How To Choose A Puppy From A Litter

Yesterday we talked about How To Choose A Puppy?  Today we’re going to discuss How To Choose A Puppy From A Litter.  First here is a quick summary of the steps we went through in the first article:

  1. First of all, make sure you’re ready for the responsibility of taking care of a puppy/dog for the next 10+ years.
  2. Research your puppy.  We recommend reading Puppies For Dummies (affiliate link)
  3. Ask yourself more questions: What breed suits your lifestyle?  Should you save your dog from the shelter or rescue?  Should you go to a breeder?  Why shouldn’t you go to the Pet Store.
  4. Find your puppy on

That brings us to today’s discussion on How To Choose A Puppy From A Litter.

image by pellaea

How To Choose A Puppy From A Litter

Our story ended yesterday with me finding a group of Australian Shepherd Labrador Retriever mixed puppies through  Here’s the continuation from yesterday (to read the entire story go back to Part 1):

…After searching for Australian Shepherds, Labrador Retrievers, and Golden Retrievers (did you know some purebred Golden Retrievers have spotted tongues?)in the database I found a litter of three Australian Shepherd Labrador Retriever mixed breed puppies:

  • A tri-colored female
  • A black male
  • A black male with a white spot on his chest

Obviously I was very excited.  Not only did I find a litter of puppies, but the litter was mixed with two of my three target breeds – Labrador Retriever and Australian Shepherd.  The puppies were not far away about 30 minutes at the Carson Shelter in Los Angeles.  I grabbed my Puppies For Dummies book and reviewed the section on temperament testing and how to determine dominant and submissive puppies in a litter.

Our goal was to find the perfect puppy in the litter and according to the book we were looking for not an overly dominant or an overly submissive puppy.  Both those types are considered much more difficult to raise for a first time puppy owner.  Puppies for Dummies lists five personality types:

  1. Top Dog
  2. Next In Line
  3. Middleman
  4. Passive Pup
  5. Shy Pup

We wanted to avoid the “Top Dog” and the “Shy Pup” and ultimately our goal was to try and identify a “Middleman.”  How were we going to find our little “Middleman”?  Well, we were armed with seven personality tests to help determine our future puppy’s temperament.

When we arrived at the shelter we were happy to see two adorable fluff balls sleeping on the hard concrete kennel floor – a tri-colored female and a black male with a white spot on his chest.  The third one we found on was already adopted.  We got permission to take the two puppies out of the kennel and perform our temperament testing.  Here’s what we did:

  1. Observe – We tried to observe the two puppies out of the kennel, but they were very lethargic and really just wanted to rest.
  2. Uplift – Cradle mid body and suspend the puppy several inches from the ground.  Both puppies allowed us to do this and were quite relaxed without struggle.  Check them both for “Middleman” or “Passive Pup”
  3. Flip-Flop – Cradle the puppy in your arms belly up like a baby. Black with white dot settled right in with no struggle – check mark for “middleman” or “passive”.  Tri-color struggled for a moment then settled in.  Check mark for “Next In Line”
  4. Gentle Caress – Just sitting next to the puppy and pet them.  Both puppies just lied there and let me pet them.  Check mark “Middleman” or “Passive”
  5. Wacky Walk – Stand up and shake leg and clap hands to try and get the puppy to follow you.  Both were somewhat lethargic and not super eager to follow or jump.  Mark both for “Passive”
  6. What’s That – Shake your keys above the puppies head and observe the reaction.  Both puppies noticed, but were not eager to jump up nor scared.  “Middleman” or “Passive”
  7. Crash Test – Step several paces from the puppy and fall to the floor like you hurt your knee…observe the reaction.  Neither puppy got real scared nor overreacted.  Once again “Middleman” or “Passive”

After running through all the tests we determined both puppies would make great pets and Black with a white dot was probably somewhere between a “Middleman” and a “Passive Pup”  while little miss tri-color was probably a “Middleman” with possibly some “Next In Line.”

Once again, how do I choose a puppy from the litter?  Here are the questions raising through my mind:

  • Do I want a male or a female? I had my choice of boy or girl.
  • Do I want a larger or a smaller puppy?  Black with white dot male was considerably smaller then his sister.
  • Do I want a tri-color or a mostly black puppy?  I had a choice of colors.
  • Do I want a more passive or more dominant dog?  Neither of the dogs were overly dominant or overly submissive however between the two one was more dominant then the other.
  • One final question.  Why not bring them both home?

I had heard that male dogs were easier to take care of them female dogs so I planned on getting a male.  Since these little puppies were mixed breeds with big feet I preferred a smaller dog (we were guessing they’d be anywhere from 50 – 80 pounds).  I liked the look of the tri-color puppy.  I was guessing the more passive dog would be easier to train.  I really had a tugging inside of me to bring both dogs home and my original intention and hope was to find a male and female puppy to raise together a-la Where the Red Fern Grows one of my favorite childhood books.

I was at edge about to take the tri-color, but decided deep down I was mainly going for looks and that I should probably take home the smaller black puppy with the white spot on his chest.  Why didn’t I take home both?  Well, I was always told that raising two puppies together would result with a strong bond between the two puppies and not as strong a bond between your puppy and you.  I also heard that you should separate the two dogs from time to time to keep them from becoming too attached to each other.  This attachment was confirmed when we went to puppy class with two Siberian Huskies who couldn’t even be separated by 20 feet in our training class before one would start whining.

After much debate we brought home the little black puppy with the white spot on his chest and it was one of the best decisions we ever made.  Here’s one of the first pictures we took of my new little puppy, Linus…

If you want to see more of Linus’s puppy pictures then check out the Cutest Puppy Ever!

That’s not all…you may know how to choose a puppy from a litter, but now what?  The adventure is only beginning.  We were not prepared to take our little Aussie Lab home yet and the shelter said they needed to microchip him before we left.  This gave us a chance to run to the local Petsmart and get our first puppy supplies.  So our next question was:  What Are The Supplies I Will Need For A Puppy?

We’d love to hear about your puppy experiences.  Did you temperament test your puppy before bringing him home?  Leave us a message in the comment section below.


  1. says

    @Esther, I totally agree. However, I did notice after videoing our temperament tests with litters of puppies that I got a totally different viewpoint of the puppy responses. It’s definitely a good idea to take a step back before making a final decision when choosing a puppy. It’s tough to do with all those cute puppies running around, but try not to be impulsive.

  2. julie stamper says

    I’ve found lots of articles about how to pick a puppy from a litter but not one that suggest what age you should pick the puppy. We have made a deposit for a puppy, the owners want us to choose our puppy the day they turn 4 weeks old. I’m not sure that the puppies will have really even developed their personalities by then but I think they want us to choose early so that they will have more time to schedule the other families. I feel this is a disadvantage to us. Have any suggestions? Is it ok to pick at 4 weeks?

  3. says

    @Julie, we pick up our Guide Dog puppies when they are around 7 weeks old and I’ve heard that is a very good age to get your puppy.

    I’ve had several friends choose puppies from a litter at early ages just like you mention. We have fostered puppy litters in the past and we’ve seen puppies develop from as early as around 3-4 weeks of age. Their personalities aren’t as developed, but your breeder should have a pretty good idea of each puppy’s personality.

    Also puppy personalities can change a lot even after 7 weeks of age.

    I hope this helps a little. Good luck with your new puppy!

  4. julie stamper says

    thanks for the feedback, the breader has agreed to let us come and pick when the pups are almost 6 weeks. She also agreed to try the test out close to the pick date and let us know the results, but your right about personalities. She already has a pretty good feel about them. This dog will be a medical alert dog so we want to make sure that we get one with great temperment. Thanks for you help!

  5. says

    I started talking to the breeder about personalities at 3 weeks. I got to see the puppies for the nest 3 weeks. When we went to pick her up (chocolate brown Labradoodle) my husband who had never been to see them fell for a little boy. His personality was about the same as the little girls maybe a bit more layer back. As hard as I tried to talk my husband out of it we brought both home. His reasoning was we could always give it to his son and family.Not! Not once your attached and it’s the only dog you have ever picked out in 57 years of life! So I coud give the little brown girl away to my daughter, not! She was just what I was hoping for in a therapy dog to read with children ands here we are two puppies! At 10 weeks they are now in separate kennels in different bedrooms. I snore, he likes to watch the news so at least they won’t be together at night. My problem is the constant wrestling with each other when they are together. It gets rough and I want to step in and teach them enough, but the trainer says don’t interrupt, what do you think? I’m determined for this to be a positive experience and have these pups be the best they can be. They are so smart .

    • says

      Hi Tammie,

      Congratulations on the two new puppies! In our puppy kindergarten classes we separate the puppies if one puppy is getting to aggressive or totally dominating the other puppy. In other words we try to teach appropriate play in our classes.

      One of the reasons puppies stay with their littermates until 7-8 weeks of age is to teach each other bite inhibition. I’m guessing this is probably why your trainer is saying not to interrupt their playtime.

      Good luck with your training!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *