How to pick a puppy you'll love

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Advice on picking healthy puppies from reputable breeders of your chosen breed of dog.

There are many considerations to picking a puppy.

Impulse buying and adoptions should be avoided if at all possible.

First off, decide if you want a purebred dog from a breeder or adoption from a shelter. If you decide upon a purebred, weigh the pros and cons of each breed, your lifestyle and the needs of the dog. Once a decision has been made as to breed, it is time to plan a course of action.

If possible, check with a veterinarian to find out health problems associated with your chosen breed. Hip displaysia, collie eye, progressive retinal atrophy, Von Willabraum’s disease, tendencies towards allergies, and so many others.  Once armed with this information, it is time to start looking for a puppy.

One idea is to go to a local dog show, watch the competitors and see what a good specimen of your selected breed looks like. This is also a great place for finding and making contact with reputable breeders.  Try to talk to them during down times. If they are hard and heavy into grooming for the ring, wait until after their class. Have the means to take notes as to the breeder’s name and number. Not all have business cards ready to give out.  If there are no dog shows in your area, there are other options available.

Check the want ads under the Pets and Livestock section. When calling, ask questions about the breeder’s sales agreement. Do they give an actual contract and is it good for more than two or three days? Are the parents on the premises and can you come to see them? If they say no, there is usually a reason you are unwanted at the kennel so beware of these people. Go back to your list of medical problems and ask if any of these have shown up in their line of dogs. If the breeder has no idea about common problems in his or her breed, avoid them as well. Get as much information as possible before you make a commitment to go and see the puppies. This gives you time to think and you are less likely to make an impulse buy on a “cute” puppy only to regret the purchase at a later date.

When you decide which breeder to visit, there are several things to look for during your stay. Are you allowed to see all the dogs on the premises? How are they kept and what condition is their living space?

Do they appear to be groomed on a regular basis or just thrown out the back door? Is there an overwhelming odor and amount of feces everywhere? Are the parents both outgoing, friendly dogs? Temperament can be hereditary so beware of dogs whose breed characteristics call for an outgoing, loving dog. You wouldn’t expect a breed such as the Collie to have the same personality as a Chow or a Rottwieller.

When you finally get to look at puppies, watch them interact for a while. Is one more aggressive than the other or does it cry in fear at every strange movement and noise? Does one come running up to you for attention or hide behind the couch? A bit of advice, pick the outgoing, friendly pup that comes to investigate your presence. These are all signs of the dog’s personality.

Once you have found the pup you like, look closely at it. Are there any skin lesions on the mouth, tail or ears? These can be signs of mange. Don’t buy the breeder’s claim that one of the other puppies chewed the hair off. Is the puppy fat all over or does it have a bony back and big belly? This can be a sign of intestinal worms. Check the gums. They should be a healthy shade of pink. Pale means anemia for which there can be several reasons. Is there any discharge from the eyes or nose? Poodles and certain other breeds have weepy eyes but this is a clear, water like substance. If the discharge is thick, yellow or green, avoid the puppy and make sure you wash your hands in a mild bleach solution before visiting any other breeders that day. You may have come into contact with Canine Distemper.

Puppies are always having bowel movements. Take a look at one. Is it firm and actually formed or is there signs of diarrhea? Diarrhea can be caused by intestinal worms as well as such diseases as Parvovirus and Coronavirus.

If you feel you have found a healthy, happy pup, it is now time to get down to the business of buying it. Purebred puppies can cost $250 and up. That is quite a bit of money for an animal that could become sick and die tomorrow. It is now time to ask about the breeder’s sales contract. Do they have one and what does it cover? Don’t forget to ask how long it good for. Most puppies are purchased on a weekend. If you purchase the puppy on a Friday night and the contract is only good for three days, you are going to have a tough time getting it into a veterinarian to be checked out within the time period. Another thing to consider is the possibility of a contagious disease.  Incubation time for Parvo and several other diseases are seven to ten days. Your three- day contract won’t cover a dog that becomes sick on the fifth day even though it didn’t become infected in your possession. Make sure you ask before leaving, what the refund policy is. If the pup isn’t satisfactory, do you get your money back or pick another pup?

There is one die-hard rule in buying a puppy. Once you have purchased your puppy, take it immediately to a veterinarian for a check up. This can’t be stressed enough. A wormy puppy is easily cured; one with a heart murmur or other birth defect is a different matter. The key is to find out early enough to take the puppy back for a refund before you and your family, have had time to get attached.


When chosen with care, a new puppy can bring years of joy, love and laughter to a family so make sure you choose the right pup for you.