Picking the Right Puppy

Everybody loves puppies!  One of the greatest insults folks jokingly make when they are describing someone they don’t like is, “he probably hates puppies!”.  Lots of folks call me up, eager to get on the waiting list for a new puppy, ANY puppy.  Quite a few are turned away, either permanently, or for the litter that I have available. Why?

Raising a puppy is no easy task. It takes epic_12dedication, lots of time and attention, proper training and a willingness to give him or her the quality of diet and medical care that will keep them healthy and bring long life. The cute, fuzzy puppy doesn’t last all that long!

SHOULD YOU EVEN HAVE A PUPPY? That’s the first question to ask. Here’s a good rule of thumb, and one of my basic requirements for placing a puppy in a new home: There must be human companionship for the puppy throughout the day. If both adults work, and the pup will be left home for 4-8 hours a day, you should NOT get a puppy. If folks are away 3 or 4 hours a day, I will make an exception if the puppy will have the companionship of another dog or puppy.

Puppies are far too social and needy to be left home alone for long periods of time. They will get bored and usually destructive with chewing and such, and with nobody around to consistently train that behavior, it only gets worse. Then when the owners get home (and pick up all the destroyed books, paper, shoes, and examine the chewed furniture), the pup is a neurotic basket case that is actually not that much fun to be with, and is out of control.

puppy_destructionI can’t tell you how many times I had puppies returned to me back in the early days when I did not screen buyers as carefully as I do now. I would take back puppies that were said to be “out-of-control” and “untrainable” and “destructive”. After one week of being here at the farm with us, playing with the dogs, and doted on by my family members, they were like new dogs! Those dogs are all grown now, with never a complaint ever heard from their new owners, who were carefully screened.

So, am I saying that working folks shouldn’t have a dog? NO! I’m saying they shouldn’t have a puppy. Those families are excellent candidates for adult dogs that are fully past the puppy stage and can take being alone without going nuts. Even then, you need to find a dog that has lower drive and calmer temperament. I have adopted out some of my retired breeding dogs to such families, and it works out really well.

I have also found that older couples of retirement age have a high rate of puppy return. They often are convinced they have the energy to raise a puppy, but it turns out to be a bit more than they realized it would be. I have had three such returns in the last two years. I have also had some very successful situations involving retirement-age couples. I don’t necessarily refuse them, I just want them to strongly consider the work load and commitment involved, and make sure they are up to the task.


Our American lass, Cami. Always playing.


This is an important question. If you want a dog that is primarily a house pet and will lead a fairly sedentary life, you definitely don’t want an American Lab! Field Labs have a high drive that is easily trainable, but MUST be trained, or you will have a serious troublemaker on your hands. They are very affectionate and intelligent, but they are always looking for something to do. If you lead a very active life, have a yard at your home, love to take your dog to the water, they have opportunities to run and play often, the American Lab is perfect for you. You will find their companionship to be the most satisfying type. If you are looking for a hiking, running or hunting companion, perfect!


Our yellow English stud, Rob Roy

English Labs have a tendency to be lower drive, some with very little drive at all, virtual couch potatoes (after they are past the puppy stage). That sometimes makes them more difficult to train, because they are not as eager to do stuff, and to please you. But they are often better behaved as house dogs for that reason. They also have a tendency to be larger in size. Some are actually very agile and love high activity, but are still of a much calmer demeanor than filed Labs.

English Mastiffs make great house pets or outdoor pets. They aren’t necessarily great running or hunting partners, but hiking and walking are great for them. They love to be physically close to you, even touching you, so they make great therapy dogs and mobility assistants.


Harvey, a Mastador

Mastadors are the best of both worlds (if you can find them) They are more agile and playful than Mastiffs, less high-drive and rambunctious than Labs. They love the water, love to run and play, love to lay around and just be near you.

The perfect puppy for you may be not be any of the dogs I breed. Perhaps you need something smaller or hypoallergenic. But I urge you to carefully consider all of these things before you are just plunge headlong into puppy parenting because of the super cute pictures on a web site.

This is a 10-15 year commitment on your part. Keep that in mind right up front.

9 thoughts on “Picking the Right Puppy

  1. April Fowlkes Cook

    My sister recently told me about some neighbors of hers that were leaving two boxer puppies alone for 8 hours at a time. Beautiful dogs and they’re going to be virtually ruined for human enjoyment by such a poor upbringing. I can’t understand putting money and effort into finding a dog only to treat it like a foundling. My husband and I have waited 7 years and we’ll wait even longer until our circumstances are right for a puppy and we will definitely be sure someone is home the majority of the time to train it! Very good advice, Bruce. I wish more people had enough sense to get that from the start!

  2. Brandy Hollabaugh

    Great advice Bruce! Explaining the difference between American snd English labs is so important. Bella definitely still has some puppy left in her, especially when we come home or if someone visits, but other than that she is so chilled out. She is able to stay alone for a few hours at a time OUT of her crate, but it’s because we involve her in virtually every thing we do. She loves swimming and loves going down the river in the canoe, and loves going for a ride. We try as hard as we can to include her in as much as possible. It helps that she has grandparents that love to grandpuppy sit for the days we are both at work. She is happy and we love her to pieces!!

  3. Michele M.

    What a great blog, Bruce!! You have a wealth of knowledge about dogs (and so much more) and I’m so glad you are sharing with us. I look forward to future posts!!

  4. robin conner

    I was going to comment on face book, but saw your request to do so on your blog! So here I am! And happy that you have one! I look to you with your wealth on “hands on” dog knowledge, enjoy your puppy pictures and stories! You know I now have 4 dogs with the addition of my Rosie, a 4 month old Mastador puppy. I look forward to hearing more posts on this great new blog!

  5. Pam Goff

    What a great blog entry!! I admire the effort you put into matching pups/dogs with prospective families. I could never say thank you enough for entrusting us with Amos.

  6. dogs eye view

    Finally made it to your blog, and it looks wonderful. Lots of white space and easy to maneuver around; like that. Plus good writing, sound advice and adorable pups. What is not to like?

    Best to the CF people and pups. I will catch up on this entry and others soonest. Cheers.

  7. Joanne palmer

    Really enjoyed your articles. Keep them up. Going to try your itchy ides on our 14 year old lab, it makes sense! I’ll let you know. We are strongly considering mastador or two as our next set. Considering our options and what is right for our lifestyle and future 4 legged child.

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