How To Choose A Puppy From A Litter

This post may contain affiliate links. We may earn money or products from the companies mentioned in this post.

This is Part 2 of our 2 part series. Today we’re going to discuss how to choose a puppy from a litter.

In Part 1 we talked about how to choose a puppy or more specifically our experience deciding what, when, and how we chose our first puppy, Linus.

First here is a quick recap 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
  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?
    • Should you get your puppy from the pet store? NOOOOO!!!
  4. Find your puppy on

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

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 (or should I say underly?) submissive puppy.

Both those types are considered much more difficult to raise for a first-time puppy owner.

We wanted to avoid the overly dominant and the extremely passive puppies. Ultimately our goal was to try and identify something in the middle

So, 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 How Puppies Interact With Their Litter mates

We tried to observe the two puppies out of the kennel.

RESULTS: They were very lethargic and really just wanted to rest. I guess it was nap-thirty.

2. Lift Your Puppy Off The Ground

We held the puppies mid body and lifted them several inches off the ground.

RESULTS: Both puppies allowed us to do this and were quite relaxed without struggle.

3. Cradle your puppy

Cradle your puppy in your lap belly up. We do this a lot with our service dog puppies.

RESULTS: Black with white dot settled right in with no struggle. Tri-color struggled for a moment then settled in.

4. Gently and calmly pet your puppy

We sat next to both puppies and gently and calmly petted them.

RESULTS: Both puppies just lied there and let me pet them.

5. Encourage your puppy to follow you

We stood and started moving away clapping our hands, shaking our legs, and making kissy noises.

RESULTS: Both were somewhat lethargic and not super eager to follow or jump.

6. Get attention with your keys (we’ve also used 2 spoons)

We grabbed our car keys and shook them a foot or so above the puppy’s heads.

RESULTS:  Both puppies noticed, but were not eager to jump up nor scared.

7. Fall down and act injured

We stepped several paces from the puppies and fell to the floor like we hurt our knee.

RESULTS: Neither puppy got real scared nor overreacted.

After running through all the tests we determined both puppies would make great pets and black with a white dot was probably a little more passive than his big sister.

Temperament is probably the most important thing when it comes to choosing a puppy from a litter. However, there are definitely other important questions you should ask yourself.

Other Questions I Asked Myself Before Choosing A Puppy

Here are some of the questions that were racing through my mind:

Do I want a male or a female puppy?

I had my choice of boy or girl. I had heard that male dogs were easier to take care of the female dogs so I planned on getting a male.

Do I want a larger or a smaller puppy?

Black with white dot male was considerably smaller than his sister. 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).

Do I want a tri-color or a mostly black puppy?

I had a choice of colors. I liked the look of the tri-color puppy.

Do I want a more passive or more dominant dog?

Neither of the dogs were overly dominant or overly submissive however between the two the little male puppy was more passive than the female. I was guessing the more passive dog would be easier to train.

One final question. Why not bring them both home?

I really had a tugging inside of me to bring both dogs home and my original intention and hope were to find a male and female puppy to raise together a-la Where the Red Fern Grows one of my favorite childhood books.

Which Puppy Did I Choose?

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 in 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 pet store and get our first puppy supplies.

So our next question was: what supplies do I need for my new 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.

Now that you chose your puppy it’s time to prepare for your puppy’s first night home – Believe me it’s not as easy as you think…

QUICK RECOMMENDATION: If you don’t already have a copy we highly recommend Puppies For Dummies. It will give you a solid foundation and not only teach you how to choose a puppy, but also how to raise and train your pup as well.

Top Picks For Our Puppies

    We Like: Calmeroos Puppy Toy w/ Heartbeat and Heat Packs - Perfect for new puppies. Helps ease anxiety in their new home.
    We Like: Mighty Paw Naturals Bully Sticks - All of our puppies love to bite, nip, and chew. We love using Bully Sticks to help divert these unwanted behaviors.
    We Like: Crazy Dog Train-Me Treats - We use these as our high-value treats for our guide dog puppies.
    We Like: The Farmer's Dog - A couple months ago we started feeding Raven fresh dog food and she loves it! Get 50% off your first order of The Farmer's Dog.

Check out more of our favorites on our New Puppy Checklist.

Similar Posts


  1. I liked that you mentioned lifting your puppy will help you to noticed his reaction and give you an idea about his behavior. My husband and I are thinking about adopting a dog, and we are looking for advice to choose the right puppy. I will let him read your article to help him choose the perfect puppy for our family.

    1. I’m glad it was helpful. We’ve evaluated dozens of puppies. One of the most helpful pieces of advice is talking to your breeder or whoever is taking care of the litter to get an idea of what each puppy is like. They will have observed the puppies every day since birth and will likely have a much better idea of the puppies personalities.

  2. It was helpful when you suggested to choose a puppy that is your gender preference. We want to find a puppy for our daughter for her birthday this fall. When we look for one, I will be sure to consider her gender preference.

  3. I like it when you mentioned that you were looking for a puppy that is not too aggressive but can also follow your commands easily. Personally, I would also like that kind of dog since I will be new to this. This means that it might be hard for me to actually teach him skills such as potty training and all.

    1. Every puppy is going to be different. If you’re going through a breeder make sure you meet the parents. The parents will give you a good idea of what the puppies temperaments will be like. Good luck!

  4. You also have to research your breeds of dogs! Some dog breeds are just more stubborn! Our American bulldog pup was scared but also independent and stubborn:)

Leave a Reply

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

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.