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How Do I Pick a Good Puppy out of a Litter?

Updated: Oct 22, 2020

There are few things more exciting in life than deciding to get a new puppy. With months of incredible puppy cuteness ahead followed by a lifetime of unconditional love, we don’t blame you if you turn a cartwheel or two!

But how do you know which puppy will be perfect for you? Recently we outlined a list of questions you should ask before you get your puppy.

Equally important, what kind of puppy will be best suited for you and your lifestyle? As South Carolina doodle breeders, we have years of experience under our belt and we are here to help make the very best decision for both you and your new best friend.

When it comes to picking the right puppy from a litter, many people often find themselves considering the value of Nature versus Nurture - the age old debate!

We have talked at length about the nurture side of the equation in previous blog posts (i.e. how to train your doodle pup and get him settled into the routine of the family) but what about your dog’s innate personality?

While no one knows exactly where to draw the line in the age old nature vs. nurture debate, most would agree that nature certainly plays at least some role in the long-term personality of your dog!

To begin, we recommend asking your breeder about the litters’ parents. The first step is to decide which litter is the best fit for you. Most people choose their doodle litter based on color, coat texture, etc. But parents’ temperament is of paramount importance as well.

Most breeders adore their parent dogs (hence why they want to create more of them!) and know all their litter quirks, personality traits, etc. and are more than happy to share them with you!

For example, at JLDD we love all of our parent dogs for different reasons, but we also recognize not all are created equal. We have certain litters that we recommend for someone looking for a therapy dog based on parents’ calm, friendly temperaments. Others we might recommend for people desiring a more active companion or a dog that can be a real athlete (fetch, agility, etc.)

Knowing Each Dogs Personality Is Key To Choosing The Right Puppy From Any Litter

Within any litter there will be a range of personalities and temperament qualities. Ideally, you will find an experienced breeder who can help guide you in this regard…performing a temperament test on each pup can also be very telling.

At JLDD we have various exercises that allow us to rank each litter based on attributes including trainability, dominance, etc. But even if your preferred breeder does not do a temperament test, there is a lot you can tell on your own when you go to visit a litter!

Well-socialized pups should be willing to approach a new person (some may do so more excitedly than others), but all should be curious and accepting of human interaction. A puppy that is very shy and attempts to hide from human interaction will need a lot of patience and training.

Once you’ve established these trait markers, it’s time to decide if you want a confident, outgoing, dominant companion or are looking for a more quiet, laid back friend!

A puppy that quickly runs to you and mouths at your feet or hands, makes eye contact and follows you eagerly will likely be very trainable, but may be “a lot of dog.” He/she will likely be outgoing, energetic and have a “life of the party” type personality. This dog would do well in an active home (possibly with kids) and/or an active adult who wants a dog that is eager to participate in training. (Learn more about doodle exercise needs here.)

Dogs that are very confident and more on the dominant side (may be repeatedly jumping up, less inclined to be held on their backs, etc.) are often smart and trainable, but will likely need a firmer hand when it comes to training/obedience. They may also not be a good fit for a home that already has a dog — typically more submissive pups integrate more easily into a home with another dog.

A pup that is interested in human interaction but is a little slower to approach may prove to be a more reserved dog. He/she may be more submissive and less excitable in the long run and therefore could be a good fit for an older person or a family that already has another dog.

There are other simple techniques you can employ when meeting a litter of pups. Make a strange sound (such as whistling or jingling your keys) and see which pups respond with curiosity. Again, this would be a marker of a confident dog who will be outgoing and eager to participate in training.

Independence is another trait to keep an eye out for. A pup that stays near people even during free/play time and follows you around, right on your heels is going to be a very affectionate, people-oriented dog. Other pups may enjoy social interaction, but also enjoy going off to explore some smells and/or play with a toy by themselves. Also, any pet owner should be aware of doodle separation anxiety symptoms.

Some people want a dog who can enjoy some time in the backyard by themselves. Others are looking for a shadow — those looking for an emotional support animal often want a dog that scores very high on affection and low on independence. You can often test this out with a litter to see who is willing to sit in your lap for an extended period of time or who follows you when you move around the yard/area.

Picking a Good Puppy Out of a Litter Is Easier When Breeders Have a Matchmaking Process

One thing that sets our adoption process apart from other breeders is that we like to pair our clients with their new dogs, like matchmakers! If you are ready to join our doodle family and you’d like a little assistance, we have a professional matching process to help you select the right pup!

Begin by filling out an application so we can learn more about you, such as whether or not you live with young kids, your activity level, what you're hoping a new dog will add to your family, etc. Once you pick a litter, we’ll work with you to choose the pup that best suits your dynamic and preferences.

Choosing a new pet is a major responsibility and not all puppies are the same, so why should we treat them like they are? Remember, any pup that has been well socialized and comes from happy, healthy parents, will likely make a wonderful family pet. And nurture will bring out the best in any pup!

We hope this post has assisted your search for a new pup. Do you have questions about your family’s puppy search? Let us know at and help answer them!

Jenna and the JLDD Team

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