Skip to main content

How to Choose a Puppy from a Litter

If you know what to look for, you can be sure of selecting a healthy, friendly puppy from a litter.


  • Step 1: Watch how individual puppies respond to your reaction when they nip at you during play. Puppies who are ready to learn to control the force of their bites will hesitate after a reaction. A puppy that isn't ready to control itself will ignore your reaction.
  • Step 2: Give the puppy some food, a chew toy, or a treat and stand away from it. When it starts eating or chewing, approach the puppy and pet it, putting your hand close to its mouth. If the puppy growls, stiffens, or snaps at you, back away. If the puppy is relaxed and doesn't mind, they are unlikely to have a guarding problem as an adult. You are ready to choose your puppy and bring your new friend home.
  • FACT: In 2004, a Neapolitan mastiff in the United Kingdom set a record by having a litter of 24 puppies.
  • TIP: Bring an adult male, an adult female, and a child under the age of 10 to evaluate the puppies.
  • Step 3: Evaluate the puppies individually and observe how each one behaves around people. Friendly puppies will grow into friendly adults, and shy or indifferent puppies will likely maintain antisocial behavior.
  • Step 4: Check the eyes, nose, and genitalia of the pup. The eyes should be clear and bright with no crust or mucous visible at the corners. The nose should be free of discharge, and the dog should breathe easily and quietly. Check for feces or pus around the dog's genitalia -- these can indicate health problems.
  • Step 5: Observe how the puppies interact with each other. Puppies who don't seem to mind being on the top or bottom while wrestling with others typically play well with other dogs as adults. Puppies who play roughly and don't seem to care that they're hurting a sibling will likely play more roughly as an adult, though they can be socialized to be a bit calmer.
  • Step 6: Look for a healthy puppy. Going to a reputable breeder is a step in the right direction, but you will want to find an energetic puppy who walks and runs normally; has a healthy, shiny coat; and looks well-fed.

Popular Categories