How to Pick the Perfect Puppy

Two Parts:Observing the PuppyDeciding to Get a Puppy

Puppies are cute and adorable, which can make the process of choosing a puppy exciting and challenging. Your choice to get a puppy is an important one, so make sure that you do not rush the process or make an impulse decision.[1] Just remember that there is no single perfect puppy—the perfect puppy will be the one that fits perfectly into your life.

Part 1
Observing the Puppy

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    Observe the puppy’s parents. Genetics play a significant role in how a puppy will look and behave.[2] It is likely that the puppy you are considering will have many of the same physical and behavioral traits as his parents. Therefore, taking a long a good look at his parents first will help you determine if the puppy will be perfect for you.
    • If you are working with a breeder, ask him or her if you can see the puppy’s parents. Whether the parents have traits that you like or dislike, chances are that the puppy will have those traits as well.[3]
    • Keep in mind that breeders usually have only the mother on the premises. The father (known as the sire) is usually in a different location. If this is the case, you can ask the breeder for paperwork on the father.[4]
    • It will probably not be possible to obtain information about a puppy’s parents at an animal shelter.
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    Examine the puppy’s physical health. Good physical health is an important factor to consider when selecting the perfect puppy.[5] Make sure to look the puppy over from head to toe, taking time to examine each body part and identify any abnormalities that could cause medical problems (and expensive veterinary bills) later in the puppy’s life.
    • Look at the puppy’s eyes—they should be bright and clear without any crusts or discharge.[6]
    • Look at the entirety of the puppy’s face, including the ears, nose, and mouth. His ears and nose should be clean and free of discharge, and his gums should be pink.[7]
    • Watch and listen to the puppy’s breathing. The puppy’s breathing should be quiet and easy. You can watch his chest as he breathes.[8]
    • Look at and examine the puppy’s bone structure. Bone abnormalities could indicate nutritional deficiencies or genetic musculoskeletal abnormalities that would require veterinary care.[9]
    • Check the puppy’s overall body condition. The puppy should look well fed, with some fat over his rib cage. If he is well fed, his coat will look shiny or glossy.[10]
    • Have the puppy examined by a veterinarian if you are unsure that you can perform a thorough physical examination on your own.
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    Watch how the puppy interacts with his littermates. Another factor to consider is the puppy’s temperament—how he responds to people and other animals, as well as how he reacts to sights and sounds in his environment.[11] Observing the puppy’s behavior in different situations can help you determine if he is perfect for you.
    • A puppy who plays well with his littermates (e.g., doesn’t mind being on the top or bottom of the pile) and enjoys their company will likely grow into a well-adjusted adult.[12]
    • If the puppy would rather be alone or seems to get pushed around a lot by his littermates, he may not grow up to be very confident or sociable.[13]
    • A puppy with a dominant behavior will approach his littermates with an upright posture and perky ears, rather than a lowered head and ears pointed backward (submissive behavior).[14]
    • Observe how the puppy responds when his littermates yelp at him for playing too roughly.[15] A puppy who adjusts his play accordingly is showing that he can understand and stay within appropriate social boundaries.
    • It is helpful to observe the puppy’s interactions with his littermates before you interact with him.[16]
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    Look at how the puppy reacts to people and noises. The perfect puppy will know how to act properly around people. You can test your puppy’s temperament around people in many ways. For example, you can call the puppy to you and see how he responds. A friendly puppy will eagerly walk towards you and enjoy the attention.[17]
    • A fearful puppy may run away from you or display behavior such as tucking his tail or staying in a cowered position. An independent puppy would like ignore your calls.[18]
    • You can also cradle the puppy in your arms to see how he reacts to being held. He may enjoy it (e.g., relaxed and calm body language), or he may do everything he can (e.g., squirm, snarl, bite, defecate) to try to get out of your arms as quickly as possible.[19]
    • Clap your hands or make another loud noise—just once—to test how the puppy responds to sudden loud noises. A puppy who is overly sensitive to loud noises may be a challenge, since he would likely not be able to enjoy different activities with you.[20]
    • You can also observe if the puppy has a tendency to guard things. A negative response to you approaching him when he is eating (e.g., snarling, biting), could signal a serious behavioral problem that could get worse as he grows older.[21]
    • Testing the puppy’s jaw control is also important. It is a good sign if he loosens his jaws when you let him know (‘ouch!’) that he’s bitten too hard. A puppy who ignores your reaction could develop a biting problem that worsens over time unless resolved promptly.[22]
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    Ask questions. Whether you are working with a breeder or visiting animal shelters, do not be afraid to ask plenty of questions about the puppy and the business. Ask questions about how the puppies are raised and socialized, how the breeder handles the whelping (birthing) process, and if the puppy’s parents have been tested for breed-specific diseases.[23]
    • Regarding the individual puppy, ask questions about his medical care—vaccination history, deworming history, presence of a microchip.[24]
    • For a purebred puppy, asking the breeder for the dog’s registration papers is a good idea.[25]
    • Asking plenty of questions will help you be confident that you are picking a puppy from a reputable and respected business.

Part 2
Deciding to Get a Puppy

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    Analyze your budget. Owning a puppy will add several expenses to your monthly budget—food, toys, veterinary care, obedience classes, etc. The exact cost will vary between breeds, but you should expect to spend about $100 to $150/month on puppy-related expenses in the first year.[26]
    • Keep in mind that buying from a breeder will probably be more expensive than buying a puppy from an animal shelter.
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    Determine if your home and lifestyle are conducive to puppy ownership. Even if your budget can handle puppy-related expenses, you will need to think about how owning puppy could affect your current life situation. For example, if you are living in an apartment, there may be breed or weight restrictions that could impact your choice of dog breed.[27]
    • If your work requires frequent travel, owning a puppy would likely not be practical. Puppies are very time-intensive, and your time away from home would negatively affect your ability to care for and train a puppy.[28]
    • If you have a busy home life, you will need to determine if you will have the extra time to commit to raising a puppy.
    • Do not feel disappointed if you determine that now is not the right time to own a puppy. It is better to come to that conclusion before you make the financial commitment to own one.
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    Do your research. Learning as much as you can about dog breeds and dog ownership is essential to picking the perfect puppy. There is an abundance of information on the internet to help prepare you for picking a puppy. The website has excellent information on many aspects of dog ownership.
    • Another helpful website is, which has a quiz you can take to determine which dog breed(s) may work best for your lifestyle.
    • You can also ask veterinarians, dog trainers, and reputable dog breeders for information on how to pick a puppy.[29]
    • Your local library will likely have a selection of books on dog ownership.[30]


  • Keep in mind that there is no single test for the perfect puppy. Also, there is no guarantee that the ‘pick of the litter’ will be a well-adjusted adult dog.[31]
  • Remember that any puppy can look cute and adorable at first glance. It is up to you to do your research and make a well-informed decision about which puppy is perfect for you.
  • Picking the perfect puppy should be based on more than just an emotional connection to the puppy. You should be as practical and objective as possible when deciding which puppy is perfect for you.[32]
  • The ideal age range to buy or adopt a puppy is 8 to 12 weeks. Some states may require a minimum age for selling puppies—a veterinarian or reputable dog breeder could provide you with this information.[33]
  • If you do not want to buy your puppy from a breeder, ask your veterinarian for recommendations on reputable animal shelters or rescue groups.


  • A puppy with behavioral and/or physical health issues can be difficult to train and care for.[34] In addition, these issues may require the expertise of a veterinarian or veterinary behaviorist, which would be an additional expense.
  • Do not pick your puppy from a puppy mill! Puppy mills are notorious for breeding puppies in deplorable conditions and selling them for a profit. Also, puppy mills may the source of puppies you see at the pet store.[35]

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Categories: Choosing a Dog