One of the comments on the earlier brought up a very good point: How about when you reeeeeeeeaaaaaalllly want a particular puppy in a litter?
I think this falls into two basic categories: When you NEED a particular puppy and when you have fallen in love with a particular puppy.
If I am looking to buy a puppy to show and breed, I am usually looking for something I don’t have eight of at home. So when I call up a breeder, or talk to them at a show, or e-mail them, I’ll say “I am keeping an eye out for a really wonderful black dog; are you planning a litter with Xerxes right now?” They immediately know that I’m not interested unless they have a black male show-potential puppy whose father is Xerxes. So they’ll send me away if they don’t get any males in the litter, or if they know Xerxes isn’t going to be used, or whatever. The flip side of being this specific, of course, is that I have to wait around until the puppies are all evaluated, and have the breeder or co-breeder pick their puppy or puppies, and then hope there’s a black show male left for me.
Being this exacting works really well if you know and trust that breeder, so you know she’s not going to try to sell you a puppy that’s not actually competitive, and/or if the breeder already has a couple of Xerxes litters around. It’s even better if you can see the puppies in person; that’s why every Nationals is like a giant puppy-swapping party. You see a stunning brindle puppy in a golf cart, run over, say “Who is that gorgeous creature?” and hopefully things go from there; either you wrangle an introduction to the breeder or (just maybe) that particular puppy or her sister are for sale.
When you’re getting your first show puppy, and I’m still in the throes of this (I have not been in the breed long enough to have ANYBODY offering to hold puppies for me, except maybe Kate – blows kisses to Bronte’s puppies – ) it’s probably wise to express fewer preferences to the very best breeder you can possibly rather than more preferences to a breeder who isn’t as good. One of my e-mails to a particular breeder basically went “I would be thrilled beyond belief to even be considered for this litter; I’m barely exaggerating when I say I’d like to take home your dog’s POOP.” I couldn’t have cared less about color, gender, amount of white, anything, because I was so excited about the potential of the litter and loved the two dogs involved so much.
If you’re not going to be showing or breeding, I think it’s entirely appropriate to express a preference of gender, especially if you have a dog at home and he or she tends to get along better with one than the other. Just let us know if you can be flexible on that or if you MUST have a certain gender.
It’s also more than fine to let us know that you like a certain “fault.” If you think fluffs are da bomb (and, wow, I do); if you think pinks are to die for; if you like the half-white heads or no white at all (which is not a fault but can be more difficult to show), please do express that. With those particular criteria, all of us love to have owners who not only will accept them but desperately want them, so if we don’t have one in a litter we’ll try to point you in the right direction to get, say, a fluffy white-headed merle puppy (and, ohmygoodness, how gorgeous would THAT be).
From there, you’re looking at color and at markings. There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with expressing a preference to the breeder. Just realize that it’s not fair to the puppies for us to put markings (which are entirely superficial and have nothing to do with who the puppy IS) above personality and behavior and needs. For example, let’s say that you live in an urban environment and go for long walks every day; you have three kids and a Pointer. The litter you’re looking at has two brindle puppies with big wide blazes and one tri puppy with a little white squiggle. He’s kind of ugly, honestly. You may feel extremely disappointed, even angry, when you see those wide-blazed puppies go to other families and you get offered the ugly puppy. But if you’ve done your homework and chosen your breeder correctly, she’s giving you that puppy because he’s completely unflappable, adores kids, and has shown a remarkable ability to make friends with big dogs. Wide-blazed brindle #1 was very high-energy and went to a herding home. Wide-blazed brindle #2 showed more sensitivity to noise and would probably not enjoy the chaos of your house; she’s going to live with a retired couple who listen to NPR all day.
If you find that you absolutely cannot accept anything but one color or “look” of dog, please just let the breeder know immediately, and don’t get mad if you don’t get it. Ask your breeder to let you know as soon as possible if she thinks that the one puppy that meets your request won’t be available to you, and ask for a referral to another breeder in that case. Again, please don’t go get yourself on a bunch of waiting lists in the hopes that one breeder will give you a copper brindle with a wide blaze and one solid-colored leg, unless you tell ALL the breeders involved exactly what you’re doing and that you’re on everyone else’s list.
The theme here, as it was below, is to COMMUNICATE. Be honest, talk a LOT, keep up the calls and the e-mails, offer full disclosure. If you’ve been honest and fair with us and we can’t offer you your dream puppy, we’ll be more than happy to send you to the next breeder with a glowing recommendation. If we’ve been honest and fair with you, you shouldn’t feel concerned or ripped off. Just keep talking, talking, talking. Miscommunications and resentments build when one party thinks the other is keeping secrets or withholding crucial information – in other words, when one party is treating this like a commodity transaction (I’m sure she’s trying to rip me off, so I’m going to protect myself and get what I want) rather than a relationship (I’m sure she wants the best possible outcome, so I’m going to be as honest as I can). The most important thing to remember is that in order to thrive, the puppy is going to need both of you (good grief, I sound like a divorce lawyer, but it is almost like that), so do your best to reject any behavior that will cause the other person to leave the relationship.