If you haven't read part 1 of How to Choose a Puppy, click here. This outlines where to get your dog and how to choose a breed.
This chapter will explain how to choose the perfect puppy out of a litter.
It's not everyday you get to pick a puppy out of a litter, so don't blow it. Please, please, please always think back to your lifestyle and dog training experience! If your puppy comes from a bigger litter you will easily see a variety of personalities and intensities. In smaller litters of 2-3 it's harder to see the dynamic, but this is very important for the type of adult dog you want.
Puppy vs Puppy. Observe how the puppies interact with each other. Why is this important? You want to pick a puppy that already has good social skills. Look for a puppy that can switch roles during play, meaning she can play over the top of her sibling or under her sibling and she doesn't always have to be top dog. Puppies that are controlling during play and refuse to play on their backs tend to think their the boss. Also, see how intense they get with each other. If one puppy gets nipped a little too hard it'll let out a yelp! Hopefully, the puppy that inflicted the nip will back off and apologize, but some puppies will grab on harder. I don't need to explain why you want a puppy that will back off and apologize.
Puppy vs Hooman. How do the puppies react to you? Are they excited to see you, oblivious to your existence, or hiding in the corner? Not that any of these traits are untrainable, but a puppy that seeks your attention is much more likely to stay with you and come when called than a puppy who couldn't care less that you're here. I know it's hard not to feel bad for the shy puppy in the corner, and if you're willing to take on a shy puppy, then go for it! Puppies are the easiest to acclimate to new situations, just be ready because that puppy is already showing signs of fear and uncertainty.
Puppy vs Hooman round 2. Handle your prospective puppy! See how tolerant the puppy is to touching his feet, ears, and tail or being placed gently on his back in your arms (like a baby). Does he wiggle, squawk, and fight to be let go? Or does he lovingly gaze into your eyes and lick your nose? (that's the one!) Try a startle test, too. And by 'startle' I DO NOT mean 'scare'. They should be startled at first, then recover quickly. You don't want to see the puppy run and hide in fear.
How I chose Tesla from the litter
When I first met the litter of 8 with mom they were 4 weeks old and shy of humans. Therefore, I started handling them right away. When I'd bring breakfast, lunch, and dinner I'd gently touch the puppies while they were eating. Some would run away when I'd touch them and some would startle but continue eating. Eventually everyone warmed up to me, but Tesla was one of the first puppies to come around. Her personality is in the middle of the spectrum. She wasn't a bully and nor was she bossy to her siblings, though she's not complacent with them either. When they had their booster shots, she wasn't overly nervous and she did really well for nail trims. She would still take treats during the exam (this means she's not so stressed/nervous that she can't eat!).
As of now, she is a confidant puppy who can play many roles with her siblings and is very tolerant of human handling. I picked a puppy with a good base. I didn't choose a shy puppy that eventually warms up to new people, nor did I choose a bossy puppy that throws a fit every time I pick her up and touch her paws. All of these personality types can be worked with and they will all change as they grow, but picking an emotionally stable, confidant puppy from the beginning is the best way to set yourself up for success to have a dynamite dog.