How Do You Choose a New Pup?

Previously I asked when was the best time (in terms of your old dog's age) to think about getting a replacement.

So let's say you've gone ahead and made the decision to get a new pup this spring. You've picked out the breed you want, put down your deposit, the litter's arrived and at seven or eight weeks it's time to make your choice. You peer into the whelping box and are confronted with an indistinguishable mass of butterball-fat puppy cuteness.

You start hyperventilating. Panic ensues. The decision you make right now will be with you and your family for at least the next decade or so. How to choose? Biggest? Boldest? Let your kids pick it out? Your wife? Go with the recommendation of the breeder?

There is perhaps no more angst-inducing decision than trying to figure out which puppy to take home. As such, there is perhaps no act in gundog-dom that has been given such attention in print.

Field & Stream Editor, Warren Miller, in his (old, very old) book "The American Hunting Dog" (copyright 1919 by Field & Stream Publishing Company) suggests eschewing sentimentality and cuteness...

"Your first pup will naturally be bought from some kennel whose stock you fancy. Most kennelmen are reliable and they have the advantage of having seen and noted the puppies when they were just born, which is the only time that any idea can be formed of their probable future behavior, for after the first few days they all become so many little fluffy balls of fat and cannot be judged as to bonal structure."

While the late F&S gundogs editor Bill Tarrant in his book "Best Way to Train Your Gundog: The Delmar Smith Method" has this to say in the introduction to an entire section devoted to the subject of picking a pup:

"The first rule for picking a pup: Don't ever look to pup to pick a pup. Look to the parents. Fine the best sire and dam in the country, get a mating, grab a pup, and go."

OK, so physical conformation and the abilities of the parents are obviously important. I get that; Good dogs generally beget good dogs. But let's say all the pups look pretty even and the sire and dam are both great dogs? What method do you use to pick out an individual from that writhing mass of mystery and possibility?

I have to admit, my methods have often been far from logical or scientific, but I may be confronted with this dilemma (again) in the next year or so I'm interested in hearing how you do it. I could use the help...