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No matter how much time you spend searching for the right stud dog for your gorgeous bitch, no matter how much money you spend on stud fees, shipping expenses, vet bills, and so on, it’s all for nothing if you can’t pick out the best pup from the litter.

Years ago I thought I’d solve this dilemma by asking a very successful Manchester breeder to describe her puppy-selection process. “Well,” she said, “I look at the litter, reach down, and say ‘this one.’” She had an eye for a good pup, which seemed like magic to me at the time.

Eventually I understood that puppy selection means knowing what a good Manchester looks like, knowing what you’re looking at and looking for when you observe a litter, knowing what changes and what stays the same in a pup, and knowing that you make your selection without further ado and hope for the best.

So, how do we get there, to the point of being able to say, “this one”?

Well, you can keep the pup that’s caught your eye and sell the rest, but be prepared to find you’ve sold the best pup and kept the least. (And when you realize this, you’ll defend your choice with “But he was so sweet!”)

You can put your name on all the pups you sell, with contracts preventing neutering and giving you breeding rights until you see the pup at a year or so. Or – and I think this is the best way to develop an eye for a dog – you can “run on” a few pups yourself. Two at a time is plenty; three is a job.

The single most important thing to remember, whichever method you choose, is that puppyhood has an expiration date. Puppies’ ability to absorb and process information and their flexibility to deal with new people, dogs, and situations drops off dramatically after 16 weeks. Puppy brains are fully developed at 7 weeks, when it’s time to start housetraining, leadwalking, crate-training, and visiting the world, one pup at a time. Puppies must have individual socializing time—no two pups in a shopping cartwheeling through Home Depot, no living in an ex-pen as a group.

So when you’re satisfied with teeth and tails, thumbprints and testicles, you’ll have a well-rounded pup to keep, and your puppy buyer will have a delightful pet.

Virginia Antia is the American Manchester Terrier Club archivist-historian and AKC Gazette breed columnist.