Choosing the Right Puppy

Here’s a post out of the archives that’s relevant at any time of the year!


If you’re thinking about getting a new pup, now is a great time to start your process. If you can pull it off, you’re perfectly set to have your new puppy just in time for the summer when, the pup can have plenty of time with you and your family. Just plain face time is absolutely necessary in creating that bond you’ll enjoy your pup’s whole life.


But before you run out and snatch up the first cute little writhing, licking, wagging ball of energy you see, read this post carefully. You need to be extra thoughtful as you make your choice — it’s easy to get drawn in by cuteness…and cuteness grows up. You need to know what you’re getting.


Alligator Hall, Sarah Sanford, Pets, puppy


I did a show some years back for the Outdoor Life Network where we followed a guy who wanted a puppy and decided to start from scratch on breed, color, lineage, the works. He had no idea of what he wanted, so we went to the famous bird dog expert, Mr. Delmar Smith of Oklahoma. Delmar has long been considered to be one of the all-time greats in the history of bird dog training and breeding and it was an honor to talk with him. In the interview about choosing a puppy, he laid it on the line: “If you want a puppy, don’t ever look at puppies! Look at the mama and the daddy.” His words verbatim.


(Geez Louise. That’s precisely what my grandmother used to say to my brothers about choosing a wife … “so she’s cute now. Hot, even. But look at her mom – if mama’s mean, nutty, neurotic, crazy, or a combination of all of that – your cutie might just turn into her.”  Hey, lighten up – I didn’t say it, my grandmother did. But I have to admit, but there’s something to it…)


Alligator Hall, Sarah Sanford, Pets, puppy


So Delmar Smith was tough when it came to puppies.  Truth is, if you look at any pup, you’ll want it; but it might be the wrong dog for you. (Take a look at the cute puppies in the two above pictures: $1500 Whippets…but they sure don’t look like Whippets at this stage! And do you want a Whippet or a Shepherd or a Lab?) Lets take this a step further:  let’s say you know what breed you want and even the price is right for the litter you found in the newspaper. Now you load the kids up, head to the address and there are the puppies – fuzzy, cute, cheerful…OK, that one does have a little white spot on his chest (even though they’re supposedly black labs). Now your kids are crying because they want the little one with the white spot on his chest…stop the presses! Didn’t you listen to Delmar Smith? Don’t look at the puppies. Ask to see the mother.


There she is. Timid (not good if you want a confident dog – often the pups will take on her personality traits). A long pointy snout. (Hmmm.) A hooked tail (the wrong way….Oh my. Not exactly like a lab…) WAKE UP! You could end up with a white-spotted, pointy-snouted, hooked-tailed, timid house dog. (Oh, you wanted her for hunting. Yea, right.)


If you want a puppy, make out a checklist. Ask these questions:


  • FIRST AND FOREMOST:   Am I and ALL of my family OK with a dog that sheds? (THIS alone could narrow your search tremendously)
  • do I want a pet or a hunting companion
  • If I want a hunter, do I want pointing or retrieving
  • do I want house dog/hunter, or a full-on hunter (who might not care about inside)
  • do I want a KIDS dog
  • do I have lots of room for a hyper dog, or do I need a laid back type
  • I’m in the city, which dogs do well as city dogs?

Now go look for parent dogs that meet your criterion. When you’ve found the perfect parents, chances are, you’ve found the perfect pup.


Alligator Hall, Sarah Sanford, Pets, puppy