Dogs within a breed can vary greatly in size, but the parents offer a pretty good idea of how big their pups will get. If you're not in the market for an extra-large toy poodle or a tiny Great Dane, make sure to screen the puppies.
Hey! Wake Up!
When you choose a dog out of a litter, pick one that seems particularly alert, active, and playful, not standoffish, depressed, or overly aggressive. (Think twice before adopting a pup that growls or nips as you pet her.) The puppy should have a good coat and no scaly skin or mange. She should have bright, clear eyes that aren't watery or irritated.
Look for a Doggy Diploma
If you are adopting an adult dog, ask whether the dog has been spayed or neutered. Be sure she's up-to-date on her shots and ask to see a copy of her rabies certificate. The current owner should have taken care of these things so that you don't have to once you take the dog home. (It's likely that you will always get positive answers to these questions if you are adopting from a shelter or breed rescue group. Rescue groups carefully screen their dogs for behavior and health problems before they place them.) Also ask whether she has attended obedience classes.
Since a good breeder will have spent enough time around the litter to identify some of the dominant characteristics of each pup, ask him to help match you with the best dog for your family. Some breeders and animal shelters do personality tests on each puppy in a litter. They look for alertness, intelligence, and aggressiveness. They check to see which dogs startle easily, which are prone to barking, and which ones are easygoing. If you can tell the breeder something about your home and family, she should be able to point out the dog that will be best for you.
Greyhounds: Experience Necessary
Ask whether the greyhound you have your eye on has already been in foster care. Racing dogs have strictly regulated schedules and very little human contact. Although they are housed with dozens of other dogs and are used to kennel life, they are rarely allowed to play and may not even know how. Even a few weeks in a loving foster home give these former racers a chance to slow down and get used to the life of a pampered pet. A greyhound will be less nervous and hesitant and more willing to socialize with a new family if he has spent time in foster care.
Before you even look at a litter of dalmatians, ask the breeder whether the puppies have had their hearing tested. Many dalmatian puppies are born deaf in one or both ears. If a breeder tells you that he's had the vet check the pups and their hearing is fine, don't take his word for it. Ask to see a copy of the Brain Auditory Electronic Response (BAER) test. The results, in printout form, look kind of like an electrocardiogram (EKG). The test shows in an easy-to-interpret manner whether the dog is totally deaf or unilateral -- that is, can hear out of only one ear.