We’re on part 3 of my series about bringing a new dog into your home. We’ve already talked about narrowing down your options and purebred or mutt. Today we’re talking about where to go to get your dog. There are basically three options we’ll discuss: the shelter/rescue group, a pet store, and a breeder.
This one’s top of my list. If you’re going to bring a dog into your home, I think it’s best to get one that is waiting for a home. Go to the shelter. Yes, you’ll see a lot of Pitt Bulls there. Every year 3 to 4 million dogs and cats are euthanized in shelters and Pitts make up nearly a quarter of that. I happen to love Pitts, but I know not everyone does. You’ll also find puppies, small breed dogs, and even some purebred or close enough to purebred.
If you live in an area with a big rescue group population, that may be where you need to go to find some variety. In L.A., for example, the rescue groups take out the highly adoptable dogs as soon as they’re available. That’s a good thing for the dogs, but it means you have to do a little research to find the dog you want. There are also a lot of breed specific rescue groups out there, so if you have a purebred in mind, look into that option. Petfinder is a great online resource for locating an animal in your area you’d be interested in adopting.
There are two kinds of breeders out there: responsible breeders and backyard breeders. Backyard breeders are like the neighbors who happened to have a litter because they didn’t bother to spay and neuter their pets, then decided to to sell the puppies. Basically, folks who figured out if you put a boy and a girl dog in the same room, you wind up with puppies.
Then there are responsible breeders. These are the folks you want to go with. If you’re going to spend money on a dog, you need to make sure you’re getting a high quality animal. Here’s what to look for. They have one to three female dogs and either one stud or they get a stud from another breeder. They do not breed their females before they are 1 and ideally not before 2 so they can finish growing themselves. Each female has only one litter a year.
They welcome and encourage visits to their breeding facility/home. If they give you the run around about that, run away, they’re probably hiding something. They treat their breeding animals as pets, and don’t have them cooped up in cages.
Most importantly, they are familiar with the breed (and good breeders generally have only one breed). They know the medical issues with the breed and screen their animals regularly to ensure they are producing good stock. These are people that care about the breed and breed standards and want to produce healthy dogs. They will also almost always have a spay/neuter clause in the purchase agreement so you will not be able to breed their lines. It protects the breed from being contaminated by the backyard breeders up above.
Finally, their puppies will be current on their vaccines, dewormed, and other health needs taken care of. Many responsible breeders even have their puppies spayed or neutered before selling them. You should also get some type of papers with these dogs, AKC registered being the most common and the breeders meeting the highest standards.
This is the third, and in my opinion, least desirable place to get a puppy. This is where being a veterinarian gives me an inside edge and I’m going to share that info with you. My first job worked with a bad pet store, and I learned quite a bit about the business in my short time dealing with them.
First and foremost, pet stores are not regulated by anyone. They can say whatever they want. I’m sure there are good pet stores out there, but unfortunately not many. They get their puppies mostly from puppy mills. You do not want a puppy mill puppy. First, every time someone buys from a puppy mill, it enables the mills to stay in business. Second, puppy mill puppies are generally not high quality dogs. They are inbred and frequently have diseases like parasites and pneumonia when you bring them home. Again, if you’re going to buy a dog, buy a high quality one, not a medical mess you have to spend even more money on. Third, it’s just bad karma.
A neat little fact I learned working with a pet store, the puppy mills sell three levels of purebred dogs. Highest (and most expensive for the pet store to buy) is a true purebred with both parents papered. Next, mom is papered, dad isn’t. Third, mom is a purebred, maybe not papered, and dad is not a purebred necessarily. As long as the dog is 50% one breed, puppy mills can sell them as purebreds. Pet stores are supposed to disclose that, but that’s not regulated. Don’t take the risk that you’re spending $500-$1000 on a purebred that’s really a mutt.
Over my career, I’ve seen a lot of pet store puppies. Most are sick and most people are not told they’re buying a puppy mill puppy and have no idea that’s where their dog came from. That’s not fair to the buyer. They could return the puppy, but really, who returns a puppy? No one, that’s who. Don’t get scammed. Stay away from pet stores.
Okay, I’m off my soap box now. Tomorrow we’ll be talking about how to introduce a new pet into your home, and Friday will be puppy raising basics. Let me know if you have any questions.