Guest blog by Mary Dell Harrington, co-founder of the parenting blog Grown and Flown.
One of the most delightful yet difficult tasks in dog ownership is the very first one—choosing your pet from among a litter of absolutely adorable puppies. Taking time to carefully observe each puppy is well advised, and will help maximize the chances that the pup you pick is healthy and a good match for your family.
One summer day four years ago, I spent several hours with a pack of young chocolate Labradors, intending to take one home. At four weeks old, each pudgy member was simply irresistible. Mesmerized, I sat on the floor and watched them tumble, play fight, and curl up into a puppy pile for a brief post-nursing snooze. I knew it was going to be a challenge to pick one, but “cute” could not be the sole criterion for my future dog.
As the afternoon wore on, I realized that my attention returned, again and again, to “Larry,” one of the larger males. He could focus when I jangled my keys, he tolerated my handling and cuddling, and I loved the way he played with his litter mates. Sometimes he was top dog, other times he was dominated by a brother or sister. Yes, Larry, whom we renamed “Gus,” would become our new puppy after he was weaned and old enough to leave his litter.
If you have a chance to pick out your own puppy from among a litter, the ASPCA suggests that the pup’s physical health be scrutinized carefully. A reputable shelter or breeder should be candid in revealing all they have observed about each young dog. Further, here are six tips they suggest for evaluating a puppy’s behavioral health:
- How do the puppies interact with each other?
- Does the puppy seem to like people?
- Does the puppy respond appropriately to your reaction when he nips you?
- Does the puppy guard things from people?
- Does the puppy like being handled by people?
- Does the puppy seem overly sensitive to sights and sounds?
For additional information on picking your puppy, take a look at this ASPCA guide.