Picking a Puppy (Part 2), Meet the Parents, Boy or Girl

Read the Previous installment: Picking a Puppy, Part 1


Many experts say you should meet a puppy’s parents, since purebred dogs are selected genetically for temperament. They advise that you can learn about your puppy’s probable disposition by watching her mother and father. The only problem with this is that it is not realistic or helpful, because what you see in a parent is not necessarily what you are going to get in the next generation. Another reason that visiting a puppy’s parents may not be advisable is because it can give the false impression that if you do enough homework you have control over what you’ll be getting in a puppy— and just as with other creatures, each dog is an individual with a unique set of pre-wired attributes.

Those same canine experts who emphasize the predictive nature of a pup’s parents also claim that, because a mother dog’s genes make up half of the puppy’s gene pool, the first thing you should do when visiting a litter is to focus on the mother, not the litter of cute babies. The theory is that her puppies have a fifty percent chance of turning out like their mother, so you should pay attention to how she reacts to new people and other dogs. Although it sounds dense to me, I include this theory here since you may come across it elsewhere—but even as a non expert you can see the fallacy in this reasoning, since the mother dog’s personality is obviously not set in stone or predetermined by her genetic makeup. Her responses to the world around her have been formed as much by events in her own environment as by the way she is naturally put together—much like the rest of us!

If you want to meet the father—who is responsible for the other half of your puppy’s personality genes—to see how he handles new people and children, just keep in mind that his own upbringing and current life are entirely different than your puppy’s are going to be. Meeting the parents really doesn’t have much practical application, since the way that parental traits are passed down to offspring is random and unpredictable. This is generally true: Man O’War’s parents didn’t have any foals just like him—and none of Mozart’s children were musical geniuses, either!

If you are getting your puppy directly from a breeder, then a chance to meet the pup’s parents can be interesting—but realistically it has nothing more to offer you than a point of interest. Take a deep breath and accept fate—that’s what I would say to anyone who hopes that by researching the daylights out of a puppy’s heritage they’ll have any guarantee about how their puppy will turn out. Basically, the home you’d like to see a puppy come from would feature a friendly, well-fed mother who is attentive to her pups in a healthy, well-socialized litter.


The generalizations that follow are about the theoretical differences between male and female dogs. In my own experience, most of these gender differences have not held true—perhaps with the exception that females can seem more emotionally aware and connected to their people. But for what the gender comparison is worth, here goes:

Boys vs. Girls

Males are:

  • larger
  • more dominant
  • more likely to fight and roam
  • less moody
  • better workers
  • do not come into season
  • less expensive to neuter

Females are:

  • smaller
  • less dominant and defiant
  • less likely to fight
  • less likely to roam
  • moodier than males if not spayed (they come into season twice a year)
  • more sensitive to people’s emotions

Picking a Healthy Puppy


Free of parasites (part the hair and look for a pepper-like substance, which is actually flea droppings). He shouldn’t be scratching or biting the base of his tail or rear end (parasites). The skin should not be dry, white or flaky.


Bright and clear, not watery. Whites should be white— not watery or yellowish or streaked with red. No tearstains down the face. Depending on his age, eye color may still be blue, which changes to brown in most breeds.


Straight and white, no undershot bite (except for a few breeds like Bulldogs, which require it) and no overshot bite where upper teeth jut over the lowers.


Should not be smelly or have discharge. Dog should not be shaking his head or scratching at his ears, which is a sign of ear mites.

Next Week’s Installment: Picking a Puppy: PUPPY PERSONALITY TESTING. . . .

Copyright © Tracie Hotchner – Originally appeared in The Dog Bible: Everything Your Dog Wants You to Know by Tracie Hotchner