How To Pick A Puppy From A Litter – Shelter Pups – Part Two

In Part One of this post, we talked about the important questions you need to ask yourself before deciding to get a puppy, so if you have not read this yet, go and do that now and then come back to this post where we will now talk about how to actually pick out the pup.

If you are going to a shelter to get a puppy, you really need to prepare yourself emotionally before you are confronted with all of those beautiful little faces. You can only save one for now, so do your best not to be swept away before you have considered all the factors. 

It’s best, if you are going to go to a shelter to get a dog, to pick a shelter that is not too far away. This way, you can easily go back for multiple visits if you need more time to decide. 

You want to get to know a puppy’s true character, so at first you’ll want to simply just be nearby without trying to get the pup’s attention. Give the puppy time to become familiar with both your scent and your presence.

The key here is to pay very close attention to the puppies energy and body language, as these are going to give you cues to their personalities. If a dog’s ears are up and his tail is held high then this usually signifites a dominant state. Look instead for a submissive dog. You’ll recognize him because his head will be held slightly down. His tail will wag but will only be about half way up.

The dogs who immediately run to the front of the kennel or cage are experiencing either dominance, anxiety or frustration. The dogs at the rear of the kennel are likely shy or fearful and this might become fear-related aggression later on. 

Pick out a couple of dogs that meet your criteria: Submissive but tails wagging half way up and neither running to the front of the cage or cowering at the back. Get permission to take your choices, one at a time, for a short walk on a leash to see how they react. Get input from the shelter staff on each dog’s personality. Ask about any health problems and ask if they were adopted and then returned. If so, be sure to ask why.

In part three of this post, we will look at how to choose a good breeder if you choose to go that route.

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By Ellen Britt

Dr. Ellen Britt has loved dogs since she was a child. She is particularly fond of the Northern breeds, especially Alaskan Malamutes. Ellen worked as a PA in Emergency and Occupational Medicine for two decades and holds a doctorate (Ed.D.) in biology.

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