Is it bad to get the last pick of a puppy litter? Short answer: it depends on the dog breeder!
Just like humans, dogs have their own individual personalities and quirks. While some of a dog’s personality is inherently related to their breed — for example herding dog doodle breeds are known for their smarts and their high energy — there is still a wide range of personalities among the same breed and even among littermates.
But not every dog is the right fit for every family. The puppy that one family overlooks may very well be the absolutely perfect companion for a different family. As a result, in a well-socialized litter of puppies, there is no such thing as a “bad puppy.” Every puppy in a well-bred litter should be social and trainable. Although, the last puppy may or may not be a good fit for your specific family or lifestyle.
When the Last Pick in a Puppy Litter Matters
Let’s look at a couple examples. When meeting a litter of puppies, most people gravitate towards the puppy that runs right up to them with tail wagging and licks their hands! This outgoing, confident pup will be the life of the party. But he will also likely need some extra effort when it comes to learning to not jump on guests or bolt out the front door. This is not how to pick a puppy out of a litter, which we explain here.
The puppy who hangs back and observes first and approaches a little more cautiously may be a better fit when it comes to a more laidback family who wants a dog that is not quite so enthused! We sometimes find that the more gentle, easy-going pups are the ones that get overlooked during a puppy meet-and-greet.
Similarly, many people ask us which puppy or breed is “the smartest.” Some of our pups are standouts when it comes to our early training exercises, but again, a super smart pup is not the best fit for every family. A family looking for a service dog to perform specific tasks will definitely want a smart, extra trainable pup.
But the family looking for a relaxed companion to watch TV with would do best to gravitate towards a pup who is more average in intelligence. Intelligent dogs need a lot of extra stimulation and training so that their brains don’t fixate on learning to unlock their kennel door or other mischievous games!
Breeders have a variety of different ways of doing their selection process, so when it comes to the last pick in the litter, we recommend making sure your breeder can tell you a few things about the process and the personality of their pup(s). (Read what questions you should ask before buying a puppy here.)
Puppies from Any Litter Should be a Good Familial Fit
One of the markers of a reputable breeder is an attempt to make sure each pup is the right fit for each family rather than just trying to make a quick sell. As a result, your breeder should take some time to get to know you and help to guide you when it comes to getting the right pup, even if you have the last pick in the litter.
What are some ways you can learn if a puppy’s personality is the right fit for your family?
Temperament testing - Many quality breeders will do a temperament test on their litter of puppies before placing them with their respective families. While you can’t know everything about a puppy’s personality at 6-8 weeks, a temperament test can definitely clue you in on some of the basics as far as energy level, dominance and other traits.
Ask your breeder about this litters’ parents. We have definitely seen personality traits from ball drive to a taste for toilet paper passed through the family tree! If both parents stand out as exceptionally calm or exceptionally smart then chances are these traits will be passed on to their pups as well.
Some breeders allow you to meet the pups in which case you can do your own version of a temperament test by paying careful attention to how the pups react to various stimulation and interaction.
You as the buyer have a job, too, of doing your research and being willing to be patient and wait for the right pup if need be! If you have done your diligent research on your specific doodle breed and have gotten feedback about the individual parents’ personalities of your litter (and these match what you are generally looking for in a dog), the chances are the last pick of the litter will still be a great fit for you.
However, if you do have a specific need such as wanting a dog that can excel at agility or a pup that is well-suited for therapy dog, then you will want to have open, honest dialogue with your breeder. It is possible that the last pick may not match what you are looking for and a reputable breeder should be more than willing to tell you this and encourage you to wait for a different litter or pup.
Choosing the last pup in a litter would be a concern if you are unable to get any information about the pup’s individual personality. If you are simply choosing based on a picture and are unable to ask the breeder detailed questions about the pups’ personality and parentage, then you are taking a risk as far as whether or not this pup’s personality will mesh with your needs and lifestyle.
If the puppy is significantly older than 8 weeks and has not been able to find a home for some time, then this could possibly be a red flag that needs exploration. Again, if open communication with your breeder is key. Your breeder may be able to tell you why a certain pup is ‘leftover’ in a litter… in many cases, the pup may just be a quieter, laidback pup who fades into the background during meet-and-greets.
In conclusion, having the last pick in the litter is not necessarily a bad thing. We as breeders can name several “last picks” that have been the total delight of their families and grown up to be absolutely wonderful canine companions. However, as with any pick in the litter, you should be seeking to learn about the pups’ personality. There are times when the last pick in the litter may end up not being a good fit as far as temperament, particularly for families who have specific needs or jobs for their dog to do, but a reputable breeder should be able to help guide you!
Jenna and the JLDD Team