Buying from a shelter
Shelters can be a great place to get your next family addition, but shelters should not get a free pass. They should still have to do the same things for the dogs they have there that you would expect from anyone else. Some shelters, I’ve been in a few, are just warehouses for dogs. They are not in a caring, loving environment. Here are some of the things that you should expect from a shelter, and if the shelter is not providing these things then do not get your dog from them. You’ll only encourage them. Call the shelter you plan on visiting and ask them if their dogs have at least three opportunities to be outside their kennel. Do they provide their dogs with chew toys? Are they groomed daily? Do they get to go for a walk on a daily basis? What kind of training do they get? How much time do they get out of their kennel a day? They should at the least get twenty minutes out of the kennel a day. The shelter you are looking at should at least provide, at a minimum, these activities. Being in a shelter is very stressful for a dog, just being locked in a kennel with nothing to do only adds to additional problems some owner is going to have to work through. This leads to the last thing. Unfortunately if there are puppies that were raised in a bad environment, and they are 16 weeks or older, then the dog will probably never be as good as they could have been. If a dog misses the critical period (8-16 weeks), then that time for learning and socialization is gone. You are not going to make that up at some other time in the dog’s life. For most people it would be best if you are an experienced dog owner and could work through issues like resource guarding, and separation anxiety; or at least have a trainer that can help you.
Breed rescues are great places, a lot of these places I’ve seen have good people who love a breed and try to give them a loving, caring environment, until a forever home is found for the dog. A lot of these rescues will give you warnings if the dog is not good with small animals, children etc… There are some bad ones though. Some people, not any of the specific breed rescue I have seen, collect dogs. Some of these are foster parents to dogs and keep the dogs outside in dog igloos, chained. The only way to figure this out would be to drive to the place and see where the dogs are living. Like I said though I’ve only seen one instance of this. The other issue you may have to deal with, just like the shelter, is a lot of these dogs have had difficult lives and may have issues that need to be corrected. Remember the dog whisperer when he got bit by that lab because the lab was resource guarding? These may be some of the issues you have to deal with. So at least educate yourself or have a good trainer who can help with these issues.
On to the most contentious part of the post: breeders. Mostly today it has a negative connotation and some of it is rightly deserved. There are way too many bad breeders out there who give people who truly love the dogs, and who are trying to turn out truly outstanding puppies a bad name just by association. First I’ll tell you where you should never buy a dog from then we’ll get on on how to differentiate between a great breeder and ones that are just okay. You should never buy a dog at the corner of Walmart, in front of petco, at the park etc… Here’s a true story for you: one day while on my way to the dog park, I saw a lady with a puppy play yard set up and some puppies inside. Being curious I went up to the lady and struck up a conversation. She had about six little mastiff puppies playing in the pen. They were as cute as any dog could be, the urge to throw money at her was strong. I started asking about the health testing of the parents and discovered that the mom had mild hip dysplasia! This lady was breeding a dog she knew would be passing on her bad genetics to her puppies. This is a horrible breeder! Hang on to your money. Never buy a dog from a pet store. Most pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills and brokers, this is where the majority of the dogs from puppy mills go to. Brokers will call a breeder, usually a breeder that is selling their puppies cheaply and offer to buy the entire litter if they can get a discount. Then the puppies get crammed into crates until the broker has enough puppies and then they will get delivered to pet stores. Many years ago I was at a puppy mill and saw how these operations are run. This was an inspected kennel, don’t let that term fool you. Most puppy mills are inspected. If they have deficiencies they are allowed to bring them up to code and to continue operating. If you want to read about some puppy mills, some of them have such cute names too, then here is a link to the humane societies list of the horrible 100. I won’t go into the horrible conditions and the atrocities, you can read that on your own. Just know that if you are buying from a pet store you are supporting these places.
Click on the full report, there is like 65 pages, read as much as your stomach can take. You’ll see these kennels are licensed and inspected with oh so cute names. I’ve never been able to read all the way through I get too angry. I’m confident you won’t be able to make it all the way through either.
So how do you find a good breeder, with all of the noise going on, everyone patting themselves on the back telling you with their flashy websites, and their impossibly cute pictures that they have the absolutely best dog for you? Well let’s clear away some of the noise. First disregard palm fronds, paw prints, golden canine award, or anything else on the website that can distract you from finding out if this person is really an excellent breeder or just an okay breeder. Let’s say you found a website, and some puppies on the website that you can not live without. First email or call the breeder and ask what kind of health testing they have done with their breeding dogs. They should test for hips, elbows, eyes, cardiac, and DNA. Some breeds may require some additional testing, bull terriers will need their hearing tested as they are prone to deafness. Talk to your vet about any additional testing for the breed you are contemplating. What kind of early socialization do they do with their puppies. The gold standard is Puppy Culture. All good breeders know about this program but not all breeders use it because it is very time intensive. It does, without a doubt, produce a better puppy. Here is a link if you want to check the puppy culture website: https://www.puppyculture.com/ You can be assured if the breeder is using the puppy culture program that they truly want the best for their puppies. Puppy Culture has a map on their site of all the breeders who have given video evidence that they use the puppy culture program.
If you have made your decision about where to get your puppy ask the breeder if you can buy another puppy from the same litter. A greedy breeder will have no problem letting you buy two puppies from the same litter. Every breeder and trainer knows, or should know, that this is usually never a good situation.The puppies will bond to each other and not so much the owner. I was in a puppy class where an individual had adopted two German shepherds from the same litter. Her and her daughter tried to train these dogs but they were so focused on each other that training them both at the same time proved impossible. She eventually had to leave one dog behind and bring the other. If the breeder has no problem selling you two puppies from the same litter then take your business elsewhere. If you were ever to consider having two dogs, wait until your first dog is at least eight months to a year old before you get another puppy. You will find it is so much easier training your puppy if you wait.
I am sure there may be some questions I haven’t touched on, if there is something you have a question about leave it in the comments.