So You’re Looking For A Puppy … Some Tips & Pointers to consider …
You simply couldn’t stand one more crying Kid begging … (that was my story long ago) or finally decided to pull the trigger & it’s time to add a Furry Family Member. So you begin the journey of finding that perfect Puppy or Dog and the options can be overwhelming.
I’ve recently had a few phone calls from people asking my advice and guidance about finding a Puppy. So I thought I would highlight some of the points we discussed as they might prove helpful for others as well. As the World is an impermanent place, nothing is set in stone or unchanging. The following are not definitive Rules per se, just some insights to consider to help give you options. It’s mainly focused, as was my conversation, on finding a Reputable Breeder and how to tell if you’re actually dealing with one.
SHELTER or RESCUE GROUPS
I’ve been in Rescue for more than 15 years, so I am always supportive & encouraging for people to Adopt whenever possible. There is a Stigma attached to Shelter Dogs but know that many of them are there for People Reasons, not a “Bad Dog” reason. And when a Dog is relinquished to a Shelter, I’m always happy that the people chose to do that over simple abandonment, in an empty home or on the side of the road, which is more frequent than you would think. Dogs do not reflect the character of the people either, they are their own individuals. And not all Shelter Dogs are “abused” as often assumed. The most common reasons for relinquishing is abrupt Lifestyle changes of their family - moving, illness or rental restrictions. There’s no reason to judge people who do this because ironically, the one Dog they did relinquish could wind up being your Forever Friend! Lucky You, Lucky Dog! The Universe often works in mysterious ways.
For the most part, Shelter Dogs are usually Mutts (mixed breeds) and the plus side is that nature organically & instinctively optimizes for survival the DNA to produce the Dog - so often, they wind up being stronger health wise. But not everyone wants a Mutt and that’s ok! Hopefully they’ve done their homework and researched Breeds that are suitable for their Lifestyle as well as committed to meet the needs of that particular Breed.
And for the record, for every Breed in existence, there is pretty much a Rescue Group dedicated to that Breed as well. So I always suggest this be the first Stop to see the many “pure breeds” available and again, often relinquished for a host of reasons beyond the stigma of what a Rescue Dog is. This can be a very educational process about the breed as well for there are many experienced people re-Homing out there.
You’ve honed it down to your very favorite Breed and now you enter the often overwhelming pursuit of finding a “reputable Breeder”. Sometimes that is very difficult to define, so let’s look at some of the “tells” of those that ARE NOT. Before you start the search, here are some “red flags” and pointers to know and look for that might help you determine a good Breeder from perhaps a not so reputable one.
Firstly, Breeding is a very specific Science, Skill and almost an Art. And know that there are thousands of people calling themselves such. Just like there are thousands of people saying they are “Trainers” yet have no hands on experience under their belts, you will find this common in the Breeding World as well and in this case, experience matters.
1. Some of the signs of a Reputable Breeder are they are extremely picky about where their Puppies go. While this may be a bit inconvenient or make you feel put off, this is a very big sign that you are dealing with serious people who care about the integrity of the Breed and the Puppies that they are breeding. So hang in there. It’s good.
2. You need to “interview” the Breeder as well. Find out information on the lineage of the Puppies you’re considering. A good Breeder is proud to show you. And they will be able to trace it back to the very very beginning of when they started Breeding. There are many people who claim they are “breeders” and have started off with two Puppy Mill Dogs! And they usually use the buzz word, Adopt to pull you in. ie. “Puppies for Adoption”. You will find them all over Craig’s List and Facebook and other similar venues. Reputable Breeders rarely use this form of advertising.
3. It helps to be able to physically meet the Puppies and as important, the Dog Parents, so trying to find one that is a decent travel distance is optimum so you can actually SEE for yourself the conditions where your Puppy is coming from. You simply can’t believe websites and photographs, people are very dubious in this business. Very.
Yet I know some good Breeders that do interactive Videos for people buying at a distance. So you can watch your Puppy grow in it’s formative stages and begin to develop some bonding and get to know a little bit about your Puppy even before they arrive home. In today’s culture of technology, this is pretty easy to do. And if they don’t offer, you should ask. A solid Breeder is usually more than happy to oblige for the most part. A good Breeder might ask the same of you to see your Home environment, etc. because they care about where their Pups are going. So don’t be put off by this.
4. Know that AKC Registered means nothing more than if they said they were a Member of Sam’s Club. Why? The American Kennel Club SELLS their Logo for use. They make a lot of money doing that, too. Big money. Perhaps you’ve read some of the controversial issues about this in the news lately. They rarely check the Breeder as they claim that they do before selling a license but as there are so many, it’s simply impossible. While it might look impressive stamped on the Dog’s papers, know that it is nothing to base your final decision on. The “tell” is that a reputable Breeder will have their Dogs registered, however, they don’t use it as a form of selling promotion.
5. Trust your instincts. If you’ve done your homework, you will be able to have a pretty good idea if the Breeder really knows the Breed or is simply a production house. If something FEELS fishy or they dodge or ignore your questions, trust that this might not be the best source for finding your Forever. It’s ok to move on.
6. There is no such thing as a “Designer Dog”. Know that two Breeds bred together are Mutts. There’s nothing wrong with this by any means as I know and love many a GoldenDoodle or Morkie. And there are reputable Breeders who do breed these mixed breed Dogs - it’s just the term that bugs me. And reputable Breeders of this type of Dog don’t use that term either.
7. Reputable Breeders, for the most part, do not sell their Puppies under 8 weeks and some prefer keeping them with their Mother & Siblings a bit longer. While you might be anxious & excited to get your new Baby, trust that the longer they stay with the Breeder, the better. This is because there are critical developmental events occurring with the Puppy and important for their overall emotional stability. A reputable Breeder cares about this. Under 8 weeks is a “tell” that they simply want to quickly turn a sale. A reputable Breeder also will discuss with you what is going on developmentally with the Puppies, both physically and emotionally. They know. If they avoid talking about this, you might want to move on. It’s expensive and a lot of Labor during the whelping process, so Backyard Breeders or Puppy Mill types will sell you some story or other. If you’ve researched Puppy’s, you will know that under 8 weeks is simply not a good thing.
8. Ask other people who have the same Breed about their experiences. Many, when speaking in retrospect, realize that they sometimes missed or overlooked some of the points I made above. Or they ignored their instincts. Or wound up with Puppies that had Giardia (just one example & a common one) - which is usually reflective from unclean environments. And they were told that it wasn’t a big deal when they called the Breeder to report it. It IS a big deal and can effect your Puppies health overall for a lifetime. Treating a young Puppy with antibiotics is simply not a good thing. A reputable Breeder will give you Vet Reports & take care to explain to you Vaccinations, etc. They should come to you healthy and some Breeders will even offer to pay for incidents like this if they occur. They care. But know that it sometimes happens and does not particularly make a Bad Breeder. But talk to others who have purchased Puppies from that Breeder or others with the same breed. Information is power. Exchange!
9. Often, a reputable Breeder will make you wait for a Puppy because they don’t breed as often. Or they don’t have a string of kennels with lots of Dogs, they usually only have a few. This is usually because they are focused on maintaining the integrity of the Breed, not just trying to optimize sales as much as possible. The reputable Breeders I’ve spoken to usually only have two litters max a year from one Dog. More than that and one must wonder the health of the Mother. And the ethics of the Breeder.
10. A reputable Breeder will ask you to keep in touch. To report any illnesses or problems that occur later on well after the Puppy has left them. Why? They will take this information into consideration, put it on the records and sometimes, if it’s something radical, they will cease breeding the parents of the Puppy depending. Genetic information is critical and of interest to a reputable Breeder.
11. A good Breeder will sometimes make you commit to Training. They care about the future happiness of their Puppies. I have filled out a few Forms and letters stating that the future owners of a Puppy have committed to Training with me and even pre-paid as a gesture of commitment. This is not particularly standard, but it demonstrated the care and reputation of the Breeder. Their website was also full of correct and helpful information. Ex: How to help your Puppy acclimate. Potty Training. and a host of other great info. They are also concerned about how the Puppy will be transported, so there should be careful discussions occurring about this.
12. Puppy Mills. What are they? They are exactly what it sounds like. Puppies are generated in large, if not mass, numbers. There is absolutely no care or focus on the emotional health & stability of the Parents of the Puppy you are considering. There is no care or focus on the physical Health of the Puppy either. They receive little human contact, are bred by Dogs overstressed and often, in deplorable conditions. Know that the emotional state of mind of a parent Dog directly impacts your Puppy. They are conceived in frightening atmospheres, they develop in very poor quality environments and they are transported with terrifying conditions. This all contributes to unstable Dogs - separation anxieties; fearful behaviors and a host of other issues hidden by the fluff grooming job they often receive after being delivered and “stocked” at the Pet Store. Most Pet Shops accept their Puppy Deliveries at night to hide the poor conditions, commonly, dehydration that most suffer from long, unventilated truck rides and hold back the sick ones so the Customer’s will have no chance of seeing.
And one more thing about purchasing a Puppy in a Pet Store. As they are often shipped to Stores way to early in age, this terrifying experience directly impacts their emotional balance. Their behavior is shaped by fear and this creates a powerful environment that the Puppy is struggling to survive. At night, the Puppies cry and share their panic with all of the other Puppies in the room. So instead of feeling confident & comforted by their Mother & Litter mates, they feel extreme panic searching for them. Where did they go? This experience goes very deep and the trauma results are exactly like PTSD. So the chances of getting a Puppy suffering from emotional trauma is more likely than not and these behaviors will slowly emerge later, long after you’ve already grown attached and feel overwhelmed at the unhappiness of your Dog. That is the grim reality of purchasing that cute Puppy in the Store.
WARNING: In addition to Pet Stores, there are other forms of Puppy Mills, usually those who sell Puppies on line to the general Public. There are no “interviews” and the only question they ask is for your Credit Card. Puppy Mills are very clever in masking who they are. They have lovely photographs of darling Puppies romping in the grass; falsified testimonials; AKC logo blasted very large on their site pages, etc etc. There was an old TV Ad run years ago that said, “An educated consumer is our best customer”. That would never be used for a Pet Store selling Puppies or on line Puppy Mills. They simply don’t want you to know.
If you’ve read the points above, you should be able to gain some very good indicators and signs to look for. It is sad that there are people out there duping the public, particularly when it comes to living sentient Beings, but there are. And the Dog business has boomed, so they’re everywhere - breeders; trainers; food brands; etc. They use “buzz words” that sound great but it’s simple lip service and marketing ploys.
So before you get emotionally involved, educate yourself as much as possible. These are hard realities, I know. But set your Criteria and approach finding a Puppy as objectively as possible. Once you’ve determined the best Breeder or reliable source, than it’s OK and actually wonderful to get emotionally involved! Just protect your Heart from potential Heartbreak. Do your homework & research, trust your instincts and then decide.
Know that every single Dog found in a Pet Shop or Store is from a Puppy Mill. They will SAY they have special Breeders but those special Breeders are either local Backyard Breeders or Mills. NO reputable Breeder would ever sell to a Pet Store.
Know that you are not “rescuing” the Puppy from that awful little cage, you are actually helping to turn the Mill Wheel. If there is no demand, Pet Stores will simply put more profit gaining products on their shelves instead. Dogs are permitted by Law to be sold this way & any way actually. That is because the Law considers them “Property”. The only way to stop the Production of Unhappiness is to change our Laws and not purchase from these BYB’s and Puppy Mill generated Pups. If there is no demand, there is no supply.
I hope some of these Tips & Considerations were helpful. It is not a definitive List particularly, meaning not ALL of these points are found, there are of course combinations or sometimes just one singular. But they are important considerations to help you begin and process along the Path of finding your Forever Family Member. Try not to be swayed by personalities of the people but stick to the facts. Just follow some of these guidelines and use them as a sounding board.
No Dog is a Bad Dog. In my work, I would never prejudice a Dog based on his or her origins. Ever. But I do want to help people try to optimize the results and support those Breeders who are ethical. There ARE great Breeders out there, they are just a little more difficult to find. But all things worthy require effort.
I wish you much success on your Journey and years of Love and Friendship with your new Puppy! In my direct experience, few things are as wonderful!