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Best Practices for Choosing a Healthy Puppy to Buy or Adopt

Updated: Feb 25

Puppies are cute. We’re not going to lie. But you probably knew that already. From hours of scrolling through the multitude of adorable dogs on TikTok to being enamored with every captivating canine on YouTube, we all can agree that the world would be a much better place with more furry friends.

how to choose a healthy puppy

But what’s the process for picking a happy and healthy puppy from a litter? Let’s review a few tips and tricks for making sure that the dog you have your eye on is the best fit healthwise for you and your family.

General Characteristics of a Healthy Puppy

There are so many variables in what makes a puppy healthy. Not to mention fluctuations in pet calculus from one breed to another. We’ll save that particular topic for a little later. For now, let’s look at a few different bullet points that are universal to dogs in general.

Coat and Skin

Clean and shiny are the operative terms when it comes to your new puppy's coat. Depending on the breed, a downy softness would be preferable as well. While your puppy could be dirty from playing outside, clumped or matted hair could mean infection, poor care on the part of the breeder, or worms.

There shouldn’t be any bald spots that show skin in any areas where there should be hair.

Skin that is intentionally visible shouldn’t be red or irritated. If it is, it could be as simple as allergies or as serious as mange. Additionally, the pup's skin should be clean and dry. You wouldn’t want your pooch to be showing signs of infection or flaking. And, we wouldn’t want your dog to be in pain.

Eye Health

Clear and bright might sound like the words to a Christmas song. These are also key in your puppies’ eyesight. Their eyes shouldn’t show any sort of redness or discharge. Drainage of any kind could be a sign of infection. There shouldn’t be any hair loss around the eyes, but keep in mind that this varies by breed.

If your dog squints or rubs its eyes consistently, this might mean a check-up from the vet is in order.


We’re going to bring back that magic word again: Clean. It’s important for the ears as well. There shouldn’t be any discharge, odor, or smell. A waxy buildup may indicate the presence of mites. Hair should be in regular formation and shouldn’t show any unexpected bald spots.

Just an FYI: most dogs will need regular cleaning of the ears. Most breeds deal with ear infections and this is your first and best line of defense. This preventative measure will stop hearing loss.


A wet nose can be a surprise sneaking up on you on the couch. But it’s also a sign of healthy dogs as well. As is a cold snout. While being open and unblocked are great indicators of soundness, confirm that there’s no discharge, sores, or uncommon drainage. It’ll guarantee that they literally breathe easier.


Color is important. A puppy's mouth should have pink healthy gums with white teeth. Tartar and plaque could discolor a newborn canine’s teeth. Their gums should be moist to the touch and the teeth should be firmly in place and aligned.

Depending on the breed, an overbite could be present. Puppy breath is a thing but a dog should have relatively fresh breath. Don’t forget to check its entire mouth and lips for any open sores that might get infected or be a sign of infection themselves.


Just like a newborn baby, a puppy could have a soft spot on its head as well. There are head issues called open fontanelles which occur when the bones in the head fail to fuse as they should. Unfortunately, these fontanelles can be a sign of long-term health problems.

Body Fitness

While your puppies’ breathing should be easy and effortless, beware of any wheezing, snoring or the like. Their belly shouldn’t be distended. Signs could point to a case of worms if this is happening.

Should there be a bump or other protrusion around this same area, the naval, specifically, could be a sign of an umbilical hernia.

Overall, (depending on the breed, of course) the puppy you choose should have a tight and compact body. You don’t want to see ribs showing under their skin. That could be a sign of malnutrition or worse.

Weight shouldn’t be an issue. Puppies are generally active. Any severe under or overweight pups might need to be monitored. Know what type of dog it is before you make changes to the dietary regime to meet its needs.


Legs should be straight and sturdy. When they’re galloping around and hopping on their brothers and sisters, make sure they’re walking and frolicking as expected. Beware of a limp.

A Few Extra Tips for Selecting a Healthy and Happy Dog

Comparing Littermates

Comparing yourself to someone else can be problematic. Comparing one puppy to the rest of his or her littermates is definitely recommended.

The size of all brothers and sisters should be relative to one another. Any puppy that’s too big, too small, too slim or too plump should be examined for any health problems tied to these specific anomalies.

How they play together is important too, but we’ll cover that below.

Read more health related puppy & dog content:

Energy Levels

Being active is intrinsically tied to being a puppy. Sure, everyone enjoys a nap. Lethargy or a complete lack of interaction with humans or other dogs could be a sign of something more sinister.

Puppies are also curious by nature. If they aren’t exploring things to learn, then observe to see if they are simply shy. But a disinterest in their surroundings, their littermates, or you could be a sign of illness.

Food Intake

Puppies will snarf up a ton of food. Like it’s going out of style. A strong appetite is healthy. If they aren’t interested in the occasional feeding that’s one thing. Sniffing around their food or taking a few bites and leaving the rest? Have them checked out by your veterinarian.

Bathroom Buddies

There’s a lot that goes into your puppy. What comes out, as far as their health is concerned, is just as important.

Let’s discuss their urine first. A puppy’s urine should be relatively clear. Any discoloration, especially blood, should be considered highly concerning. An infection of some type could be present. Contact its medical caregiver immediately for any of these problems.

Using the potty is a dirty business, but someone’s got to talk about it. Puppy stool should be regular and firm. While the occasional watery stool isn’t a sign of a looming problem, blood or regularly liquid excrement could mean a virus, worms or the introduction of something toxic into your pup’s food.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg of things that might be affecting your dog’s internal digestion.

Diarrhea could be the same as the above. Any or all of these for a 24 to 48-hour period should be a warning that your dog needs a visit to the vet immediately.

Sometimes using the restroom at all can be a problem. Dehydration could be the culprit when it comes to constipation. Again, there are tons of mitigating factors. At length, your veterinarian should be consulted.

Last, but certainly not least, vomiting. While every point above is a situation for concern, vomiting is more of a direct red flag. It could be something that your dog ate that’s causing the ruckus. But it also could be a warning as well. Depending on volume (and if blood is accompanying the vomit), make sure that you address these topics both accordingly and expeditiously.

Breeds and Breeding

This is where an honest and talented breeder can come in handy.

A professional and ethical breeder will know the ins and outs of the types of dogs in which they propagate. They know what signs to look for in their litters. If they are ethical, they will inform you of any health issues your puppy may have based on their birth, early behavior and preliminary veterinary visits.

Keep in mind that one dog from one specific breed has a completely different healthy baseline than that of another. (We’re looking at you, Irish Wolfhounds.) A breeder who wants what’s best for their pups will ensure that their new owners are going to take care of them. This means education for both parties.

The breeder imparts their knowledge of their breed. The new owner should ask questions and prepare themselves for their soon-to-be four-legged family member.

We use our Exclusive Matchmaking System. It’s been designed by us so that we can pair up the most loveable and perfect pup with the prime parents. It’s not just our job to assemble what will be a long-term relationship. It’s our passion.

We utilize any and all supplementary material that other breeders might gloss over as a tool in the process. We are your partners in this fantastic endeavor. In other words, under our tutelage, a healthy puppy can choose you.

Do your research to ensure that whomever you’re dealing with is on the up and up. When you find the right partner to assist in your search for a pooch, there’s a greater chance of long-term success.

How To Keep Your Puppy Healthy

This is pretty simple. When you get your puppy home, have a veterinary expert lined up. Make sure it’s someone you trust, someone who is thorough even when being concise. These first few visits with your puppy are imperative in building trust between the doctor, you and your pup.

These first few appointments will set up a good baseline for how your puppy will respond to those who have its best interest at heart.

It will also start a roadmap of where you’ve been so that any abnormalities that might rear their ugly head can be noted and defused as early as possible. The more you know isn’t just a slogan. It could save your loved one’s life.

The Right Puppy for Now

While we love to prioritize the health of our puppies above most things, you’ll still need to consider what will keep you and your family well healthy too.

Allergies, physical ailments that could be exacerbated by a furry friend or just knowing that the companionship is available should all be noted before moving forward with expanding the number of animals in your home.

In the end, make sure your environment and your family are a factor in choosing what puppy is right for you. It’s a big part of not only choosing a healthy puppy but keeping them that way.

Don’t Forget About Your Puppy Health Guarantee

Most breeders will offer their clients a puppy health guarantee. What this means, in short, is if there are any unexpected or unknown issues with your puppy within a predetermined amount of time, there are certain steps that you can take.

Whether it be a refund, a new puppy or something else, do not be afraid to pull the trigger and use everything that’s been guaranteed.

We know that you have your pet’s best interest in mind. Pay attention and use common sense when looking for your perfect puppy. While this all seems like an unending checklist of what could signal disaster, common sense will never steer you wrong.

Jenna and the JLDD Team

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