How to Choose Your Next Dog
Part 2. Where to Get Your dog
If you already read How to Choose Your Next Dog, Part 1, What Matters in a Dog, then you’ve probably narrowed down the temperament, physical traits, specific breed or a mix of breeds, and trainability that you hope for in a dog. You’ve assessed your own life and your own dreams for dog ownership, and you now have an idea of what to look for. If you don’t have an idea, then you can go back to Part 1 and read that post also.
Now that you know what you are looking for, you may already be perusing the internet for adoptable dogs or breeders or asking friends if they know of any litters in your area. Knowing what you are looking for is the first step, knowing where to look for your next furry best friend is the next. There are places where you should look for your next pup and places that may lead to heartache later.
Where Should You Get Your Dog From?
There are two places I would encourage you to look for a dog.
The first is a rescue.
The second is a good breeder.
A good breeder, also known as a ‘Reputable Breeder’ is typically in it for the love of the breed and not just the money. Of my current dogs, Mack and River, Mack came from a Foster Rescue (a Courtesy Listing specifically), and River came from a Reputable Breeder.
Most rescues fall into one of three categories:
Foster Rescues utilize a network of volunteers who open-up their homes to the rescued dogs. They spend time getting to know them, start some basic house manners with them, and get their health squared away.
I am a huge personal fan of these types of rescues.
Through their commitment and sacrifice of time, you can get to know a lot about a dog that you are interested in before you agree to bring him home. The communication also goes both ways. Many Foster Rescues will have a longer application process and may do a home-visitation before they will adopt a dog to you. That might seem intimidating, but they simply want to ensure that both you and the dog are a good fit for one another, so that you will want to keep the dog long-term.
Humane Societies typically involve a shelter/kennel type of environment. Humane societies do not euthanize, unlike Kill Shelters. Once a dog arrives, he stays put until adopted typically; that also means that there are fewer spots for new arrivals if the shelter starts to fill up.
Adopting a dog here usually involves getting a few minutes with the dog in a visitation room. You must decide based on that interaction, and hopefully, a bit of background information on the dog if the shelter has any, whether to bring him home or not.
If you leave without the dog, then you will have to risk him being adopted by someone else before you return.
If you and another person arrive to look at the same dog at the same time, most places will flip a coin or draw a name to decide who gets to see the dog first. If the winner decides to take the dog home after meeting him, then the other person will not get a chance to meet the dog at all.
Humane Societies are typically first-come, first-serve.
Kill Shelters are by far the hardest places to visit without bringing one or more dogs back home with you.
If you go to a Kill Shelter, then be prepared for a lot of emotions.
At Kill Shelters the dogs are also in a shelter/kennel type environment. The main difference between these places and Humane Societies is the waiting period. Dogs are only given a certain number of days between when they become eligible for adoption and when they will be euthanized. If the shelter is not very full, then the euthanasia might be postponed a bit, but it’s always a threat.
Dogs that are not very adoptable, such as old, sick, fearful, or aggressive dogs are also far more likely to be put down sooner.
Why Not Just Adopt from a Kill Shelter then?
As heart-breaking as Kill Shelters sound, and as much as you may want to run to your nearest Kill Shelter today to adopt a poor dog, remember that every dog that you adopt from the Humane Society or a Foster Rescue opens-up a spot for another dog. A dog from somewhere like a Kill Shelter, so don’t feel pressured to adopt from Kill Shelters specifically.
Also, choosing a dog that truly fits your life increases the chances that your dog will stay with you for its entire life, which means one less dog that needs to be adopted later.
Furthermore, supporting reputable breeders can go a long way toward ending the epidemic of pets being given up for adoption in general. Good breeders do the following.
Breed healthy dogs with great temperaments.
Are picky about who gets their puppies to ensure that those dogs will stay in their new homes long-term.
Require spay and neuter contracts for pet quality puppies.
Require you to contact them first if you ever need to get rid of your dog. Yes, many will take back your eight-year-old dog if you cannot keep him! Don’t expect to get your money back though.
If all dogs were sold this way, then there would be a lot fewer dogs being given up to shelters in the first place.
What is PetFinder?
There is a wonderful website out there called Petfinder.com. This website will let you search dog characteristics like breed, size, age, and whether the dog is okay with other dogs, kids, or cats. It also searches by zip code, and let’s you set the distance radius you are willing to travel.
It’s essentially a mini search engine for potential adopters, and a place for Rescues, Humane Societies, kill Shelters, and owners to advertise their adoptable pets. It is a great place to get started when looking for an adoptable dog. Just be aware that there is little moderation when it comes to who can list there, so do your due diligence to make sure that the rescue or individual re-homing their dog is legitimate.
I have already covered several of the traits that you should look for in a good breeder, but let’s recap what a good breeder looks like. A good breeder does the following.
Tests both potential parents for the breed’s most common genetic health issues, to avoid or minimize the chance of breeding two dogs together who will have puppies with those issues.
Breeds with good temperament and health as the top priority, with close adherence to the breed standard or original purpose of that breed.
Is interested in the potential buyer, to make sure that the buyer will be a good home for one of her puppies. Expect the breeder to ask you questions.
Requires puppies to be spayed or neutered by one-to-two years of age if the puppy is not breeding quality or going to be shown in conformation shows.
Raises the puppies with human interaction and spends time getting the puppies ready for their future homes – getting puppies ready for their future homes might mean inviting the neighborhood kids over to get the puppies used to people, handling the puppies often, running household appliances to familiarize them with sounds, taking them outside to explore, introducing them to the crate, or starting some very basic potty or paper training. Anything that prepares them for the future, especially human interaction, is a good thing.
Requires you to notify them first if you must get rid of your dog, so that she can take the dog back if she wants to. Not all reputable breeders will do this, but this is a sign of a good one.
Where Should You NOT Get Your Dog From?
Now that you know of a few good sources to find your next pup, here are a few I recommend avoiding.
Those three sources can overlap one another though.
Ten years ago, many of the puppies that you saw in pet stores came from Puppy Mills. These dogs were unhealthy, lived in cages, and were only kept alive to be breed stock. Most Pet Stores no longer sell puppies, apart from hosting rescue adoptions, because people have become more aware and laws have changed. Nowadays, you are more likely to stumble across a puppy mill while looking for a breeder.
If a breeder ever refuses to let you see where the dogs are kept, or will not let you meet the mother dog, then run, don’t walk, away from that breeder.
That person could be running a Puppy Mill. Although, it is more likely that the puppies are simply being kept somewhere pitiful, away from human interaction, or that the adult dogs on the property, such as mom, have poor temperaments.
There are Pet Stores who do breed puppies from sources other than Puppy Mills nowadays. These puppies often come from much better conditions, with their parents living their lives as dogs and not just as breeding stock. In these cases, it might not be an issue of animal well-fare to buy a puppy from them.
However, I am still not a fan of them.
Although these Pet Store breeders may not be cruel, they often cannot compete with the reputable breeders I talked about above.
Most of the puppies’ parents are not checked for genetic diseases through testing before they are bred.
There is no strict adherence to breed standard in selecting breeding pairs.
There is no careful consideration of future puppy temperaments.
The puppies live in kennels, which forces them to poop and pee where they live, and that makes potty training extremely difficult for you when you bring that puppy home.
Unless the pet store goes out of its way to ensure that the puppies are handled and socialized, they may not be prepared to live with people.
These places are ultimately in it just for the money.
The final source is the most unpleasant group to talk about.
Not because they are the worst group, but because they are the breeder that you and I have probably wanted to be at some point.
This breeder is the person that you know who loves her dog (let’s call that dog Missy). The breeder decides that there should be more puppies just like Missy. She thinks “Missy is a purebred Shih Tzu and my neighbor also has a purebred Shih Tzu. We should breed them together!”
This breeder could also be someone who has a purebred dog and decides that breeding his dog could make him a quick buck, and it would be fun!
The problem is, neither parent dog has ever been tested for genetic diseases. One of the dog’s temperaments is not very good, and neither dog conforms to the breed standard very well. The dogs might not even be the same breed!
You could get lucky with one of her puppies and end up with a great dog.
That’s all it would be though, luck.
Another way you might end up with your next dog is by way of “Handsome Stranger”.
Remember “Tramp” from the Disney movie “Lady and the Tramp?” Yea, that’s the fella.
If a stray dog wanders onto your property or you find an orphaned litter of puppies, then you just might have your new best friend. If that happens, then you have a few options after making sure that he does not belong to someone else.
You can keep the dog if you feel he is a good fit for your family.
You could become a doggie foster parent and try to find the dog or puppies homes yourself.
You could become a doggie foster parent AND contact a local rescue to request what’s called a “Courtesy Listing” on their website. This arrangement means that the rescue will help you find a new owner for the dog through their advertising outlets while you watch over the dog.
You can find a Humane Society or Foster Rescue in your area who will take the dog or puppies off your hands. If you go this route, I recommend contacting Foster Rescues first because those dogs learn how to live in someone’s home before being adopted out, and the dogs are often matched with an owner who is more likely to keep that dog long-term.