chewing shoelaces), then found that there was this one who would follow me around and sit near my feet. Or if I'd move and hunch down, he'd come stand under me. He's been a great choice.
posted by dws at 8:02 PM on June 6, 2010

Cesar Milan addresses this on some of his shows. He talks highly of selecting dogs based on their "energy" compatibility.

If you are a high-energy person, naturally the bouncier dog would be a better choice for you than a relative sedentary person.

However, don't confuse a puppy that is "eager to see you!!!!!!!!!!" with compatibility. The most attention-needy pups will react this way to EVERYBODY. Is that what you want long-term? "I MUST have your attention now & always!" is not really a good thing.

IME, dogs don't really express their personalities very clearly to strangers until about the 5th-6th week. Runts are going to be submissive, insecure, or cowardly; the first trait can be a positive thing, if it works for you. The biggest pup will likely be the most dominant one; he/she has fought to get the most milk so far. Again, this can be a good thing, or not. Let pup size tell you something about their personality.

Don't pick a dog merely because you feel sorry for it (unless you are prepared to work intelligently & hard with its issues), and don't pick a dog merely because it is cute.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:17 PM on June 6, 2010

Others have given good advice about choosing your puppy, I just want to say WAIT! Let the puppy stay with his mother as long as possible. She'll help train some of the bad habits out of him. Puppies who leave too soon tend to have social problems that need to be trained out of them. Things like biting and mouthing too much. Mama dog will put them in their place and let them know that it's too much a lot better than you'll be able to. Give the puppy as much time with Mom as you can and you'll have an easier time with training. It's not fool proof, but it helps.
posted by TooFewShoes at 10:12 PM on June 6, 2010 [2 favorites]

My sister has two great dogs, both of which you got as puppies. Basically, she ended up with the one puppy both times that the dog's owner wanted to keep for themselves!

Even if you don't go for the one the dog's owner likes most, I'd suggest listening to him or her in addition to playing and watching with the pups. They'll have observed the puppies for 6-8 weeks and can point you too which one is always playing and which one is always sleeping.
posted by bubonicpeg at 5:57 AM on June 9, 2010

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