Choosing A Puppy From The Litter

Choosing a puppy is easy, but picking a puppy that's perfect for you and your family isn't so easy. Understand what to look for in the litter and learn the secrets to choosing your ideal puppy !

Just look at these gorgeous golden Cocker Spaniel puppies!

Picking A Puppy

Five cute golden cocker spaniel puppies in an old suitcase. They are all sleeping and look so cute!Pick me! Pick me!

You might wonder how could you possibly choose only one?

Seriously, they're so cute!

However, before we go any further, please let me advise you against choosing two puppies.

You may think that two puppies means twice the love and twice the fun, but unfortunately, it doesn't always turn out like that.

It's just not worth the extra work (and stress!) unless you're a saint and have plenty of time on your hands. Trust me on this one! 

The Best Time For Choosing A Puppy From The Litter

The perfect time to make your choice is when the pups are between 6 and 8 weeks old.  By this time they're neurologically sound and are beginning to look more like their 'adult selves'.

Any markings will have started to show (unless, of course, they're solid colours) and their delightful characteristics and infamous gentle temperament will be beginning to develop.

At between 6 to 8 weeks, the puppies will be running around, exploring their environment and generally getting into all sorts of mischief; their little personalities are beginning to shine!

You've probably already decided whether you want a dog or a bitch, what colour you'd like and whether or not you plan to show your puppy when he or she is older.

But whatever you decide, your main objective when choosing your puppy from the litter is that you pick a healthy, confident, happy little Cocker Spaniel.

Use the recommendations below to make a checklist of things to look for when it's time to pick your puppy.

What To Look For When Choosing A Puppy

Check Out The Puppies' Sleeping Quarters

Before choosing your puppy, take the time to look at their living area and check the following:

  • Is the puppies' sleeping area large enough?

    It shouldn't be cramped. It's okay for them to choose to huddle together to sleep, (and they probably will) but there should be enough space for them to move away and sleep alone, if they prefer.

  • Is their den poop free and clean?

  • Does it smell bad? It should smell of warm milky puppies!

  • Is the bedding clean and does each pup have his own blanket?

  • Are there bowls of clean water available?

Watch The Puppies Play!

Watch the pups while they play to see how they interact with each other and ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do they seem seem happy?

  • Are the puppies curious, lively and energetic?

  • Are they confident with their litter-mates?

Watch This Video Showing Lively Cocker Spaniel Puppies!

These little guys are only 6 weeks old, but their personalities are beginning to show, as you can clearly see from the video. Aren't they just so cute?

Choosing A Puppy That's Healthy!

If you like what you see, check each puppy to make sure they're all healthy:

  • Do they look well-fed; are they rounded and plump?

  • Are their coats smooth and glossy?
  • Check the the pup's eyes for discharge, they should be clear and shining, but not runny.
  • Check their ears - are they clear? Give them a quick sniff, do they smell? If they smell bad, it may be a sign of bacteria or infection.

  • Check the tummy button for lumps to make sure the puppy doesn't have an umbilical hernia.

  • Check the pup's mouth and teeth.  When choosing a puppy, you need to be sure that it has the correct bite; the upper teeth should close over the bottom teeth, and their gums should be a healthy looking pink; if they look pale, it could be the sign of a poor diet.

If they get the all clear, move on to the next step below.

Four beautiful black and tan cocker spaniel puppies sitting in a row. There is a lovely blue sky behind them.I'm going to choose the puppy with his tongue out!

Choosing A Puppy: Watch Their Behaviour

The breeder will have almost certainly begun to socialize each of the puppies because they realize the importance of socialization in helping the pups develop into well adjusted, confident adult dogs. 

Where it's not carried out thoroughly, the puppy may turn out to be scared of it's own shadow and may develop behavioural problems later in life.

Before choosing a puppy from the litter, watch closely to see how they interact and socialize with each other.  

Try clapping your hands to see how they react to sudden or unusual noises.

Do they over-react, or is their reaction mild?

When you arrived, did the pups happily trot over to you, or did they shy away?

Little or no adverse reaction to sudden noises and movements and a healthy curiosity towards strangers is what you're looking for when choosing a puppy.

Do they seem comfortable about being handled by people?

A good breeder will be able to show that their pups have been properly socialized and are used to being picked up and stroked. They may have been taken out in the car and will almost certainly have been introduced friends and other (vaccinated) dogs.

Find out exactly what socialization they've have had so far, and then make sure you continue socializing your puppy when you get your little fur-ball home.

Choosing A Puppy With A Good Temperament

It's important to find a pup with the right temperament to suit your family circumstances.

Choosing a puppy that is friendly, and comfortable about being picked up, cuddled, and/or stroked is important, otherwise you may find him too difficult to manage. 

Black and white, with a bit of tan, Cocker puppy, lying on a yellow-fringed blanket. It looks like he's barking, but he may be yawning!Choose me, choose me!

With the breeder's permission, pick up and handle each puppy in turn.

If you're not sure how to pick up a puppy, ask your breeder to show you, and don't forget to let the pup get used to your smell before you scoop him off the floor.

If any seem uncomfortable about being handled, it may be a sign that they haven't been socialized correctly or it could be the sign of a dominant puppy.

Unless you're an experienced dog owner, don't choose the most active puppy in the litter, this will usually be the most dominant and you'll probably find it difficult to manage.

Equally, don't choose the weakest (the runt) of the litter as it may develop behavioural and/or health problems.

Choosing a puppy that is plump, lively (but not too lively) and one that has a slightly mischievous personality is a much better idea.

If you have any doubts about which puppy to choose, ask your breeder for advice; he or she will be able to help you with the task of picking a dog that's most suited to you and your family.

There are some simple dog temperament tests that you can do with each puppy to determine their personality and suitability, however, it's likely that the breeder will be familiar with the temperament of each of the puppies, and will be able to identify the more boisterous of the litter, the quiet one, or the truly mischievous puppy.

Check The Mother: Does She Look Healthy?

It's also important to look at the mother when choosing your puppy. For example,

  • Does she look healthy?
  • Is her coat in good condition?

    Her coat may not look its best right now, (especially if she has many hungry mouths to feed!) but it shouldn't be matted or dirty; there should be no signs of neglect!

  • What's her temperament like? Is she confident and friendly, bearing in mind you are around her babies?

    Although the mother may be protective toward her pups, she shouldn't be aggressive. On the other hand, she shouldn't be timid and shy away from you either.

If you're not happy with what you see, or you're in any doubt about the pup's health or their environment, don't go any further. Thank the breeder for their time, make your excuses, and leave.

Are You Choosing A Puppy To Show?

At around 6 to 8 weeks, the puppies should be starting to look like miniature adult Cocker Spaniels...oh so cute!

If you're looking for a show Cocker, let your breeder know. She may want first pick of the litter, but (s)he'll help you to pick the second best for showing.

When choosing a puppy, however, there are no guarantees. Your pup may continue to change as he grows older, and may not be suitable to show.

On the positive side, your 'second choice' may well turn out to be an even better show dog than the first - a real beauty!

Reserve A Puppy Before It's Born

Orange and white, Brittany Cocker puppy fast asleep - cute! Pale turquoise background.Zzzzz....

If you reserve a pup before it's born the breeder may allow you to visit and view the litter when the puppies are about one or two weeks old; any earlier and there's too much risk of introducing infection to the litter.

Once the puppies are over two weeks old, you may then be allowed to visit once a week, which will help you and the breeder to get to know each other, and will help you to get to know the puppies better too.

When Choosing A Puppy There Will Be Questions!

A truly caring breeder will want to make sure that each puppy is going to a good home and that you will make a responsible owner.

Three Cocker spaniel puppies snuggling by the radiator for warmth. Two of the puppies are orange roans and the other one is a blue roan.Brrr, it's chilly!

Whilst you may feel like you're being 'grilled' by the breeder, you shouldn't be offended by any of the questions they may ask. They only want what's best for their puppies.

Whilst choosing a puppy can be an exciting and emotional experience, it's so easy to get carried away with excitement and forget to ask relevant questions about the puppies.

Your breeder will be expecting you to do so and may become suspicious if you don't, so make sure you understand what kind of questions you should be asking about their puppies.

Once you've chosen your ideal puppy, you might like to read our page all about bringing your new puppy home to help fully prepare you for the BIG DAY!

You might then like to go on and read this useful guide on puppy care which will help you through those first few frantic (but exciting) weeks.

Good luck and enjoy!

Photo Credits for Choosing A Puppy:
1. Liliya Kulianion at
2. Cynoclub at
3. Willeecole at
4. Xandert at
5. DWA100 at