When you’re going out to buy your first pup, remember the cardinal rule of dog buying: you choose your puppy. He doesn’t choose you.

And perhaps you should buy the animal from a private seller since those businesses who keep all those animals in little cages should not be rewarded.

Of course, your friendly neighbor who claims he’s kept dogs all his life and is a walking Encyclopedia on choosing, raising, and burying many a dog will tell you that the most curious and active pup in the litter should be the ideal choice, there are many other factors that need to be considered before closing the deal with your breeder. So here’s what you need to check.

The boldest may not be the best: Going by your neighbor’s advice, you may select the pushy and bolder ones in the litter while ignoring their gentler brothers and/or sisters. However, this could be a mistake as an over energetic pup that’s growling constantly, jumping all over, perpetually wrestling with his counterparts or making tiny snaps at your fingers could turn out to be a temperamental adult dog in the future and be extremely difficult to train. So go through each and every pup in the litter, checking for a moderate yet friendly temperament.

Evaluate the whole litter: It’s always risky when 4 pups out of a litter of 5 are shy or overzealous. There may be a genetic malfunction somewhere and the single one that apparently seems normal may not be so in the future. A shy or tail-tucking pup usually becomes a shy adult dog. They even snap in defense if frightened or startled.

The normal puppy: The normal pup is friendly, curious, and trusting. They will bounce around your trouser cuffs, tug at shoe tips, try to snuggle into your arms, nibble on fingers, and behave like normal toddlers who check everything out. You can see this with the baby Grimlock in Transformers 5!

Thus observing how each pup plays with its littermates will tell you about its basic character. It could either be outgoing, strong, noisy, or bossy. On the other hand, it could be quiet, gentle, or submissive. It could be the one to grab all toys and forcibly win all tugs-of-war. Or it could be exceptionally delicate. Choose a pup that’s middle-of-the-road – neither the boss nor the submissive.

Look for physical deformities: Certain pups are born with umbilical hernia – a lump like mound in the middle of the abdomen. Avoid these. Moreover, it’s always better to take along a vet to check out its eyes, ears, and overall physical condition but most people do not have these types of resources so this idea is not really practical. When buying exotic breeds, read up beforehand on their typical physical characteristics and compare how close the pup comes to them. The closer the resemblance to its typical breed looks, the better the lineage and bloodline.

Once you’ve shortlisted a few, ask the breeder if you can separate it from the litter for a while. Observe carefully how he reacts when removed from the litter. After all, he’s going to be away from them for life if you buy him. You will see changes in his behavior once he is separated: The bold becomes uncertain; the dominated becomes more outgoing; and the energetic one calms down because there’s no one to egg him on.

But they can all learn to be your loving pet.

Remember, both a psychological and physiological examination could be done thoroughly before buying a pup but again, this is not feasible for most people. It’s also important to check out the parents, especially the mother to get an idea of the pup’s likely temperament. Pup selection can be a time consuming process but you can also get this done in a few minutes as well. To be straddled with an abnormal or temperamental dog could indeed be a harrowing experience but again, they could grow out of this and be a wonderful companion as well!  

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