There’s nothing quite like getting a new puppy to bring home to make your family complete!  But when you’re faced with a litter size of six, eight or even up to 12 puppies, and each one is just as fluffy and adorable as their siblings, it can be very hard to find the one that’s best for you or your family.

How to choose a puppy from a large litter dog advisor hq australian cattle dog puppy puppies

Is there really a difference when selecting the right puppy from smaller litters vs. larger litters?  Yes.  So, then, you’re probably wondering how to choose a puppy from a large litter. 

While you will want to just take them all home, unfortunately that’s not usually possible.  But thankfully, we have some ways to help you pick the perfect pup out of a large litter.

In this article, we’ll give you tips and advice for choosing your future furry family member from their numerous littermates. You’ll learn what questions to ask the parents’ owners, what physical and personality traits to look for, and other factors to consider before you settle on a puppy to take home.

Ask the Breeder About the Puppies’ Personalities

One of the first (and arguably MOST important) factors to consider when choosing a puppy is what kind of personality you’re looking for that will suit your lifestyle and preferences.

At this point in their lives, no one will know each puppy’s personality better than the mother dog’s owner, so you’ll want to ask them as many questions as possible to find a puppy that will be the perfect match.

Oftentimes, when someone is choosing a puppy from a litter, it’s either the first time they’ve met the puppies, or their previous visits have been brief. This means you might not have all of the necessary details about the puppies.

It might even be difficult to tell most of them apart by their physical appearance, let alone their personalities, but a good breeder should be able to identify them with ease.

Because of this, they can describe the personalities of each pup based on behaviors they’ve observed over the first months of life.  Remember, we want an overall observation rather than what’s been seen in the brief viewing sessions. 

You might think a puppy is low energy because when you visited, he was sleeping in the corner, when in reality, he was just resting at that particular time because he is the MOST energetic of the litter!   

Why Does a Puppy’s Personality Matter?

A puppy’s personality matters because its social and behavioral tendencies will indicate how your dog interacts with the world. 

Knowing the pup’s personality can also help to predict their likes, dislikes, and habits, allowing you to choose one that suits your circumstances.

For instance, if a puppy isn’t playing with its littermates much and seems shy and reserved, they might struggle socializing with other dogs and will need extra help with their confidence; so, if you already own three rambunctious dogs, you might want to find a puppy that’s a bit more social rather than throwing this one into a home whether they’re more likely to be fearful and stressed.

Alternatively, if you’re an incredibly active person who likes to go on hikes or long runs, the puppy that seems to always be bouncing off the walls and plays endlessly is probably the best fit for you, as they’ll be able to keep up with all your activities.

Knowing what personality traits you prefer beforehand is the best way to help you pick out the right puppy that will enjoy your company just as much as you enjoy theirs.

Should You Let the Breeder Choose a Puppy for You?

There are times when it makes sense to let the breeder choose a puppy for you, such as when there are many pups to choose from, and you just can’t make up your mind between 2 or 3 of the adorable puppies.

This tip can be a tough pill to swallow for some people and a saving grace for others, but oftentimes, it’s actually the easiest way to choose a puppy from a large litter.  Remember, the reputable breeder that you have chosen has been around the pups since before their birth, so they will know the personality of the mother, the pups themselves, and quite possibly even the father.

Since a puppy’s owner is going to know both the mother dog and puppies best, the easiest way to pick the one that you’re confident will suit you is to ask the owner to choose for you.  The breeder will just need to know a few details about your life, living environment and family structure.

If you’re really at a loss for how to pick a puppy from a larger litter size, we recommend giving the owner as much relevant information about you as possible and asking them to make an informed decision.

Things you should tell them include:

  • Your daily and weekly schedules (include work hours, how much free time you have, how much you’re home, etc.)
  • Your activity levels (ex. are you a couch potato, or do you like physical activities or a bit of both?)
  • Do you have children?
  • Do you have other pets?
  • How big is your yard, and is it fenced in?
  • Is this your first dog?

Knowing this information will give the owner an idea of what type of personality traits they should look for in your puppy (ex., a sociable family dog vs. a low-maintenance first-time dog vs. a high maintenance active dog).

One of the reasons this is the best way to go about picking a puppy from a large litter is that the current owner will be much more objective than most buyers.

Any responsible breeder worth their title is going to treat these puppies like their children and want the best for them, so they’re going to think critically about which puppy will match your needs best, whereas many new owners get distracted by the excitement of having a new puppy and their cute faces that they aren’t thinking as critically as they probably should.

While we certainly don’t blame them for this, it does make it harder to make an informed decision, so relying on the owner might be the best way to go.

How to choose a puppy from a large litter Dog Advisor HQ white labs young pups

Spend Some Bonding Time With the Puppies

This tip goes along with the previous point we made that most owners choosing their new puppy from a litter have spent minimal time with them, so it can often feel like you’re picking one at random rather than making an informed decision you’re confident with.

It is always encouraged that future owners spend quality time bonding with the puppies in a large litter size before choosing one. This will allow you to observe the puppies more closely and will increase the chances of having a special experience with one.

If you’re picking up a puppy from a shelter or a breeder, we highly recommend you request to set up a bonding session. This could be as brief as 10 minutes or as long as a half-hour to an hour. If possible, have multiple bonding sessions so you can see how your interactions with the puppies were the same or differed.

We recommend sitting in a room or a large fenced-in area with all the puppies for this bonding session and seeing if any take a special interest in you. It’s important that your puppy chooses you as much as you choose them within reason (we’ll get to that part in a moment).

If you do find one or more are coming up to you, try to enhance the bonding experience by playing with them. This is a great way to establish a relationship and will help you gauge how well the puppy plays with you and their comfort levels.

You should also see how the puppy reacts to your petting and handling it, as this is something you’ll inevitably have to do when you own it, so it’s best to know ahead of time whether they tolerate handling well or not.

Don’t Be Fooled By the Puppy Eyes!

We are firm supporters of the idea that you should bond a bit with your puppy before you take it home, and it’s always encouraging when a puppy shows interest in you. That being said, it is easy to misinterpret behaviors and personality traits if you aren’t being objective enough.

When bonding with a puppy, you always want to be observant and think critically about its behavior, especially if it is showing interest in you.

While the “let the puppy choose you” mentality is cute, it can be extremely dangerous and might even lead you to bring home a puppy that doesn’t actually fit your circumstances well. This usually happens when people misunderstand a puppy’s behavior that would normally be significant red flags.

The most common example of this is when a puppy seems overly interested in you. At first glance, this might seem like an “it’s meant to be” moment, but take a second to step back and analyze the situation.

Is this puppy nudging you around and preventing other puppies from coming over? If so, this might indicate they have a pretty demanding personality and might even be resource guarding (you being the resource), which can be difficult habits to break, making them challenging to train.

So, while it’s easy to get warm, fuzzy feelings that a puppy is interested in you, you’ll want to be conscious of all their behaviors. 

Watch the Puppies Play

How to choose a puppy from a large litter dog advisor hq australian cattle dog puppies playing running toys

This is another great way to gauge a puppy’s personality without getting yourself involved as a distraction.

Observing how litter mates play with each other can tell you a lot about a puppy’s personality and temperament. From a few minutes of play, you’ll be able to pick out the most confident and playful puppies from those that are shyer and more reserved. You can also potentially gauge their energy levels by seeing which will play constantly versus those that get tired after a few minutes.

Watching how puppies play with one another is invaluable and especially important for owners who have children or other pets, as it will help them find a puppy with the perfect temperament. Family or multi-pet homes will pose a greater challenge when it comes to choosing a dog from a large litter because you’ll want to find a dog that is sociable, tolerant, and gentle.

In this case, look for a dog that seems willing to play with its siblings but doesn’t easily get frustrated or even aggressive. You’ll also want to find a puppy with good bite inhibition, meaning it doesn’t use excessive force when play biting, and when it accidentally does (as this happens a lot with young puppies learning to play), is the puppy responsive (ex. visibly gets gentler or backs off)?

This is just one way that watching how puppies play can really help you find one that suits your circumstances.

When to Consider Gender when Choosing a Puppy

If you ask us, personality or temperament should always be the primary guide when it comes to picking a puppy from any litter. However, if there are a lot of puppies in this large litter that you think would suit your lifestyle well, one of the fastest ways to dwindle down the options is to choose a gender.

Choosing your puppy’s gender can be an easy way to pick one out of a litter. However, while this certainly isn’t the most important deciding factor, it’s something you might want to consider since there are differences between each gender that might sway you towards one over the other.   

It isn’t vital that you have a gender in mind before choosing your new puppy, but there’s certainly nothing wrong with having a preference. In a litter that has far more boys than girls, or vice versa, it might help to pick the gender you want and then the dog with the most fitting personality within that gender.

That being said, if there is a puppy of the opposite gender that would be a better fit, you should definitely choose that one since personality and temperament are far more important.

Some things you might want to consider with your puppy’s gender is how this will affect their behaviors hormonally and what challenges this might pose for you. For instance, if you don’t intend to get your puppy neutered or spayed (though we highly recommend you should have them fixed), you’ll have to decide if you’d rather deal with your male potentially marking where he shouldn’t or keeping your female away from male dogs when she’s in heat.

Your puppy’s gender might also affect the dynamics in your house if you have other dogs, especially dogs that aren’t fixed. So, keep that in mind when you’re picking a pup as well.

Give The Pup a Health Check

The last tip we have for picking a puppy out of a large litter is another important factor you’ll want to consider potentially more than the puppy’s personality.

You should always give your puppy a thorough health check personally before you decide to adopt it, and searching for healthy traits in a large litter of puppies can help you pick one over its siblings more easily.

While you’d like to think every puppy in a litter will have a clean bill of health, this isn’t always the case. Therefore, you’ll want to watch out for any signs that a puppy might be struggling developmentally or isn’t at its peak health at the time of adoption.

When you test to see how your puppy responds to you handling them, take the time to check their:

  • Ears
  • Nose
  • Top of the head
  • Mouth (ex. teeth, gums, tongue)
  • Belly
  • Skin and coat

Look for any signs of concern, such as irritation or infection, discharge, discoloration, unnatural dryness, or flaking. You’ll also want to make sure you don’t smell any foul odors that might indicate an infection or other health concerns.

Make sure you prod around the top of the puppy’s head to make sure they don’t have an issue with open fontanelles and check their belly around the navel for signs of an umbilical hernia.

Once the puppy has passed these checks, put it down and see how it walks. Puppies are like babies in the sense that they won’t be the most graceful walkers, but you still might be able to notice abnormalities in the way they move, such as a limp or failure to evenly place balance on all four legs.

If you notice any health-related red flags in one of the puppies, especially one you’re really set on adopting, bring it to the attention of the owner. Hopefully, they are already aware and working to remedy the situation, and the puppy will be in perfect health soon, but you don’t want to adopt this puppy in poor health.

Additionally, if an owner is uncomfortable with you checking a puppy’s health, or worse, doesn’t allow it, walk away. No good owner should be skeptical of you wanting a healthy puppy.

How to Choose a Puppy from a Large Litter:  Closing Thoughts

Today, we have discussed a wide range of things to consider when choosing a puppy from a large litter.  Understandably, this can feel a bit overwhelming.  Since this will be a huge life decision, we recommend bookmarking this page to refer back to as you move through the puppy selection process. 

Ultimately, with a little patience and the tips we’ve presented above, we’re confident that you can make the best choice of new puppy for you and your family.  Good luck and congratulations on your future new puppy!



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