Pick of the Litter; What Does it Mean?

By Robin Anderson, M.Ed

Grampian Labradors, reg.

AKC Breeder of Merit


Quite often when I am asked about getting a puppy from me the applicant asks if he can have The Pick of the Litter. I chuckle to myself over the comment every time. On one hand my immediate answer is,  “No! I get The Pick of every one of my litters!”


On the other hand I could say,  “Yes, you can have The Pick of the Litter. Everyone gets Pick of the Litter from Grampian.”


What is the difference between the two? Why would I give ANYONE else The Pick of The Litter?


From my perspective as a breeder, every person who gets a Grampian Labrador gets A PICK OF THE LITTER puppy. It’s simply because I pick the right puppy for each waiting family according to that family’s needs and expectations and family dynamics. My choice is also based on what I know about each puppy in the litter, and this is based on hours and hours of observation and not just a short one-visit ‘snapshot’ a family gets of the puppies.


It would be so much easier for me if I let every potential puppy buyer to come into my puppy palace when the puppies are six weeks old, point to the cute one in little Susie’s lap all cuddly and sound asleep, and say “I want that one because it’s quiet and calm.” Little did the family know that the puppy they just picked is the wild one in the bunch who was asleep at that moment because he’d just spent two hours terrorizing his litter mates. Yep....they picked their puppy and thought they got Pick of the Litter and were very surprised when they got home. Often at the point they discover they have a busy puppy they might even accuse me of SWITCHING PUPPIES! I mean, how could that calm little sweetie they chose be running wild down the street with Dad’s underpants in his mouth?


Every family has a different goal for their new little family member. Some people want a performance dog so I watch every litter for a performance potential puppy.


Some families want an active puppy to grow up to swim and hike and chase the soccer ball after school tirelessly with the kids. I watch the litter to spot the puppy that is awake first and asleep last and pokes his or her litter-mates to keep playing long after the puppies reach dreamland.


Some puppies are meant to live a quiet reserved life with a retired couple who enjoy staying home to garden or putter in the garage. This puppy will be the one who watches the world from a quiet corner. He might get up for a little romp, a meal, and a cuddle, and is happy with just that much activity and no more.


Some families have very young children so I might choose the puppy not only based on its personality, but also by its size. It might be the smallest pup in the litter so as the puppy grows it never becomes too big for little people to be around. I bred one dog that ended up in the wrong home for reasons beyond his or our control, and he was never allowed into the main house. They had tiny toddlers and the dog was considered too big for their toddlers to be around. The dog came back to me as a mature lovely adult despite his three year exile from children and was eventually placed in a home where his size was no concern to anyone in the family. In his new home, even the school aged kids thought he was perfect!


I’ve had the kind of puppy with a sense of humor. If I meet a family who are all laughing and enjoy the silliest jokes, I know it’s the right home for a silly puppy that wags his feet in the air and begs for belly rubs and smiles continually no matter what is happening around him. This is the puppy in the litter that acts goofy and clumsy, loves his feet tickled and his tail tugged, and enjoys people laughing at him no matter what.


Hunters often look to me for their next hunting companion. I look for a puppy with retrieving drive but one that is also willing to work with me while playing puppy games. This puppy will be the curious one who is first to follow the ball across the floor, and just as happy to bring it back for me to roll again. This is the puppy who never gives up even if the ball goes around the corner out of sight, and when she finds it, she’ll pounce and wag and look me in the eye, which tells me she’s willing to be my partner on a hunt.


There was the time that the owners of a Bed and Breakfast wanted a dog for their family and their business. They needed a happy dog; a dog that didn’t bark at guests and one with enough confidence to appreciate all kinds of people at all times of day in her own home. Now gone over the Rainbow Bridge, the puppy I picked for this family told me the dog was just as I had predicted she would be. As a little six week old puppy she was the first to run to visitors, wag and smile, and never barked when her litter-mates were going bonkers over the new people in the house.  I've since tried to match a new puppy that everyone hopes will fill her great great great great Auntie's paw prints.


The puppy who is to be Grampian's  Pick of the Litter probably has the highest hurdles to leap to earn a place at Grampian. Not only do I want a nice family pet because all my dogs are house dogs, but also one that has the potential to win a Best in Show, earn Obedience Titles, Hunting Titles, go to sea several times all summer on a large sailboat, ride on top of a kayak without tipping it over, pass health clearances, and give me more puppies from which to choose another PICK OF THE LITTER for a waiting family.


When you come to Grampian for a puppy, you will always get THE PICK OF THE LITTER. It starts with the Puppy Application Form you send back to me. I can tell a lot from how the questions on the application are answered. I might ask more questions before you’re ever invited into my home for a personal interview. Further, if I don’t think I have anything that will match your family, rather than just sell a puppy, I ask you to look elsewhere because I want all my puppies to be the right match for each family.


When you’re interviewed by me, I get a good idea about your family dynamics when I sit and chat. I learn what type of puppy will fit the best in your family.


While my babies are growing up under my feet, I'm watching them too. I know my puppies better than anyone else because of how much I care for them and interact with them and watch them play together and by themselves. By allowing me to choose your Pick of the Litter, you can be assured that the puppy you take out of my house with will be The Pick of the Litter for you.