Choosing a Pup

Choosing a dog is a major challenge – it is a decision you’ll live with for a decade or more.

In making the decision about what breed of dog you should buy you need to consider the size, shape, coat type, temperament and health of the dog you want. elizabethandmontyYou need to take into account your family situation. Once you decide on a breed you need to ask questions before you decide on a breeder and once you have chosen the litter you need to think about which puppy you are going to chose.

I hope this guide will help you to make your decision – whatever breed you finally choose.


The dog designed by nature looks like a Dingo, a Jackal or a Wolf. They are medium sized dogs with prick ears. There are some fabulous and fantastic looking dog breeds but remember that extreme breeds will be prone to problems. For example:

  • Extremely small – delicate bones, teeth problems, often nervous.
  • Extremely large – heat stress, short lifespan and bone growth problems.
  • Extremely long, droopy ears – ear infections.
  • Extremely loose skin – skin and eye infections.
  • Extremely short legs – back problems.
  • Extremely short faces – heat stress, eye problems and breathing difficulties.

Keep “normal” dog structure in mind when choosing a pet.

Woolly puppies look gorgeous but remember that most of Australia is more often hot than cold and that heavy coats need grooming It is not a coincidence that large, heavy coated dogs come from cold climates and smaller short coated breeds come from hot climates. A large dog also eats a lot and takes up a lot of room in the car.

  • Most breeds arose originally for specific purposes such as hunting, guarding, retrieving or herding and this can be a reasonable guide to their temperament. Large size and guarding or hunting ability are not pre-requisites for being a good pet. There are however some breeds which have always been bred purely as human companions.
  • In reality, registered purebred dogs are now, with few exceptions, bred for their performance in a show ring . This performance bears no relation to their original function. Show ring success is not necessarily a good way of selecting for suitability as a pet.
  • Selection for extremes of physical type in some breeds has damaged their intelligence and temperament.
  • Inbreeding has a deleterious effect on temperament.
  • Studies show that children get bitten by dominant purebred male dogs. Male dogs can make good children’s pets if they are desexed.
  • Puppies should be wormed and vaccinated prior to purchase.
  • Many breeds have particular genetic problems that occur commonly in that breed. Make yourself familiar with these diseases and be sure that the breeder you chose screens their dogs for these problems.
  • Rare breeds of dog come from a small gene pool so that they are more likely to be inbred. Inbreeding increases the likelihood of dogs having genetic diseases, reduced fertility, neurotic behaviour and a suppressed immune system.
  • Most dog breeders disapprove of inbreeding but say that they practice linebreeding for type which is different. Linebreeding is inbreeding – the distinction is only a matter of degree.
  • Crossbreds do tend to be healthier than purebreds. When two unrelated breeds of any animal are crossed the progeny show what geneticists call “hybrid vigour”. This is effectively the opposite to inbreeding (or linebreeding) and it produces an animal that is likely to be more sound, healthy and mentally stable than its parents. (For more information about Linebreeding, inbreeding and crossbreeding click here)
amberamericaEvery person or family is different and there are different breeds to suit each situation. In your situation consider:

  • Are you strongwilled or gentle, preferring reason to force? Only stong minded people with a good understanding of dog behaviour should own large guard or hunting breeds – dogs don’t reason and some animals must be dominated to be safe. A smaller, gentle, easily trained breed, is more likely to suit gentle people.
  • How old are your children? Babies and toddlers don’t handle bouncy or delicate puppies well – perhaps you should wait a bit.
  • Do you want an inside or outside dog? If you don’t like dogs in the house and you’re working all day you won’t get to spend much time with your dog – get an “independent” dog. If thinking of an inside dog think of hair shedding, size, activity level.
  • Do you have a large car and a very large back yard? You should have no worries with an active dog or a dog over 25 Kg. If not look at a smaller or less active breed.
  • Do you have time for/enjoy grooming? If not can you afford someone else to do it for you or should you get a short haired dog?
  • Do you have the time or interest to train your dog? Intelligent trainable dogs can be rewarding but they are more likely to become destructive or neurotic if left alone for long periods. “Independent” is usually a euphemism for “totally untrainable” but breeds that bear this label can still be affectionate and loyal and make great kids companions – if your back yard is secure.
  • Are you comfortable with the idea of desexing a male dog? Children get bitten by entire male dogs. If you don’t want a desexed male, and you have kids – get a female.
When you have looked at a few breed guides and have decided which breeds might suit you you will still need to do a bit more research.

Speak to a vet.

Ask about any problems which may be common in the breeds you are attracted to. Vets can be relied on as independent advisers. Ask about temperament, structural problems and the diseases these dogs are prone to.

Speak to the breeders.

  • You are the customer and you are entitled to ask questions – good breeders will enjoy the opportunity to discuss their dogs. Ask what criteria they use to select their dogs – if they don’t mention temperament immediately, look for another breeder. Try not to be too impressed by the Australian Champion title – each breed has hundreds of Australian champions, and no show breeders worth their salt would use a sire that hadn’t been through the show ring and gained its championship.
  • Ask to speak to people who have bought their pups before.
  • If you’re planning to pay for a registered dog ask for a written money back guarantee for genetic or congenital problems. Make sure that a veterinary certificate is adequate and that you don’t have to return the dog to get the money (and remember that some eye diseases don’t appear for years!). Getting your money back is no consolation if your beloved dog’s health breaks down, but it will help pay the vet bills. Breeders proud of their stock and confident of their dogs health should give this guarantee without hesitation.
  • You may find that a crossbred pup, bred in someone’s back yard, played with by the kids from the moment it was born and out of a much loved pet (ie a bitch doing a good job of being what you want – a pet) might be the perfect dog for you. If they don’t know what the father was it may be a bit risky but socialisation is a major factor in producing a good pet.
  • Consider a reliable animal shelter like the Lost Dogs Home. They won’t sell you a dog they think is unsuitable and if you buy an adult you’ll know what you are getting.
OK so you’ve done all the research and could write a PhD thesis on dog breeds and genetics and you’ve decided on the breed, the breeder and the litter (or you’ve gone next door where Sally has just had a litter of uncertain parentage) – now you have to pick your puppy.

Take some time watching the puppies together:

  • Watch the mothers behaviour. Is she nervous, aggressive, yappy, “hyper”? It’s not too late to think again. Check out dad too if you can. The best predictor of your pups adult temperament is the temperament of its parents.
  • Don’t pick the quiet pup off in the corner because you feel sorry for it. A fearful pup is likely to be a nervous adult. It is relatively easy to dominate a bossy pup but making a frightened dog braver is very hard. Nervous dogs are harder to train, they may bark excessively, they often develop neuroses and they can be unrewarding pets.
  • Don’t pick a pup that rushes up enthusiastically and bounces all over you. High activity levels can persist into later life and excitable pups are hard to live with although they may settle with age and make excellent pets.
  • Pick the puppy you like the best! Apart from the above take comfort in the fact that scientists have yet to come up with tests for 8 week old pups that are really accurate predictors of adult behaviour. Follow your heart.

boyandogGood luck in choosing your pup and I hope it brings you years of loyal companionship and happiness.


These sites may be of help to you when deciding on which dog breed might suit you.

The Intelligence of Dogs – Results of a survey of American vets, dog trainers and dog breeders ranking dog breeds according to their intelligence. From a book by Stanley Cohen.

Selectapet – provide a questionnaire, using similar considerations to those outlined here, which generates a shortlist of pure breeds which might suit you. It’s fun to work through but shouldn’t be taken as gospel.

Dogs Online – Website for Australian purebred dog breeders.

Good luck in choosing your pup. I hope it brings you years of loyal companionship and happiness.