How to Buy a Puppy

Step 1 – Do not go to a pet store

Step 2 – Go to your local shelter or petfinder.com

It actually is that simple – at least in my mind.

Unfortunately, many people just think it’s easier to get a puppy from a pet store. But as an educated consumer, you really should be aware of what you are contributing to when you buy a pet from a store. Purchases of pet store puppies keep the puppy mill industry going. Period. End of story. And there are so many better ways to get a puppy, it’s just not necessary. Here’s a glimpse into the life of a dog living in a puppy mill:

If you didn’t just tear up, or full on cry like I did watching that, you may want to check your pulse. Is that something you want to support?

I do understand that a lot of people want a puppy and don’t know where else to go. But contrary to popular opinion, shelters and rescue groups do get puppies. It’s not as common of course, but if you keep your eye out you can find one. A recent search on PetFinder.com pulled up numerous Cleveland-area puppies and dogs under a year.

https://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/37167435
https://www.petfinder.com/petdetail/37211814

And unless you need a brand-spanking new eight-week-old puppy (pro tip – never buy from a breeder who wants to sell one before seven or eight weeks), getting a four, six or nine month old puppy is still getting a puppy, although slightly bigger and more developed. I adopted Hunter when he was around six months of age and I highly recommend that age. He was almost out of his chewing phase and mostly potty-trained already, but still young enough that he was cute and cuddly and could be easily trained.

My six month old puppy
My six month old puppy

And why should you get a puppy from a rescue group rather than go through a breeder or a pet store? Because 1.2 million dogs are euthanized each year because they don’t have a home, according to the ASPCA. 1.2 MILLION DOGS KILLED.

Ok, if after all of that you still HAVE TO get a certain breed of dog that you can’t find through a rescue group, you may wonder how to find a reputable breeder.  I know a few friends who have used breeders so I asked one of them for some tips on what to do and what to look for once you find one.

Step 1 – Research research research

The friend I spoke with said that she did hours of research over the course of several weeks to find a good Goldendoodle breeder. The one she found through a search of breeders in Ohio had a website with tons of information that addressed most of her questions. The site also had pictures of owners and the dogs they purchased, showing her that people had been satisfied with dogs from this breeder. Of course, anything on the Internet can be faked, which leads to the next key part of buying a puppy:

Step 2 – Arrange a meeting

You should always go see where the puppy was born, meet the breeders and see where they are breeding the dogs. This is so important to make sure this isn’t actually a backyard breeder or someone who is selling to pet stores or online sites on the side. Most good breeders will require this, so if they don’t, that’s a bad sign. One question you should ask if they don’t address it on their website or through the meeting is how many litters they do per year. If they are churning out puppies every week or breeding a lot of different types of dogs, it’s probably a backyard breeder.

Also, I don’t think I should even have to mention this, but just in case – you should never agree to having a breeder ship a dog to you. This is never ok and highly traumatic for the dog.

Step 3 – Ask for references

You want to make sure this breeder has a good reputation. You should ask for references you can call to find out about other experiences people have had with this breeder. This should tell you a lot about whether this breeder has a history of selling sick dogs or generally being a bad breeder.

Step 4 – Get contact information for the Veterinarian

In addition to ensuring you have the breeder’s contact information and have spoken with them on the phone (and made sure they provided a working number) and met with them in person, you should also ask for the contact information for the Veterinarian they use. Before you purchase the puppy they should’ve received shots and seen a Vet, so you will want to verify this was done and confirm the information that was given to you about the puppy’s medical records.

If a breeder won’t agree to these things, that is a major red flag. A good breeder will always want to meet you and make sure you are a good fit for the dog and will be up front about their health history and other dogs they breed. A bad breeder will not want to do this, which shows that they are probably not breeding in the best interest of the dog and just trying to turn a profit.

Here are some good resources to begin your puppy search:

http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/pets/puppy_mills/find_responsible_dog_breeder.pdf

http://www.akc.org/dog-owners/future-dog-owner/about-buying-a-dog/

https://webapps.akc.org/breeder-referral/#/

Sounds like a lot of work right? You should probably just adopt. Rescue groups do the vetting for you and find out as much as they can about the dog before adopting him or her out. And the cost is usually much less than half of the cost of getting a dog through a breeder or at a store. The truth is, all dogs take work and any dog can have health or behavioral issues, whether they come straight to you as a puppy from a breeder (puppies are the most work of all!) or if they come from a shelter or rescue group. Once you bring that dog into your life and he or she becomes a part of your family, it’s really not going to matter that he came from a shelter or rescue group. And the extra love you feel for saving that dog’s life will just make it even better.

(Side note: if you are looking for a certain breed but want to rescue, this is a good list to check out: http://www.akc.org/dog-breeds/rescue-network/contacts/)