First and foremost, it’s a great idea to research the various breeds you are interested in. The general look that interests you is a good place to start. For example, if you prefer a breed with stand up, perky ears, then you should eliminate the floppy eared and cropped ear breeds. Then you must decide for what purpose are you acquiring a dog. Will it be a house dog when mature, laying at the foot of your bed, or on your bed, or out on the doorstep being a guardian?
Will you have the extra time if the breed requires extra recreational playtime? Are you willing to put the time into grooming that some dogs require, especially the ones with the long hair? Once you’ve narrowed the choices down, your next job is to locate a reliable breeder. One good breeder resource is to contact a few kennel clubs in your area. Ask them for a breeder referral list for the breed of your choice.
Contact by telephone is more courteous and can give you a valuable and non threatened first impression than dropping in on the person or facility unexpected. These should be good, reliable breeders but don’t be afraid to ask for names of previous buyers. Remember, any good breeder will check out their potential puppy purchasers before releasing a pup into their hands. This is a very common practice. Next, set up an appointment to go to see the litter and if possible both parents.
They will give you a general idea of what you can expect from the puppy as an adult as far as the looks and size go. The breeders facility should be clean but keep in mind if you are going to see a litter of 10 German Shepherd puppies, you may see an unscheduled poop spot or pee puddle. First observe the puppies while standing back from the whelping box or kennel area. Watch to see which ones are pushy with their litter mates and which ones are content to observe from the corner. Which ones roughhouse play? Who makes the others cry by biting too hard in play? This puppy could be the tough guy or gal of the litter...or the ALPHA puppy.
This would not be a great choice for a family with small children or first time puppy owners as it could want to control the family household and members. Ask the breeders if they could isolate the alpha puppy so you could observe the rest in a more fair environment. Now you are at the stage of deciding: Male or Female.
Once you have your puppy home, you will start to develop its personality the way you want. If you know which sex you want, ask the breeder to put the other sex away to give you time to observe all the males or all the females. Don’t pick a particular puppy just because it is the cutest! There are easy tests you can do yourself to help you determine the best choice for you. Watch them to see which puppy is watching you, making direct eye contact with you. Take a couple steps backwards away from the puppies and look closely at who moves with you. Next, take a few more steps from the group and clap your hands, snap your fingers or verbally call to encourage the puppies to follow. Open your arms in a wide fashion and call to the puppies in a higher pitched voice. Again, observe the followers.
These pups would be the ones interested in human beings, thus making good companion dogs. Narrow your choices down to 2 or 3 from those couple of little tests. Next, take each puppy in your hands. Balance it’s weight by supporting it under the rear and on the chest. Observe the pup’s reactions at this point. Is the pup struggling to break free, growling or showing it’s teeth. These are negative signs in inexperienced hands and definitely need to be corrected very early in the pup’s life. If the pup is comfortable and relaxed, maybe even licking your face or hands, then those are positive signs and those of a more submissive puppy.
Another quick test is the “rollover test” where you gently roll the pup over in your arms into a cradle position. Again the pup should be calm and relaxed. If not, try a simple growl correction to test the pups submission level. If it quickly freezes in a still position, that means the pup will probably accept human discipline easily. However, if the struggle continues, be prepared for some headstrong behaviors in the future.
After socializing with each puppy a few minutes, place it back down on the floor and repeat the “walk away and follow me test”. Observe the pups for the quickest reaction to your leaving them. The quickest one to follow you could be the strongest bonding potential puppy from your choices. Repeat the procedures as a double checking system. If you’re happy with the results and the pup is attractive to you, then that’s the one for you.