July 8, 2012 2:42 AM   Subscribe

Over the next few weeks I'll be looking at litters of puppies, searching for the Right One, and I'm well aware that every single puppy in the damn universe is the Right One. The Cutest Ever. So what are your tricks and tips for telling the best of the bunch, the healthiest, the most intelligent, from the rest?
posted by mannequito to Pets & Animals (17 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
Pick the first one you see, take it home, and bond.
posted by flabdablet at 2:52 AM on July 8, 2012 [5 favorites]

Sit there, in between them all (if possible) and let them come to you. That's how I've ever picked up puppies and kittens, or rather, been picked :)
posted by infini at 3:08 AM on July 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

While observing, make a loud noise, like a big clap or something. Look for the puppy who looks interested and alert, not fearful or raising hell cause he heard a loud noise.
posted by pearlybob at 3:14 AM on July 8, 2012 [7 favorites]

Our breeders always allowed us to hold and interact with all of the puppies. We were buying golden retrievers, so we looked for affectionate animals that were more interested in us than they were in the other puppies. Then we picked the one we thought was cutest. :)
posted by xyzzy at 3:39 AM on July 8, 2012

Look for a puppy that will be receptive to its place in your life by giving each prospective puppy a domination test, i.e. sit cross-legged on the floor and gently lay the puppy on his/her back on your lap. If it has dominant tendencies, it will actively struggle to right itself. Gently force it to stay on its back just once. If it stays, this is your dog. If it continues to struggle, the odds are that this puppy will be resistant to instruction. Not a very romantic way to pick a companion, a grant you, but so many dogs are put in shelters because of their continued dominant nature that it's better for you and the dog to know what you're both getting into at the very beginning.
posted by Jamesonian at 3:48 AM on July 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

I picked my dog because a moth flew by her head and she ducked like a pterodactyl had flown past. She was also too afraid to come near me.* I thought well, at least she'll be funny. Pick the one you 'get' -- the one you understand. Acting subordinate, not having fears, all that stuff might be good, but you're buying a companion, so should look at qualities you actively want. If you have a stubborn dog, it might be a pain to put up with a stubborn dog, but a stubborn dog might be the right dog for you. You have to *like* the person. So those qualities are fine only if those are the qualities you really want.

*she's no longer so neurotic, now she's just neurotic in a Woody Allen way but mainly she's actually turned into a pretty confidant (and very happy) dog.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 4:34 AM on July 8, 2012 [10 favorites]

The guide dog organization I raised some puppies for had what was essentially a personality test they used to determine which dogs might make good guides. I can't find it online, but found these two tests that seem very similar from what I recall.
posted by procrastination at 4:41 AM on July 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

Seconding: let the dog pick you. When I was a kid I went to pick our puppy from my friend's parent's litter of Cocker Spaniel puppies.

I picked up all of them but she was the only one, once in my lap, made no attempt to leave; she began playing with the buttons of my shirt, and when I put her down she began scrabbling at my knees with her little paws to be let back up again. She had definitely chosen me. She was a great dog - super-friendly and easy to train.
posted by Ziggy500 at 5:49 AM on July 8, 2012

When we showed up to adopt what I thought was going to be our dog, we were literally in a house full of puppies, five or six litters of all different types. (This was a private shelter, not a breeder.) So that was awesome, and kind of overwhelming. As I was wading through puppies, some other lady snatched up "my" dog out of my arms, and I was lost and heartbroken (and pissed that the shelter organizer allowed her to take the one I reserved.) But anyway. So I turn around looking for my wife, and she looks up and gives me the most beautiful, elated smile. There is a little puppy on her lap - a boy, when we planned on a girl - and he refused to leave. Just curled up on top of her and went to sleep like that was his place. At that point I said to my wife, "You are going to be heartbroken if we don't take him home, aren't you?" And she said yes. There was no point in us both being heartbroken, so we walked away with our little boy. And though I cried on the walk back to the car (hey, I might have only seen pictures, but I thought that other puppy was my little girl and I lost her!*) I of course fell totally in love with our boy, Ollie, and wouldn't trade him. He is too big for my lap now, but he is laying just as close to me as he can. I guess he really picked us.

My point is that you will probably fall in love with one, and they will probably pick you, more than you will really pick them. Those tests are a great idea if you get a chance to use them, but puppies are magical and you just can't resist them.

*Don't worry, girl puppy is doing well. I'm friends with her mom on facebook. And I'm over it. Mostly. : )
posted by ohsnapdragon at 5:51 AM on July 8, 2012 [4 favorites]

If you're getting the dog from a reputable breeder, they usually know the puppies well and can tell you which is more of an alpha, more of a cuddler, etc.
posted by belau at 6:33 AM on July 8, 2012 [2 favorites]

Know yourself -- an animal that is extremely intelligent often needs more attention, time, and thought from you so that it doesn't get bored. Bored animals become either depressed (and possibly overweight), or destructive, or just crazy.

Most dogs are pretty intelligent. Attitude is more important, even in people.
posted by amtho at 7:29 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The one time I picked from a litter, I took the pup that didn't come to me. Not for that reason but because of conformation/health issues. (That breed is prone to breathing problems so I picked the one with the best shaped head. Totally go over lists of things to watch for in any breed.) The dog I picked was always a little stand-offish but that was fine. She was active and adventurous-- which was obvious on the day I picked her. She was prowling around getting into stuff while the other was all over me.
posted by BibiRose at 8:01 AM on July 8, 2012

The dog I had the best bond with of all the dogs I've owned chose me. I set in a pen of puppies and she climbed into my lap and fell dozed there, she trusted me completely from the start. Having said that I did get her at 8 weeks and she came from a household of full of children that played with the dogs so I knew she was pretty well socialized and all the other things you need to look out for when buying a puppy.

The thing you really need to look at when getting a puppy is the breeder. Do they pump out steady streams of puppies or just one well planned litter a year, do the puppies live in the house or a kennel, do they spend time with the dogs making sure they are socialized, do they make sure the dogs are old enough to leave their mother are the dogs acclimatized to people and households and had all their vet checks and the like, can you meet the parents and have the parents have been health checked for genetic problems. Picking a good breeder is half the battle of getting a good puppy. After that figure out if you want a smuggler or can handle a more dominate or adventurous personality and you can use the tests mentioned above to help you pick. Of course all the tests in the world will go out the window the second you see the puppy you know is the one.

Of course if you are getting a rescue puppy then you probably won't get to meet the parents, or just the mother, but most rescue puppies are fostered and the fosters work very hard to give the pups all the same socializing a responsible breeder would. So all of the above still applies.
posted by wwax at 8:21 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

All the puppy choosing tips and tricks in the world are no substitute for a good breeder. Good breeders will steer you towards the right puppy for you (I assume you have spent a lot of time talking to the breeder over the last few weeks to months?). I am a breeder, and I do not let people choose their puppy, by the time my puppies are ready to go home (8-10 weeks), I've spent their entire lives with them, and I know their personalities and preferences. I also know my puppy buyers as well as I can, and I can make the best possible match. People choose puppies based on at best a few hours' experience with them (and biased by which are cuter, or which did whatever cute thing on the day, this kind of snapshot of the puppy's life is not a good indicator of what the puppy is really like, which is why the old puppy aptitude tests are pretty much useless for anything other than knowing how quickly a puppy recovers from a startle), good breeders know their lines, know their dogs, and know their puppies.

So my answer to you is to discuss what you are looking for with the breeder (do you want a mellow dog or a rambunctious dog? A self-sufficient dog or a more bonded dog?), and then ask the breeder to choose your puppy for you. If you do not trust the breeder to do this, I might rethink getting a puppy from him/her.

Even if this is a rescue, try to talk to the people who have fostered the litter.
posted by biscotti at 9:35 AM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

The dog-raising Monks of New Skeete have some tests.
posted by nonmyopicdave at 5:41 PM on July 8, 2012 [1 favorite]

Cats, not dogs, but in Thailand, Brave Sir Nigel needed a friend. I'd never paid money for an animal. but the soi cats would have kicked his poofy Western housecat ass. I begged all my friends for a soi kitten. There were no soi kittens to be found.

I went to the largest market in Bangkok, where everyone tells you not to buy a pet, and found LilyButt. She was the biggest one in the cage, having been somehow looked over in favor of smaller, younger kittens. She is not smart, although Siamese are allegedly all brilliant. But she is sweet and pretty and she is a good girl and she loves us. She was also invisibly but deathly ill when I bought her, and would not have lived a week without the expensive health care that I was (blessedly) able to provide.

tl;dr: Trust your heart and don't overthink things. Animals are about love.

Love, Lily's Mom
posted by cyndigo at 7:30 PM on July 8, 2012

Have you chosen a breed? If you've chosen a breed that matches your lifestyle, then choose a good breeder, whose pups have a diverse gene pool, and are healthy. Think about what you want from your dog - affection, activity partner - and look for those traits. Then go ahead and fall in love.

Puppies are adorable, but there's a lot of wonderful dogs in shelters who really need homes.
posted by theora55 at 11:52 PM on July 8, 2012

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