I often receive calls from prospective puppy owners asking if they can come and choose a puppy from the litter. Let me say straight up - that is not how it works.
As a breeder, I observe my puppies daily and over a period of time; I watch each puppy's behaviour and their reactions to new experiences, to other puppies in the litter and to new humans who visit our home. Each new owner is invited to visit my home over the developmental 8 weeks period of the puppy's life and by doing so each puppy has met many humans before they go to their forever homes. Decisions on puppy allocation is also based on my observations and the information each family has provided. Contrary to popular belief, there is so much more to picking a puppy than choosing the one that first comes to you or the one that you think is the prettiest or the right colour, the gender that you think you want.
Choosing a puppy from the litter.
If there is a large litter, new owners may be offered the opportunity to put forward their preferences, but in doing so each person will need to carefully consider what they ultimately want in an adult dog. When you select a puppy, you need to consider your lifestyle now and in the future. Choosing a puppy needs to align with your current and future plans. For example, you may perfer the calm and confident puppy knowing that you will have a young family in the future or maybe you want the active and lively puppy to keep up with your outdoor activities and interests or to fit in with your fcurrent active family.
Many people want to choose the puppy that first comes to them, but this is not the best way to do so. In many situations, it will be the boldest puppy that will be the first to greet you and this personality type may not be the one that best suits your current or long term needs. Just because a puppy takes a while to come to you, should not be the basis for excluding this puppy from your decision making. The personality of the puppy is not an indication that something is amiss. Every pup in a litter has a personality (the combined attributes of behaviour, emotions, thought-processes and temperment). This puppy may in fact be the best one for you.
A Note: A breeder who breeds for showing will always reserve the right to choose their pick puppy from the litter. The basic principle of breeding is to improve the breed and this is done by choosing the puppy that closest meets the standard of the breed. This puppy may then be trained for showing and or may be a part of their future breeding plans. It is not the breeder's objective to sell every puppy they breed, often a breeder may keep several puppies and wait until they are older before making any final decisions. The breeder's pick puppy will be the one that best appears to meet the breed standard or suits their needs for the show ring - a strong natured and showy pup for instance. This may mean that the one pup you had your heart set on is the one that is retained by the breeder. These final decisions do not usually occur before 8 weeks of age so ... so have a couple of puppies in mind when choosing a pup from the litter so that you are not disappointed.
When viewing puppies in a litter take notice of how the puppy reacts when handled, whether with fear or with acceptance. Also consider the time of your visit - the puppies may all seem quiet and sleepy which may be a result of just having been fed or may be spritly and full of mischief having just awoken from a nap. Watch the pups play with their litter mates as some will be very forward and rush headlong into exploring, one may try to dominate the others by standing over them and pushing them to the ground, they may roll over and be submissive to another pup or may seem to get along easily with others being calmer and perhaps more reserved or they may be playful and enjoy interacting with toys. Consider all these things when viewing the litter and take time to consider your preferences. By noticing these things, you get an impression of what sort of personality each pup has and which one may make the best fit for you and your family.
Dog or Bitch / Boy or Girl?
When choosing a puppy, the first question to ask yourself is whether you want a girl or a boy. I can direct you in this decision. But, if you have your heart set on one specific gender you may not be allocated a puppy from a litter if the litter happens to be all girls or all boys. To me, the personality of the puppy is the most important consideration.
If you already have a dog, the choice is probably easier for you - your cocker puppy should probably be of the opposite sex. Although you can have two or more dogs of the same sex, this can lead personalities clashing. Generally speaking, you should aim (regardless of gender) to have a pup with a personality that is opposite of the one you currently have for example, match a quieter dog to a livelier and dominant dog and visa versa.
If you want to introduce a dog of the same sex, its advisable to introduce a puppy to an older dog - ensure that there is a good age gap between them. Two dogs or bitches of the same ages and personalities are more likely to clash and fight. Never put two dominant dogs together. The goal is to match the new puppy to the personality of the first dog.
In the home where there are two or more dogs you will find that the girls are the leaders and although the boys may on occasion bluster about and carry on as if they are in charge, one look from the dominant female will put them back in their 'dog box'. I generally find the males softer and more sooky than females, often wanting your company and will enjoy a run and a play with you. I find the girls are more independent and cope more with alone time and do well as the second dog of a family. In my opinion, this is because females seem to have a stronger pack drive and as such a stronger desire to be part of the group. But be aware as they can also be crafty - in a pack, a female is often the one that does the planning and resolving whilst the male is more show and bluff. Missing a shoe...follow the female to her hiding spot! Also, in my opinion, the males have less pack drive and this can assist in making training easier as most boys want to please and being more soppy and loving than girls, can work in an owner's advantage if and when training issues arise.