Congratulations! You’ve finally made the decision to get a new puppy. How exciting! But now comes the challenging part: how will you choose the right puppy for you? Picking out a puppy requires a little more brainstorming than you might think. Even though they all look the same at first, puppies come in many different shapes, sizes, and personalities. Sometimes, these traits—and other conditions inherent to their breed—develop in their adult years. You may be tempted to pick a puppy out of impulse. After all, who can resist the sweet-faced, cuddly pup that warms up to you the moment you lay eyes on them?
Unfortunately, even picking the cutest puppy of the litter doesn’t mean they’re the best fit for you. You may not think it’s a big deal, but every year, around 3.3 million dogs end up in animal shelters across the country. As such, it’s important to choose a puppy that best suits your personality and lifestyle.
To help you get started, we’ve gathered a few helpful tips on how to choose your new puppy.
Speak with the staff or breeder.
No one knows puppies better than pet store staff or a breeder. Depending on where you search for your puppy, a staff member will be thrilled to help you learn more about their puppies. They may tell you specific information about your favorite dog breed, the health of the puppy litter, and how they ensure each puppy receives adequate care. Make sure to ask questions that pertain to your puppy’s health, such as:
- Do the puppies eat dry or wet food?
- Have the puppies been sick recently?
- Are the puppies vaccinated?
- Have the puppies been dewormed?
- How do you socialize with each puppy?
- (For pet store staff) What is your process for selecting breeders to work with?
These questions help give you a better idea of the puppy’s health and background. It can also provide you with peace of mind. Unethical practices such as puppy mills are a serious problem in the United States, with approximately 10 million facilities actively running each year. If pet store staff or breeders are able to provide you with a reliable, comprehensive process for the welfare and care of their puppies, you know that your puppy will come from a loving background. This makes it easier to train, socialize, and love your new puppy so it’s a necessary first step!
Watch the puppies in action.
When you’re introduced to a litter at a kennel or pet store, pay close attention to the puppies. You want to take note of how each puppy interacts with the other. Do they play? Is there one puppy that isolates itself from the rest? Do you notice any aggressive behavior? Watching the puppies in action allows you to have a firsthand look at their personalities.
If you want a quiet or calm puppy, make sure to look for a puppy that seems quiet during playtime. You can also watch for puppies that are dominant or assertive when they interact with their littermates. If you aren’t sure about the puppy’s temperament, don’t hesitate to ask a pet store staff or breeder for more information. They’ll likely know more about each puppy’s personality traits than anyone else!
Look closely at each puppy’s appearance.
One of the most important things to look for in puppies is their overall appearance. What do they look like? Is their fur dirty or clean? Do they have a limp when they walk? Is their nose runny or dry? Don’t be afraid to ask the staff member or breeder to hold and play with the puppy so that you can observe their features. If there’s one puppy you like over the others, watch for these key signs in their appearance:
- Eyes. Your puppy’s eyes should not be watery or red. Their fur should also be intact around the eyes. If your puppy squints or has trouble seeing, it may have underlying conditions.
- Ears. Your puppy’s ears should be clean and lack any discharge. It should not give off an odor. If you notice your puppy scratches their ears, they may have an infection. The ear flaps should also have hair.
- Nose. Your puppy’s nose should be moist, and a little discharge is normal. If the discharge is thick or discolored, it’s a sign of an underlying problem. Your puppy should be able to breathe easily.
- Head. Your puppy’s head is delicate so be careful when touching the top of it. Some dog breeds, such as the Chihuahua, have a soft area on their head called a molera or “soft spot”. This is completely normal for the Chihuahua breed.
- Mouth. Your puppy’s mouth must be pink and moist, especially the gums. The top and bottom teeth (if any) should be aligned. Some breeds like the Bulldog and Pug have a natural underbite so their teeth may not be aligned.
- Body. Your puppy’s tummy should not stick out. If it does, it may indicate a health condition like a hernia, which will need surgery.
- Skin. Your puppy’s skin (under the coat) should not be flaky, dry, or red. Make sure it lacks bumps, hair loss, or wounds.
Think about what type of dog you would like.
According to the American Kennel Club, dogs are typically categorized into 7 different breed groups. These breed groups include the toy group, the herding group, the terrier group, the working group, hound dogs, sporting dogs, and non-sporting dogs. Each of these dog groups is defined by a variety of characteristics that make up each dog breed that belongs to it. For example, puppies that are in the terrier group are known for being loud, feisty, and overprotective. They’re also prone to chasing after small animals due to their hunting background. Sporting dogs are incredibly athletic and prefer vigorous exercises like swimming and hiking.
Depending on your lifestyle, you must think about what type of dog you want in your life. It’s not enough to pick the cutest breed. Every dog is cute and endearing in its own way but they also have needs you must fulfill. If you would rather not have a spunky, stubborn little dog, do not go for a puppy in the toy group. If you’re not an active owner, hound dogs and sporting breeds may not be your match. Do some research and ask questions about each dog breed. By understanding the traits of every dog group, you have a better chance of choosing the right puppy.
If it’s not a match, walk away.
Sometimes, you’ll come face to face with a bump in your puppy journey. If you cannot find a puppy that best suits you in a pet store or at a breeder kennel, walk away and continue searching. Remember there will be other chances to find your furry soulmate. What’s harder is taking home a puppy that doesn’t meet your lifestyle or personality and becomes unhappy in your home. Keep up your hope and you’ll be sure to find the best puppy for you!
Most of all, enjoy your puppy-picking journey! You may be meeting many different puppies that will warm up to you without question—and that is something to celebrate! Don’t forget to consider your needs and emotions before you start on your journey. Many owners fall into the belief that their puppy “chose them”. Most of the time, puppies from loving backgrounds are naturally friendly and social so don’t feel bad if you need to consider another breed. Once you’ve chosen your perfect match from a litter, we guarantee you’ll have a fur-ever best friend that’s easy to train, play, travel, and cuddle with!