Choosing a Dog, Part 2: Where to Get Your Dog?

In part 1 of my series you’ve gone through the process of contemplating your perfect dog.  Hopefully now you have some understanding of the level of predictability you will want when choosing your pet.  If size, coat, energy level, etc are important to you, then you will want some assurance that the dog you select will meet those criteria.

Now you need to figure out where to get your dog.  There are generally four places to find dogs: pet stores, breeders, newspaper/classifieds (such as Craig’s list) and rescue/shelter environments. Which is best? That depends on a number of factors.

Here are some initial considerations for me when selecting a dog. The more success you have in meeting these criteria, the better chance you have of finding a dog that is a good match for your family. Some of these will be affected by where you get your dog.

  • Knowing something about the parents of the dog I select. If I am getting a puppy under 3 months of age, I prefer to meet at least one of the parents. I want to interact with the parents and observe that he/she is a friendly dog that is good with people.
  • Knowing the dog has lived in a home environment. This ensures the dog has been exposed to life inside a home and all the noises that go along with that (vacuum, hair drying, pots and pans banging around, alarm clocks, people yelling to one another, etc).
  • Knowing the socialization experiences for any puppy 2-4 months of age.  If I’m getting a young puppy I want to know it has had positive experiences with a wide variety of situations in life.

So with those initial considerations in mind, let’s look at the places you might get a dog:

Pet Stores: Pet store puppies typically come from what I would consider puppy mills.  Puppy mills are those places where dogs are maintained as unessential livestock with little or no human contact. The dogs are usually kept in unsanitary conditions, and are often not in prime heath. Usually puppy mills breed a wide range of different dogs and have multiple litters of puppies available at any given time. With a pet store puppy or puppy mill, you will not get to meet either of the parents. The critical period of socialization is often spent away from it’s littermates and humans (i.e. the puppy is taken from the litter prior to 8 weeks of age (too early) and spends weeks in a cage instead of with people. The dog has not lived in a home environment.  Pet store puppies don’t meet any of my criteria for selecting a dog so I do not recommend purchasing from pet stores.

Breeders: The term breeder has many meanings to the average dog lover.  If any breeder meets the characteristics I listed above for puppy mills, then I would not consider that person a reputable breeder.  Typically, reputable breeders will specialize in only one type of breed and will only breed 1-2 litters per year.  They will be very interested in finding out why you want a dog, how you will raise it, and where it will live.  Reputable breeders will screen you heavily so don’t be surprised if it feels like you are getting interviewed! Reputable breeders will usually allow you to come onsite, meet at least one of the parents, and will help to socialize the dog between the time the litter is and the time the dogs go to a new home. Some breeders have the dogs live in the home (which is my ideal), but some will raise the dogs in a kennel environment.

Newspaper/classified ads:  This is a “buyer beware” area.  Depending on the situation, you may encounter puppy mill puppies being advertised in newspaper and classified ads such as Craig’s list.  However, some families will use classified ads to find a new home for a dog they can no longer keep. Review the three considerations above and ask questions before you go visit the dog. Be wary of anyone who wants to meet you someplace with dogs in their vehicle. It’s far better to go onsite to see how the dog have been living and meet the parents if it’s a young puppy.  In our next article, I’ll provide you with a list of screening questions that will help you.

Rescue/Shelters: It’s possible to get a wide range of both mixed breed and purebred dogs from rescue groups, shelters, humane societies, and animal control agencies. This is a great way to help a dog in need. Many rescue groups and shelters foster dogs in homes and can learn about the dog through the foster families. Look for a group that does some type of assessment on the dogs to help determine the best match between your family and the new dog. The cost for a dog can often less expensive when you adopt, but still expect to pay a small fee for the care they have provided to the dog and possibly for spay/neuter surgery.

Now that you’ve begun to consider where to get your dog, we’ll talk about how to make the best selection and what to look for in the dog you choose.  We’ll cover those topics in the next article.

Stay tuned for Part 3.

If you missed Part 1 of this series, you can find it here:  Choosing a Dog, Part 1: Describe Your Perfect Pet

To learn more about adopting a dog check out Successful Dog Adoption by Sue Sternberg.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

2 thoughts on “Choosing a Dog, Part 2: Where to Get Your Dog?

  1. On shelters versus rescues, there can be a significant difference. Large shelters have a large selection, but tend to know little about the dog’s behavior outside of that environment. Rescues will have many of their dogs at a foster instead. While this means more time to look at a selection of dogs, you will often have the opportunity to speak with the foster and find out how the dog behaves in a home environment. Rescues and previous fosters will often help support early adoption issues with advice. In some cases, you may also foster-to-adopt, which gives you a chance to better know the dog before committing to an adoption.

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