Selecting the right dog

       There is no magic formula for selecting the right dog, whether it’s a rescued adult or from a litter of puppies at a breeder’s kennels. It is always best if the entire family go together to make a choice; everybody should express their opinion as the dog is going to live in your home with all of you and will become a family member.

       Breed rescues

       Staff at rescue centres will be concerned that the right dog goes to the right family and they will ask personal questions about your house and garden, whether there will be anybody at home during the day to look after the dog and whether you have other pets. You will be shown dogs that have been carefully assessed and will be told candidly if there are likely to be any problems.

       Behaviour problems

       There are some disadvantages of getting a dog from a breed rescue. For example, it may have been a stray, lost or abandoned by the previous owners, and nobody will know how much training it has received, any illnessor health problems it may have had or whether it has been abused. The staff will try to detect and correct any behaviour problems, but in the privacy of your own home the dog may lack confidence and be troubled by the unfamiliar surroundings. Thus it may be hard work settling it in and you will need to be patient until it understands what you expect. If you are kind, play with the dog, exercise it and establish a routine, it is remarkable how quickly it will attach itself to you and your family.
Selecting the right dog

This Airedale puppy wants a game, but you must determine the rules and boundaries of acceptable behaviour to prevent problems occurring in later life.

Selecting the right dog

Even small toy breeds like this Pomeranian need a lot of care and attention, so only own a dog if you have the time and energy to devote to its care.


The breed rescue should supply you with the dog’s veterinary record, so that in the event of illness or accident your vet will know what treatment has been administered. There will also be a record of its vaccinations which you will have to keep up to date.  


There are several ways of finding a breeder: by personal recommendation, contacting The Kennel Club, training clubs or relevant breed society, or by making contacts at dog shows. Many of the minority breeds have only a few breeders in the country and you may well have to go on a waiting list for a puppy. The choice of breeder is important, so if you distrust one, do not buy a puppy from them. They should have taken care to rear the puppies in their  home environment and made every effort to maximize their health and socialization. The ideal breeder has a policy of breeding sound dogs, both mentally and physically, and will be interested in the puppy’s future home and life.

Selecting the right dog

When you go to the breeder’s home to view the puppies, insist on seeing their mother and watch the dogs carefully to see how they all behave together and interact.


Good breeders select suitable parent dogs from genetic lines that not only produce dogs with good temperaments but also minimize inherited defects. From your research, you will know which, if any, genetic abnormalities affect your favourite breeds. One of the most frequent inherited conditions in the larger breeds is hip dysplasia, and the best breeders have been working on this problem for years. They are now succeeding in reducing the incidence in most breeds. You should find out the average score for the breed and ask the breeder of the puppy you are thinking of buying to show you the parents’ scores or the mother’s British Veterinary Association/Kennel Club (BVA/KC) score sheet. If it is very much higher than the norm, you would be well advised not to buy one of the puppies. There are other genetic tests available, particularly for eye conditions that affect some breeds. The Kennel Club will be happy to advise you on the question of genetic abnormalities occurring in various breeds.

Selecting the right dog

Some puppies, such as this little Yorkshire Terrier, are tiny and must be handled with care.

Selecting the right dog

Lhasa Apsos tend to be healthy with fewer inherited defects than some other breeds. Their heavy coat requires a lot of grooming and it may be easier to cut it short like this.

must know

Having decided on a breed, you must now choose whether you want a male dog or a bitch. Although bitches tend to be gentler and more biddable, they come into season every six to nine months and must be kept away from males. However, spaying prevents this problem.

Selecting the right dog

These Yorkies look so appealing that it is easy to want to take them all home with you! Don’t be swayed by their cuteness, but let your reason predominate.

Viewing the puppies

Take your family to see the puppies, which should be over eight weeks old, but make sure that any young children are under control. It is possible that the puppies may never have encountered children before and will become disturbed, over-excited or even frightened. Always ask to see the puppies’ mother, so that you can ensure they really are her offspring, get an accurate idea of the fully-grown size of an adult dog and, more importantly, make a quick assessment of her temperament. If the breeder is reluctant to let you view the mother or refuses to do so, you are right to be suspicious and you should walk away and look elsewhere.

Selecting the right dog

It’s difficult to choose the right dog for you when presented with several puppies who all look very similar. Observe them and look out for the sociable, adventurous, gentle and shy pups in a litter.

Which puppy?

Whatever gender you choose, ask the breeder to remove the others, then examine the pups individually. Look for any sort of discharge from the eyes, the mouth, the anus or the vulva; if any is present, don’t take that puppy. The runt of the litter should also be discounted, no matter how appealing. Never be persuaded to buy a puppy at a lower price because ‘there is something minor wrong with it’. Therein lies trouble. If the breeder persists in trying to persuade you, walk away.

       However, if everything looks good, then watch the puppies closely and observe their behaviour. If you want a bold and confident puppy, which is full of character, look for the most extrovert one, which approaches you with a mixture of curiosity and happiness. However, if you want a more reserved dog with a gentle character, then select a more cautious puppy who is a little apprehensive initially but then comes to you and interacts with you.

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