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Boy with Pug Puppy

Choosing A Puppy

Everything you should know

This is where it all begins and where knowledge is power.  Choosing a breed of puppy that fits into your lifestyle and your family's dynamic will help ensure your success long term. Your puppy's temperament begins to be shaped inside the womb, therefore it is imperative that we research and learn to choose a puppy appropriately.

Genetics and Breed

Unfortunately it isn't just about how you raise them..

Something that is not spoken about enough is the correlation between breed and behaviour. We tend to forget that dogs were created to serve a purpose and understanding what that purpose is can help you make a more educated decision on what breed is right for you.  Dogs have been categorized into different groups based on what they were bred to do.  Here is a list of those groups, thanks to the American Kennel Club website. 

It is so easy for us to choose a breed based on looks or maybe a dog we saw on TV. However, this is a very misguided way to choose a breed, especially if you have or are planning to have children. We highly encourage you to reach out to professionals; dog trainers, breeders, veterinarians or boarding facilities and ask them about their experience with the breed that interests you. 

Rescue vs Breeder

The option to decide to purchase a dog from a rescue organization or from a reputable breeder is ultimately your decision to make. There should be zero judgement from anyone on what you decide is right for you.

Lifestyle Reality check

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What is your current activity level?

  • Why do you want a puppy?

  • Are you prepared to completely alter your life if needed?

  • How many hours a day are you away from home?

  • What do you do in your free time?

  • Do you have children? 

  • Are you planning on having children?

  • Do you have guests over often?

  • Do you want to attend dog parks?

  • Are you a first time dog owner?

  • Do you own a cottage?

  • Are you prepared to invest $1000.00 into dog training?

  • Are you prepared to spend between $400 and $700 to have your puppy sterilized?

  • Do you have the financial means to care for a dog for the next 10-15 years?

  • Is your breed of choice predisposed to certain medical conditions? 

  • Are you aware of the cost associated with those medical conditions?

  • What would you do if your puppy grew up and became aggressive?

  • Are you prepared to crate train your puppy?

  • Are you prepared to groom your puppy or pay someone else to groom them?

Peeping Dog

"You get to pick the exact breed of dog you want, based on your lifestyle. Don't screw it up!"

Training Dogs Online


What to look for

When selecting a breeder you should be very particular in your search. Once you have identified your breed of choice, you can begin your search. A reputable breeder should rank their puppies mental well being, health and temperament over physical cosmetic attributes. In other words, you should not be able to pick a puppy based on looks, your breeder should help match you with a puppy that suits your lifestyle.

Breeder Check List

A reputable breeder should thoroughly screen their buyers, but you should also do your homework and screen potential breeders.

  • How many litters do they have per year? A reputable breeder will not have many litters. 

  • Why did they decide to breed dogs?

  • Where do the dogs live? Kennel or home environment. 

  • Do they do genetic/health testing on their adult dogs?

  • Do they offer a health guarantee?

  • Do they raise their puppies using an enrichment program?

  • Have the puppies been exposed to loud and unexpected noises?

  • Have the puppies been exposed to different handlers and children?

  • Have they begun crate training?

  • Has the puppy been seen by a veterinarian? 

  • Is the puppy up to date on vaccinations and deworming?

  • How did the puppy react at the veterinary clinic?

  • Are the parents available for you to meet? Seeing is not meeting. You should be allowed to physically interact with them.

  • If the stud is not available, find out who owns him.

  • Do they do temperament tests on the puppies? Volhard Aptitude Test

  • Do they have references?

  • Are they involved in the canine community? Dog shows etc. 

  • Will the breeder take the puppy back in the event that you can no longer care for it? 


What to look for

When deciding to purchase your puppy from a reputable rescue, information on their history such as upbringing, learning environment, behavioural and medical predispositions, even breed may be unavailable to you. This means it is your responsibility to properly assess the puppy to ensure they will fit into your lifestyle.

Rescue Check list

A reputable rescue organization should do a home visit and reference check in order for you to become an approved adopter, often prior to a meet and greet with the dog you're interested in.

  • How long has the puppy been in care? 

  • How old was the puppy when they came into care?

  • Where did the puppy come from?

  • Did they have any siblings? 

  • Has the puppy been seen by a veterinarian? 

  • Is the puppy up to date on vaccinations and deworming?

  • How did the puppy react at the veterinary clinic?

  • How does the puppy handle being restrained for brushing, grooming or handling?

  • Is the puppy being fostered with other animals? 

  • How is the puppy with other animals?

  • How many foster homes has the puppy been placed in?

  • Does the puppy have any known medical issues?

  • Does the puppy have any known behaviour issues?

  • Is the puppy crate trained?

  • How does the puppy respond to meeting strangers?

  • How does the puppy react to loud noised or new environments?

  • Will the rescue take the puppy back if the adoption fails?

How to pick a puppy

In some cases, breeders and rescue organizations will match you with a puppy that they believe will fit your lifestyle the best. This helps ensure that prospective buyers aren't simply relying solely on looks to pick out their new pup. In order to pick out the perfect puppy you need to look at: confidence, activity level, sociability and temperament. Remember, looks can fade but solid behaviour can last forever.

Image by Anna Dudkova

"A nervous puppy is more likely to become a reserved adult without proper upbringing from the start. If you're looking for sociability, you're better off choosing a confident puppy. "

Training Dogs Online

Puppy assessment

Assessments can never be 100% accurate. They do however offer you and your puppy the best chance at an ideal match.

How is the puppy interacting with the environment?

A confident puppy will move about the environment and explore their surroundings with ease. A nervous puppy will be more reserved, calm and slow to interact and move through the environment.

How is the puppy interacting with their siblings?

A puppy that is busy and bugging all of his siblings might have a harder time reading social cues from other dogs. Looking for a puppy that is interacting and playing respectfully will increase your chances of a social puppy into adulthood.

How does the puppy respond to being handled?

Pick up the puppy and hold them in your arms. Gently examine the puppies, ears, eyes, coat, feet and nails. A puppy who remains calm and relaxed while being held and manipulated is more likely to be biddable.

How does the puppy react to strangers entering the room?

Look for signs that the puppy is comfortable, secure and social with the stranger. Have the stranger walk around the room and test the puppies willingness to follow and interact with them.

How does the puppy react to being left alone?

Take the puppy and place it in a room alone with toys on the floor.  Simply walk away and leave the puppy unattended in the room. Observe the puppies behaviour; look for a puppy that seems secure alone, explores the environment and engages with the toys. It is normal for the puppy to attempt to follow you out of the room. However, you don't want to choose a puppy that panics when left alone.

How does the puppy react in the presence of food?

Place a bowl of food down and see how quickly the puppy ingests the food. A glutton for food, while they will make an amazing training companion, is more likely to develop resource guarding.

How does the puppy respond to loud noises ?

Remove the puppy from their siblings and drop your keys or a metal dog bowl on the ground. Observe the puppy's startle response as well as their recovery response. It is normal for a puppy to be startled for a few seconds, however, a stable puppy will quickly investigate the noise and recover quickly.

How does the puppy respond when presented with an unfamiliar object?

Remove the puppy from their siblings and open an umbrella in their vicinity. Observe the puppies startle response as well as their recovery response if startled. It is normal for a puppy to be startled for a few seconds, however, a stable puppy will quickly investigate the object and recover quickly.

It is imperative that we understand puppies may react differently to an assessment based on breed standards. Some breeds genetic characteristics may give you different responses that are in fact appropriate to their standard. For example, a Terrier may be more wiggly during a handling exam, while a Labrador Retriever may be more relaxed. A Cane Corso may be more concerned with a stranger entering the room, while a Pug might be unphased.


Consider what you're looking for in a puppy. For example, a puppy that is a glutton for food, might be a turn off for some, due to the potential risk of resource guarding, however these puppies usually make a great prospect for sport/obedience work. 

"In order for puppies to learn appropriate canine social behaviours, they must have siblings. Singleton puppies tend to have less bite inhibition and be more defensive by nature".

Training Dogs Online


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