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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
What do you look for when looking at a litter in a shelter/rescue situation? The last puppy I had was like 7 years ago and she was basically just handed to me (someone dropped her off at the vet office I worked at the day she turned 6 weeks old), so it's been a long time since I've looked at puppies.

We are a fairly active family, with kids, other dogs, and cats. We have plenty of space here, home owner's insurance policy does not discriminate by breed, nor any local BSL or HOA rules about certain breeds. We like our dogs to be active members of the family and like to take them to dog friendly places/events (one of my dogs isn't quite into all of that, so we obviously don't force her). We do want a medium-large dog when full grown.

I know I don't want an overly shy puppy, nor do I think I want the boldest puppy of the bunch. But other than that I'm not sure what else I should be looking for in a puppy. How much do you take the breed listed into consideration? I mean unless, the mother is a known breed aren't they just guessing based off of the looks of a young puppy? That doesn't seem reliable? Are there any signs that I should be looking for in a puppy that could be red flags?
 

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Most good breeders will choose the right puppy for you or will at least strongly suggest a couple to choose from. Just be specific about the temperament and energy level you want and let the person who spends the most time with the puppies and knows them better than anyone else help you out!

Edit: Sorry, you said shelter/foster. For fosters, the same thing applies -- the person fostering them should know them well. For shelters, it's really going to depend. It's hard to know on a first meeting because a puppy can seem energetic or lazy depending on how much sleep it's gotten that day. I'd try to meet them more than once if possible, but if not, I'd go for a middle-of-the road puppy... not the first one to bound up and start chewing on you, but not the one who hangs back tentatively either.
 

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A puppy should be engaging without being overly aggressive or independent.

As you note, stay away from shy puppies or puppies that hang back or do not engage with you.

Dog's behavior is based in genetics. In a shelter situation you don't have a clue, so you need to look at the behavior you see and the phenotype. IF you can meet the Mother dog that can give you a clue as well. I would not get a puppy from a mother dog that is shy or worried or uninterested in puppies or its owner.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Thank you guys.

What about male vs female? Does that really matter in this kind of situation (especially since spay/neuter will be required or maybe even already done)?

I have thought about going through a breeder, but if I can find a puppy through local rescue then I'm all for that. I would not consider most of the local breeders here reputable and I prefer to stay local when picking out a dog.
 

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Honestly, when you get a puppy from a shelter or rescue, it can be a bit of a crap shoot. What they are like as puppies might not be what they're like as adults. For example, sometimes they develop dog selectivity or aggression, or perhaps they no longer appreciate strangers, when they reach maturity. Some of this can be predicted if you know what breed the pup is, but if its a mixed breed, you just never know. But yes, they're usually guessing the breed. Sometimes they will have the mother there, or perhaps the litter was surrendered and the previous owner was able to give breed info.

But, yeah, you want to look for a puppy that wants to engage with you, is eager to interact. You don't want the one that stays back and and seems disinterested or timid. Ask the foster about what the puppies are like, too, because they might be able to help you choose. Meet the mother dog if she's there. Get as much history as possible.
 

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Males and Females are usually a bit different. Females tend to be smarter and more independent (although not always) and Males tend to be a bit more "doofy" and more interested in being partners (not always).

I HATE early spay and neuter.. juvenile spay and neuter as it tends to statistically increase cancer chances and creates over growth of long bones. In females the juvenile vulva can be recessed requiring episioplasty surgery. I totally GET that the shelter folks don't want the dog breeding but it is not good for the individual dog.

BTW it is always a crap shoot with a puppy, just less so if you have a knowledgeable breeder who breeds for breed temperament and behavior. As a for instance: Breeding GSD's for Police Patrol and carefully choosing bloodlines you get a litter of 6 puppies. One or two may become certified Patrol dogs. The rest may be good for IPO, Agility or even detection work. You might get 1 or 2 pets that would be happy in an active pet home. Rarely would you get a couch potato from that careful mix of bloodlines.
 

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In my (limited) experience, it's also a crap shoot. Most puppies are fostered, so you have to apply for them without really meeting them, and trust what the rescue/foster says. I adopted my two rescues without meeting them first, one was terrified and ended up a super friendly dog, the other one was friendly but a bit shy, and typically distrusts people she doesn't know (she was fostered alone by an old lady who said that she was a total sweetheart). Total crapshoot.

Breeds listed are typically totally wrong. My friend's 'collie mix' looks like a pitbull/terrier mix, my 'bluetick coonhound mix' looks like a lab/border collie mix, and my 'australian shepherd/American Eskimo' mix, who I actually did the DNA test for, is actually eskie/lab/husky and doesn't even have a trace of herding dog (to be fair, she looks like a border collie, except for the tail). But sometimes they do know the parents.

Your best bet probably is to go to adoption events where you actually meet the puppies before applying to adopt one, and yes, I wouldn't go with the overly active ones, but I would avoid the shy ones as well.

For the gender, it depends on your other dogs too... how they are with other dogs of the same gender. I have an old male and a young female, and the female typically gets along well with males, and I'm looking at males right now. For females, the rescues I've seen just give you a small refund with proof of spaying around 6 months (after my last one I really don't want to go through that again though!). Males are typically done at 8 weeks. I'm not really fond of that either health-wise but it's nice not to have to worry about it (and my 14yo dog is still doing pretty well despite being neutered at 8 weeks).

My main experience with rescues was a pretty frustrating one though - I never heard back from 3 of the rescues that had a puppy I applied for. You might want to look at larger rescues first, just send an application with what you want, and see if they have a puppy that matches what you're looking for.
 

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In more than 50 years of adopting mutts from a shelter, I've had best luck with retriever mixes, especially Golden or Lab mixes. Lab puppies can be a handful, but if you choose a puppy that is fairly confident, friendly, and interactive with people, then you may be able to train and shape the personality to fit your household. Labs want to adapt.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
We ended up finding a puppy and picking him up last Thursday. He is a lab mix. He is from a fairly rural shelter with high euthanasia rates. The shelter worker actually had a little information about him which was surprising (seems like a lot of their puppies are found dumped on the side of the road). Apparently he and his littermates were actually being taken good care of by their mothers owner. But unfortunately some unforseen circumstances forced her to take the puppies to the shelter before she could find homes for them. Apparently she would even come to the shelter and visit them and give them baths while they were there. The shelter worker picked this puppy out of the litter for us. The shelter only had male puppies (odd?) but it wasn't really a concern. My other dogs are pretty indifferent to other dogs and they've always been around both sexes without an issue.

As a lab mix he is a handful for sure, but very eager to learn and his favorite things in the world is to sit in someone's lap and ear rubs. He just melts like I've never seen before for an ear rub. He knows his name and will sit for treats or toys. He's picking up 'down' and 'leave it' pretty quickly. Crate training and house training are going well too. He did really well with being handled and checked out at his first vet exam. So at the very least, we are off to a decent start, although I know we're still honeymooning for sure.

And yeah, I definitely agree puppies in general are a crap shoot. When I worked at a vet clinic we saw puppies from all different backgrounds and all different temperaments. There's never a guarantee when it comes to puppies.
 
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