Choosing which puppy from a litter - advice please!

(45 Posts)
dogsblog Thu 21-Feb-13 12:11:32

So yesterday we went to view puppies, we were on the breeders waiting list, happy with breeder etc etc, all okay with that. We want a boy and there were 2 to choose from - but we just could not decide which one! They are only 3 weeks old and all black, so breeder had "marked" the 2 boys for us. As soon as we went in one of the marked boys came up to us immediately (there were 7 pups in all), DH said well he doesn't know he is still to be "picked" so he has chosen us, but I think it is more cats that "choose" you, isn't it the case that if a dog comes up to you immediately, he is dominant?! The other boy was bigger, but not particularly interested in us at all, he seemed very laid back, other pups were pulling his ears etc and he was not worried, but is that a sign that he is too shy? Is he being "bullied" - DH said the fact that he was bigger probably meant no, he obviously could get to mum's food so could not be too docile. The smaller one was very noisy too, didn't stop yapping and crying. He stopped when I picked him up, does that mean anything - i.e. he will want constant attention!! I held them both in my arms, both struggled slightly but then relaxed, when I held the shy one up he seemed to go a bit stiff. It was just so confusing, we do want a fairly placid pup but obviously don't want one that will be nervous or may have anxiety, I don't think he did, think it was just the case that they had woken up and probably if we saw them half an hour later their roles may be completely reversed. Breeder said she felt that the shyer one may be better, but I felt like we didn't do half the tests we should have done. We are going back again at the weekend to see them again, and just see the two of them on their own. Breeder said she will observe them both and see but she said they are so young, it is hard to tell - she had a pup from a previous litter who was very quiet but turned out to be a nutter - definitely don't want that. I know once you choose you just go with it and never know what the other one could have been like, but any advice/thoughts on what we could do at the weekend as we do have to choose one then!! Thanks.

dogsblog Thu 21-Feb-13 12:15:54

Meant to add, the smaller noisier one just seemed more "puppyish", wagged his tail more and seemed more curious, but that is not to say the other one is not like that too, just not when we saw him. I really have no gut instinct about which one at all! Help!

Cheddars Thu 21-Feb-13 12:17:08

I think you're making too much of the pup's behaviour. They're only 3 weeks old!

Whichever pup you choose will become your dog - it is up to you to train your dog. My dog was a nutter at first (most puppies are!) but with training and lots of exercise and love she was very placid unless she saw a squirrel

Abra1d Thu 21-Feb-13 12:21:09

I think it will be a few weeks yet until you can see real personalities.

Our current dog, the fourth we've had of this breed, was the one who rushed up to my husband and begged him to pick her up. She is lovely, but quite 'forward'. She has needed firm yet sensitive handling to encourage her to be gentle with people (terrier breed). Ideally I would go for a pup in the middle of the pack who is friendly and interested in me, not hanging back and looking nervous, but perhaps not the one pushing through to the front to get the attention first of all.

I love our dog, but I have had to work hard with her to get her the way she is now. I did not have this issue with the other three in the same breed we had.

Marne Thu 21-Feb-13 12:22:13

I chose the first pup who came up to me, i viewed at 7 weeks so they were all very alert. I sat and watched all the pups for an hour, some were very noisy, some were a bit too playful for my liking (lots of growling). The pup i chose was less playful but very alert, he seemed to like human company as much as (if not more) than dog company, he sat on my lap for a cuddle for quite a while and wasn't nippy (like some of the others), he was also the biggest pup in the litter so seemed very helthy (so i thought).

We have had our pup at home for almost 6 weeks now, he has been easy to train (will sit, lie down, wait and has a good recal), he is a bit clingy and deffently likes my company more than my other dog (which isnt such a great thing as i thought they would keep each other company and cut down on the seperation anxiety).

I think it depends what you are looking for, to us it was important that we didn't have a nippy, hyper puppy as both dd's are a bit jumpy and hate being jumped on and nipped. We also wanted a dog that was easy to train as we hope this dog will become a assistant dog for dd2 (who has ASD). I think we made the right choice though it hasn't been all good (i dont think you can pick the perfect pup), when we viewed the pups the one we chose seemed very healthy, sadly we have had lots of issues and he has been in and out of the vets since we got him (seems much better now though).

dogsblog Thu 21-Feb-13 12:23:41

That is what I was wondering, as they are only 3 weeks is it too early to know anything about them really, I do realise that we will get the pup at 8 weeks and lay down the ground rules from day 1, train how we want etc, but surely their nature plays a part?

littlewhitebag Thu 21-Feb-13 12:26:16

We chose from three bitches. We rejected the forward one who ran up immediately and the shy one who hung back and took the one who was curious but not overly so and she was a nice colour too. Turns out she is a complete loon who is very forward and will approach and and all dogs or people. I am not sure it is easy to tell what the pup will be like some months down the line. With training our pup is turning out to be a complete treasure.

Marne Thu 21-Feb-13 12:31:38

oh and our pup is now quite nervious and not as forthcoming so just shows that they change a lot in the first 10 weeks.

I think the key is training, mixing the dog early and laying down ground rules early. Also a lot depends on breed, some breeds are just harder to train than others, my pup is a lab x collie and seems (so far) easy to train, my other dog is a Staffie and although she's a lovely dog she is crazy and doesnt do anything she's told smile.

dogsblog Thu 21-Feb-13 14:05:14

Ideally we would choose the "middle" one, and choose later on in their lives, but we have to choose now, and these 2 seemed to be extreme ends of the personality spectrum, well, for the time we saw them.

Abra - as you said, don't pick the one who rushes forward but not the one that hangs back either, well these 2 did exactly those 2 things!

Maybe I am over thinking it, as I said, we could see them again today and they would have swapped personalities! I think I am leaning towards the bigger, quieter one but wondering if he was actually "okay" - at least the other one showed proper puppy behaviour, iyswim.

I don't expect to get the perfect puppy, and I know it involves a lot of training and it does depend on how you are with them, bit like children really, but like children they can have the same parents and be completely different. We just want to have a gut instinct and be happy with our choice, it's a big commitment after all!

Is there anything I could do to "test" or are they too young?

Abra1d Thu 21-Feb-13 14:31:34

I am sure that big boy would have no problems telling them off if the chewing bothered him!

I am not sure you can really test them when they are so young. But even seeing them a few days later can make a big difference. Sometimes just having been fed or woken up makes them look more or less lively.

And the way you bring them up will make a big difference. Like my dog now--she's pretty soft and gentle. My husband chose her so perhaps his gut feeling was actually working and he knew we could manage her. I think the fact you are so committed and keen to get this right speaks volumes about your chances of making whichever pup you choose the right one for your family. You're taking it seriously, not just rushing in. This is a very good sign.

Ds chose our puppy and he went for the one who immeadiately came to nosy at us and proceeded to get up to all sorts of mischief like wandering under the cooker and trying to run off with my handbag which was six times his size grin

Ours was the second smallest in a litter of seven but instantly seemed to have a bivg personality.

Now approaching 7 months he is still fairly similar - outgoing, curious and a little bit cheeky - a typical terrier really. Bit he has picked up clicker training and housetrained like a dream in less than a month. His slightly independent streak meant he slept fine from day one alone too though he favours being close by in the day. I think the downside is that I can see recall training is a long way from secure.

I'm glad we went with our puppy. He is so confident, adaptable and easy going whatever situation you throw him in.

Abra1d Thu 21-Feb-13 15:12:07

Recall training with a terrier is always going to be a bigger struggle than it is with other breeds. They are just bred to go off and chase vermin, with little human management or intervention. Just as well they make us laugh, little monkeys.

dogsblog Thu 21-Feb-13 15:37:47

Thanks Abra, your terrier sounds like a real character! So how old was she when you chose her (or she chose your DH!).

Marne - sorry about your dog's health, hope all is okay now?

Fan - how old when you chose your pup?

It is something we have gone into in depth about re crate training, general training etc, but this is our first family dog so we don't know too much about the choosing, with my cat she just came over and took to me straight away, and I just knew she was the one. Cats are picky though so they do definitely choose you, dogs are friendly to everyone so one that isn't may have an issue/health problem. Can they have "issues" at 3 weeks old?!!

DH thinks as he is bigger he probably is not "bullied" but just chilled out, or is it that he is so unbothered as to have problems? One other thing, I held him for a while and then put him down and he was shaking a bit, but breeder thinks he just got a bit cold - he probably was but not sure.

I think if I knew he was "okay" I would go for him, but I think the other one displayed more natural behaviour like wagging his tail more, being friendly and yapping constantly. Thinking about the yapping I thought ooh no he will do that constantly at night!! I am sure they all do though!

So think my question is: do we go for a more confident one that we have to "calm" down or a placid one that may be too anxious and scared, and we have to build up, as it's our first dog not sure we could deal with too much confidence! They are labs, so will grow to be big and strong!

I am sure when he had dogs as children we just acquired them with no thought whatsoever, it is all a bit "precious" these days. My FIL was telling me he went to buy a fireplace years ago and there was a pet shop next door, a little pup came running up to them and they ended up buying him and not the fireplace! Can you imagine?! He lived to 15, what a grand dog he was! I guess it is like children, you never know what you will get. I have one placid, compliant dd who is confident and friendly and one shy, quiet dd2 who would never say boo to a goose, until you get to know her and realise she is determined, stubborn and never takes no for an answer! Think that is making me think dog might turn out like that as well, iyswim!

Abra1d Thu 21-Feb-13 16:00:36

She was ten weeks. Usually we have had pups at about eight/eight-and-a-half. The plus side was that she was very happy to leave her mother and siblings. No separation problems. The downside was that we did miss a week or ten days of 'calming and gentling'.

But she is a softie now. Last night while my son and I were watching a Physics revision video she kept insisting that it would be a better plan for her to lie on our laps and be stroked instead.

minicreamegg Thu 21-Feb-13 16:15:42

I was given the choice of 9 pups, took me ages to choose grin in the end I asked the breeders DC's if they had any favourites and chose that one. Went back 6 months later to buy another one lol but wasn't given a choice as she was the last left, so much easier and the 2nd dog has a much better nature than the one I chose hmm

Booyhoo Thu 21-Feb-13 16:24:27

our boy was chosen by ds1 at around 5 weeks and i think he made a really good choice for us. he chose the really laid back one who was also the biggest of the litter and his personality has stuck. he is still huge 2.5 years later but he really is the calmest gentle giant. he didn't even go into the mad chewing everything stage like i expected. he seemed to bypass adolesence and i can honestly say he is the prefect dog for us. i couldn't have designed him better. he doesn't even like walking in the rain so if it's lashing he wont go out meaning we dont have to go either if we dont want. i had wanted to choose the puppy that bounded up to us and was very cute and playful but i'm so glad we didn't. we got ours when ds2 was 1 year old and they are best friends. ddog is so gentle and docile. ds2 sleeps on top of him on the sofa and walks him on the lead (he is 3 now). ddog just lets it all happen.

Booyhoo Thu 21-Feb-13 16:26:20

he is also best friends with our younger cat. they sleep together too. it looks funny as he is so huge and she is so small.

pics on my profile for evidence grin

dogsblog Thu 21-Feb-13 16:36:44

OK Booyhoo I want your dog!! He looks gorgeous, and his nature is exactly what I would like, so can I just have him please?! I can feel your big fat NO from here!

I did notice neither of the pups chewed, one of the others was constantly nibbling at the breeders laces and fingers, but I suppose again you can't read too much into it. I shall go along at the weekend and see whether they are the same or totally reversed in character, we are going to see them with siblings but also just the two of them so we can really compare. Also the breeder may have more idea by then as we have asked her to look out for us. It's so hard, but mega exciting!!

My pup was 6 weeks when we chose him. Everyone is looking for different things in a dog hence the range still bred but his lively nature is a bonus for us as we have an equally lively 7 yr old ds and I think he would have made a shy quiet dog miserable. As it is we are happy to be out with him lots and he is happy to join in noisy games of football.

Abra he is great off lead in the woods when it is just us. As yet (aware this may change!) he has little interest in furries. He kept a respectful distance at the weekend from my uncles cat and rabbits during a 3 night stay this weekend though he kept play bowing at the bunnies! He left the chickens well alone after getting pecked after going to sniff the fence! I did supervise though just in case. He just bolts after people or other dogs if I am not quick enough to put him on lead as he thinks he is everyones best mate.

I think I am a comfirmed terrier lover now. Furry chasing or not, they are so much fun!

Floralnomad Thu 21-Feb-13 16:46:23

fan you're lucky if you've got a terrier that is good with small furries , my Patterdale embarrasses me regularly with his attempts to eat all the local cat population and there's no way he could go off lead in a wooded area !

I think my mums cat got in early when he was 9 weeks old! She hissed and spat when he first walked in and rhat was it, he just accepted his place! He wags his tail and cries to try and get her to play sometimes but never approaches her. She will now lay on the opposite end of the same sofa now though. When my uncles cat came in he just sat down and tail wagged.

We have a hamster and dog gets in his bed if he is in his ball. He watches but if the daft ham goes up which he often does, the dog moves!

I would never rely on this state of affairs lasting though, he has a minder in tow when in furry company!

Floralnomad Thu 21-Feb-13 17:08:00

Mine has spent the last 2.5 yrs trying to liberate the rabbit so he can eat him . We had to dog proof the hutch with a huge wooden bar . Stupid rabbit thinks he could take him on so is not the least bit frightened . He did manage to kill a pigeon in the garden once and now just seems to have some kind of blood lust , I have to be very wary when he's off lead .

dogsblog Thu 21-Feb-13 17:09:07

Fan - think breeder suggested quieter dog to us as my dds are fairly calm and quiet, although not always like that and obviously up for being out and about and playing with a puppy! I love hearing about your dogs, they all sound like so much fun, think ours will be fine with any animals as breeder has geese, chickens and cats so they will be allowed out and about with them soon, here's hoping as my cat is fairly placid but okay with dogs as long as they know their place! But this is why we didn't go for a terrier, although I do love them!

Booyhoo Thu 21-Feb-13 17:10:18

i agree that different qualities suit different families. we just aren't a high energy family and i think ds1's quiet nature is what drew him to the pup he chose. we really are so lucky with him.

and NO you cant have him grin

i would just go with your instincts. i think you will know which dog is right for you. even if you dont think you know at the time of choosing.

Floralnomad Thu 21-Feb-13 17:15:43

Sorry if I've just missed it somewhere but what sort of puppy are you getting ? BTW I'm just nosey , nothing to say about picking one as we got ours from Battersea so it was take it or leave it !

I think I would listen to your breeder then dogsblog. A good breeder should be experienced at matching people and dogs. My ds needs volume control and to be honest is about as quiet and calm as your average terrier grin

Floral, I think mine is just wired up wrong as he is every inch the typical terrier in every other way. Or else he is playing the long game with a view to lulling us into a false sense of security before snaffling the rest of the family pets at leisure!

Floralnomad Thu 21-Feb-13 17:18:09

Sadly I've heard of that happening too , what type of terrier do you have ?

dogsblog Thu 21-Feb-13 17:19:29

Hi Floral, he is a lab.

He is a Border. I will never relax and trust him as it would be our fault not gis if it happened and we owe it to all of them to make sure all are safe. If the hamster is un his ball for instance then we walk with him.

My spelling is truely appalling on a touch screen grin sorry!

Floralnomad Thu 21-Feb-13 17:26:06

dogsblog I'm sure whoever you choose will be gorgeous . fan the horror story I heard was about a Patterdale and didn't surprise me in the slightest , my mum has Border x JRT and they're lovely and not too bad with birds in the garden etc whereas nothing is allowed to land here!

There are a few working patterdales around here and they always seem very busy and focussed on the task in hand!

dogsblog Thu 21-Feb-13 17:30:44

Thanks all for your stories about how you chose, I am sure whatever happens all will be fine, I am just a natural overthinker/worrier! Will keep you posted on who we choose!

You'll have to post us a cute puppy photo Dogsblog. Good luck smile

Abra1d Fri 22-Feb-13 11:56:29

fanofthe Yes, when we are walking with no sudden appearances of rabbits, pheasants, deer, etc, our terrier is pretty good. Once a furry appears (or a leaf or bird) all bets are off. She stops hearing. We have do to sprints after her. Who needs interval training?

But she is sooooo funny. I love the way terriers grin at you. And I love their take on life: don't give up if you want something. Don't take any nonsense.

Whatever you do don't get the least dominant pup of the litter. I did this, as I naively thought he'd fit in better with my existing dog as he wouldn't challenge or start fights.

Result, really bad separation anxiety and upset at being taken away from his mum. He screamed so much the neighbours (from several doors down) rang to tell me my dog was distressed. He certainly was. He even cried when I was in the room but out of sight.

A worse and on-going problem is nervous aggression. Despite living with another dog, and being well socialised around other dogs, he only accepts dogs he has known since he was a puppy (10 weeks). He is very very nervous of any other dog, and attacks if they approach. I have taken him to 100s of hours of training classes, and had many lessons with behaviourists, but it hasn't helped.

I love him, he's the sweetest dog, and very very attached to humans, BUT if I could go back in time I'd choose his more dominant brother. He is not a pleasure to walk, and I will not be able to take him out when my baby arrives as when he attacks he bites anything and everything within range. A baby in a pram would be in range sad.

Abra1d Fri 22-Feb-13 14:58:43

worsester you may find he's fine with your baby and accepts him/her as an extension of you. Will need sensitive handling, I am sure, but it may even help him to have a role: baby guardian!

digerd Fri 22-Feb-13 17:43:00

Rule of thumb is never take a nervous puppy or one that terrorises his/her litter siblings. Also a yappy puppy I would not take.
Think your DH has it right. The best pup also will lie on its back in your arms relaxed and contented while you sit. 4 weeks is still very young.

clam Sat 23-Feb-13 19:34:00

You might possibly be over-thinking this. Not that the way we did it was right! blush
We didn't even know if we wanted a girl or boy, but went in the end for a boy who was middle-sized and middling confidence-wise. No idea what the rest of the litter is like now, but we have ended up with THE most wonderful-natured dog on the planet. Not sure what happened size-wise, as he's the largest of his type we've met, but it doesn't really matter to us. He's a good-sized family dog that fits our house and us.

Our puppy was the quietest and smallest of the litter. The breeder had to feed him separately so he are food, he was too timid to fight for it. Rather than ending up with a nervous dog, we have ended up with a sweet natured, happy, placid, mega friendly dog who is eager to train and lives to please. And loves his grub!!

Being so good natured, he has yet to offend any other dog at all as he gives off the correct and rather submissive signals. Does all the circling, head turning, waiting to be approached, bum sniffs then PLAY!!!Therefore, he has yet to have a bad canine or human experience (we won't mention that he is likely to lose an eye but that is pure terrible luck, nothing more)

I did worry taking the small gentle one of the litter, I wouldn't change him for all the tea in china.

In fact, he's quite a little sod sometimes and is chancing his arm a touch this week!!

I agree with clam, you are probably over thinking this for all the right reasons! You might see the pups one day and think one is mega outgoing when actually, he's just woken up from a three hour sleep and eaten a big meal!!

Your breeder should know their personalities after 5/6 weeks or so.

HotPinkWeaselWearingLederhosen Sat 23-Feb-13 21:01:18

I could've had the choice of three Labs. But from talking to me the rescuer had already picked mine out.

Conversation went

"You should have her. She's totally nuts and will take work but is lovely"

She is nuts, she does take work, she is lovely .... And she is perfect grin

digerd Sun 24-Feb-13 09:47:08

A litter of pups of the same breed and father all have their individual personalities, and a good breeder who has lots of personal contact with pups, will notice the differences, especially after 6 weeks. 4 weeks is still too soon.

However, I had a litter of 2 1 boy and 1 girl. From the start the girl was the bossy one and the boy very gentle, sweet and easy going.
The boy grew up just the same, but the girl became aggressive when her owners wanted her to do something she didn't want to do. Neither parent was like that.
She was always full on as a puppy but not aggressive, so I was shocked.

Wallace Sun 24-Feb-13 10:11:14

We just went by gut feeling, knew the second we saw her which was our pup blush

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