Choosing A Puppy

Things You Should Consider Before Adopting A New Puppy



This is an age old question which everyone has differing opinions on. The male is usually an affectionate “slob”.  He’ll be more exuberant and more demanding of attention, never getting enough.  They also tend to be more steadfast and reliable and less moody.  No matter the age, he’ll be more likely to act silly and puppy-like.  On the other hand he’s more likely to try to dominate you, particularly during his first year or so.  He’ll be more easily distracted during training.  The female is generally much more discriminating than the male.  She can be affectionate, but when she’s had enough she’ll move away.  She’s usually quicker to learn and less distracted during training.  She is less likely to wage a dominance battle with you but can be cunning and resourceful in getting her own way.  She is much more prone to mood swings than the male.  One day she may be sweet and affectionate – the next day reserved and withdrawn or even grumpy.

Now let’s consider the physical realities.  The male’s genitals are external.  This might produce some embarrassing moments  if he decides to lick himself in front of children or that “old maid” aunt.   Some males are enthusiastic “humpers” and try to mount other dogs, toys or maybe even your foot.  Also, most males lift their leg to urinate.  This can be a consideration if you have expensive shrubbery or yard ornaments.  They can also be territorial, marking anything and everything standing with their “scent”.  Neutering can sometimes help with these behaviors, but is not 100% effective.  The female, on the other hand has periods of being “in heat” unless she is spayed.  During this time she can leave a bloody discharge on carpets, couches, or anywhere she goes.  She will be particularly moody and emotional during this time.  A walk outside during this period can become hazardous if male dogs are in the vicinity.

Before deciding on a male or female, give consideration to any other dogs that may be in or around your home.  Generally the Maltese is not aggressive and gets along well with other dogs, no matter what sex.  However, if you have another un-neutered male of another breed around your home it may not be as tolerant.

Are You Getting The Pup As A Pet, For Breeding, Or To Show?

Are you wanting a puppy as a pet or companion?  Are you wanting to breed your puppy in the future?  Are you planning on showing your puppy?  There are different qualities you will be looking at for each purpose.

As a Pet?

If you are wanting a puppy as a pet or companion only, you will be able to find a good Maltese puppy at a reasonable price.  The puppy categorized as “pet quality” will have some flaw that would prevent either breeding or showing. This is usually something that will make no difference to you.  These flaws might include:

  • Bad Coat –  the coat may be too curly or may be wooly or cottony instead of silky.
  • Bad Pigmentation – The nose, rims of the eyes, and the footpads should be black.  Any deviation is considered a fault.
  • Overbite or Underbite
  • Bad tail set – tail may not curve over the back properly but may be held straight up or droop down.
  • Bad top line – the back is not level but slopes
  • May be too large –  the standard is from 4-7 pounds but 4-6 is preferred. 
  • Testicles (in males) may not have dropped properly.

Puppies sold as “pet quality” are usually sold with a limited registration (meaning they are registered but their offspring cannot be) or sold with a spay/neuter agreement.

For Breeding?

There is a fine line (if any) between breeding quality and show quality.  A dog sold for breeding should have none of the faults listed above.  However, it may be some minor flaw that would prevent pup from winning in the show ring.  No really small females should be used for breeding.  Often a breeder will sell a prospective show quality dog as a breeder between 3-6 months of age. 

To Show?

If you are interested in a show quality dog, it is wiser to wait until puppy is 6-7 months old.  At 12 weeks of age the puppy can be sold as “prospective” show quality but true determination cannot be made until at least 6 months.  By this time their 2nd (or permanent) teeth are in and all possibility of overbite or underbite can be ruled out.  You will be able to fully assess it’s movement, structure, and coat quality and determine how closely it adheres to the breed standards.  You can determine if it has the outgoing personality needed for the show ring.  Remember that no dog is perfect but you can tell at this point if it’s future in the show ring is promising.

Where To Get Your New Puppy

Well, now you’ve decided why you want your puppy — where are you going to get it?  Are you going to take the time to do a little research now.  You can run down to the pet store and pick one out, or maybe your friend’s dog just had puppies, or should you maybe search out a responsible and qualified breeder to get this little animal that’s going to be a part of your life for the next 12-15 years?  All AKC registered puppies are good puppies aren’t they?  What difference does it make where I get it?

Pet Shops – Stop Puppy MillsSeems a logical place to get a puppy doesn’t it?  Well don’t  believe it.   The pet shop is there only to make money.  They are unconcerned about the quality of the dogs they sell.  They may swear that they do not buy from puppy mills but from local reputable    dealers.  By the very nature of their business they are required to sell to anyone who puts down their money.  They will obtain their puppies from ANY source they can, the cheaper the better. No reputable breeder will EVER sell their pups to a pet shop. They may say they buy from USDA (United States Dept. of  Agriculture) breeders only.  So what.  That is a puppy you want to avoid.  Why?  Because the USDA deals with livestock, not pets.  They are unconcerned about  the quality of the breed or whether it has any inherited health problems such as heart defects, hip dysplasia, or conformation abnormalities.  All they are concerned with is that the kennels are disinfected, cages meet a certain standard, no infectious diseases are present, and is the paperwork in order.  The only reason anyone would obtain this license is to turn out lots of puppies, no matter what their quality.  They deal with quantity not quality.

They may offer a guarantee with their puppy – they’ll replace your puppy if proves to have a genetic defect.  The problem with this is.. they know that rarely will they have to replace the puppy.  This defect most likely will not show up until 6 months or a year later.  By that time you’ve grown attached to the puppy.  Are you going to be willing to give it back.  Wonder what they’re going to do with this defective puppy?

Unprofessional Breeder

This could be your friend, your friend’s friend, a neighbor, someone who ran a newspaper ad, or a puppy mill.  In short it is anyone who breeds their dog without giving consideration to the betterment of the breed.  The parents may be loved pets in someone’s home or just a puppy producer stuck in a dirty cage in a puppy mill.  The seller may be a true dog lover and a wonderful person, but they may know nothing of the complexities of  responsible breeding.  Maybe they bred their female to the only male they could find.  Maybe their female got loose and mated with the dog down the street.  Or, worse case scenario, the breeder is operating a puppy mill.  They choose their parents by the number of offspring they can produce and force them to produce litter after litter with no concern for anything other than how many puppies they can get and how much money they can make.  They are unconcerned with breeding for the betterment of the breed, the health of the puppies, genetic defects, or anything else– just the money.

Professional Breeder

The professional breeder is concerned with the betterment of the breed.  They will breed dogs only if there are no genetic health problems.  The dogs they breed will meet the breed standards – they’re concerned about conformation, structure and temperaments.  A professional usually participates in showing dogs, at least by attending,   They generally will belong to one or more dog associations.  They should be able to give you several other responsible breeders as reference – along with references from satisfied puppy owners.  They will be available, after purchase, to assist you with any problems that may arise with your puppy.  They are concerned with the welfare of the puppies they breed and are discriminating about who they allow to purchase their puppies.


Now – The Decision Is Yours  

Remember that the puppy you are buying will be a member of your household for the next 12-15 years


Which Puppy Should You Choose?

Hopefully you have chosen a professional, knowledgeable breeder from which to buy your pet and are able to examine the puppies in their own environment.  It is much easier to tell the personality of the puppies if they have not been separated from their mother and littermates, crammed in a cage and driven to meet you somewhere.  If this is the case, the puppy may be stressed and anxious (as well as possibly car sick).  Allow yourself plenty of time to observe the pups.  It will be with you for then next 12-15 years and deserves more than 15 minutes of thought.

Which one do you want?  They’re all so cute!  Now is the time for a few tips.

How do the puppies respond when you arrive?  Do they bark at you suspiciously, run away fearfully or stay just out of reach.  If this occurs RUN – DON’T WALK away.  These are not the puppies, nor the breeder you want.  The puppies should be interested and excited about this new experience.  They should scrabble all over you – pulling at your shoe laces and nibbling at your fingers.  If they don’t then either the breeder is ignorant or lazy and hasn’t socialized the pups or they have a genetic temperament problem.  Whatever the reason… you do not want one of these pups.

After they’ve lost interest in you, they’ll resume their play with each other.  See how they respond to each other.  There is usually a dominant pup in the litter and one that is picked on by all the other pups.  The dominant pup may be more outgoing, but may also try to dominate you in the future.  Don’t listen to the people who tell you to let the pup pick you, rather than the other way around.  The polite pup that isn’t as forceful may make a calmer pet and be better suited for your family but you don’t want the most timid pup either.

Now try gaining the pups attention by snapping you fingers, clapping, whistling, or rattling your keys.  Which pup responds the most quickly? Which comes to investigate.  Which ignores you?  Which is startled?  When you think about it, it’s easy to know which one would be best.  You certainly want an alert and confident puppy.  A nervous puppy that startles easily may be unhappy in a busy household and is more likely to snap when startled.  One that ignores you is either sick, dull, or just too independent to bother with you.

Hopefully, by this time, one puppy is standing out and has become your favorite.  There is one more issue that needs to be addressed. Which type of companionship do prefer? Male or Female?

After considering all these factors, you should know by now which puppy is right for you.  It’s now time to take your new puppy home and enjoy many happy years together.


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