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Choosing a dog can be exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. After all, you're committing to care for a living, breathing being who will depend on you his entire life! When choosing a new dog, so many questions run through your mind: "What kind of dog should I get?" "What's the best dog breed for me?" "Will he be a good fit with my family?"

The first step to being a responsible dog owner begins before you even bring home a dog. Thoughtfully and seriously assess your needs before making a decision, and you'll live long, happy lives together. Using our Dog Breed Selector, just answer a series of questions, and we'll find the right breed of dog for you.

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Once you’ve decided what sorts of dog breeds are going to suit your household and where you’re going to find your new dog (I recommend you look at your local animal rescue shelter!), you may need to make a choice about which puppy to choose from a litter. Whether you have chosen a hybrid or pure bred dog, there are a some important things to look out for:

Confidence and Activity Level

When you first visit the litter, it is important to observe the pups’ interaction with each other before you alert them to your presence. You should be looking for an outgoing pup that is neither excessively submissive, nor dominant with the other pups.

Sociability and Temperament

When you first interact with the puppies, look for ones that approach you with their heads held high and tails wagging. These are signs of socially well-rounded pups that have had the right start in life. Here are some tests you can do to check a pup’s sociability:

Pick up each of these pups and test their reactivity. They shouldn’t struggle excessively or nip and vocalise, and they should settle relatively quickly in your arms. Also manipulate their feet, tails and mouths to check they are not overly reactive to being poked and prodded.

Another good test is to hold them down on their backs for 30 seconds, initially they won’t like it but they shouldn’t bite or react excessively, and should actually relax under your moderate pressure. This does take a little skill and confidence – have the adults do this.

Be careful not to choose the fearfully shy pup of the litter. We tend to fall for the underdog, but this fearfulness trait is very difficult to change and is worth avoiding unless you have the skills to train the fearful dog effectively to give it confidence. The ideal pup should want to be with you and follow you around and play with you when initiated.


Here’s what to look out for to make sure you are choosing a healthy puppy:

  • The pups should be well-rounded and have a healthy, shiny coat. They shouldn’t be too skinny or too fat.

  • Examine the pup physically and check it doesn’t have an under- or over-shot jaw.

  • Its eyes, ears and genitalia should be clear with no discharge or inflammation.

Of the two or three pups you have narrowed down, take them aside independently to test their vision and hearing. This can be done by clicking, clapping or dropping something on the ground behind them to see if they respond. Also you can test their sight by putting a treat or toy on the ground near them and making sure they can see it and find it.

A good breeder should have all the applicable papers proving the pups are of the highest quality.

However, I would always recommend a quick vet check just to be one hundred per cent sure with your final decision with regards to health and medical concerns.