A Guide to Finding your Canine Family Member
Search the internet for anything these days and you'll be inundated with ads for it on every website you visit. It can be overwhelming and frustrating. Especially when it comes to dogs. Puppy scams are prevalent and have slick ads and promotions to draw you in.
The truth is, finding the healthiest, best-personality puppy isn't easy. The really good, reputable resources for dogs don't tend to advertise at all. And when they do, their ads usually look amateurish compared to the scammers and puppy farms.
There's a good reason for that. Puppy mills and scammers are marketers. Their goal is to get your money, one way or the other. Reputable dog breeders' goal is to breed shining examples of their chosen breed and find the best homes for the puppies they don't keep. These are the people you want to find.
The absolute worst way to buy a dog is from a pet shop. Every single puppy sold by pet shops is a puppy mill product. If you think it through, you know that no breeder who cares about dogs would subject little puppies to life in a pet shop. The only people who let their dogs be sold like products in a store are the ones who only care about money.
Two good ways to find a dog
For most people, there are two options for finding the right puppy or dog for their families.
Shelters or rescues seem ideal. It seems to be a win/win situation for everyone. The dogs need homes, and you want a dog. Unfortunately, it's not that easy.
Just as there are good people and bad people in the world, there are good shelters and rescues and bad ones. You still need to do your research. If a shelter always seems to have puppies, it's a red flag that the shelter is a puppy mill outlet. If the shelter is adopting out dogs and puppies as soon as they come in, it means they're not getting to know the dog and its temperament. They may not even have done thorough health checks on the dog.
The bottom line is to do your research. Talk to people who have adopted from the shelter or rescue. If they won't give you any names, ask in your community groups on social media. Somebody knows something - good or bad. There are excellent, reputable shelters and rescue groups doing fabulous things in their communities. But they're not always easy to find. Again, they're not masters of marketing. Their focus is on the animals they care for.
It's especially important to ask questions if you have particular needs to suit your family. If you have little kids, or grandkids frequently in your home, that has to be a consideration. If you're looking for a hiking companion, it may be a different dog. If you want an assistant couch potato, that's another kind of dog.
If you decide to go the shelter or rescue route, it's important to be honest about your situation. What you have and what you need are all considerations. These organizations should have complete profiles of all the dogs in their care and can hone in on the perfect match for your family.
Keep in mind that even if you've decided that a particular breed of dog would be the right choice for your family, almost every breed has a rescue affiliation. There's no reason you can't have exactly the dog you want, and still adopt from a rescue.
If you've narrowed your choice of dogs to one or two breeds, the next step is to contact reputable breeders in your area and find out more about the breed. In the United States, the American Kennel Club
is the premiere registry for dogs. However, just because a dog has "AKC papers"Â doesn't mean it's coming from a reputable breeder. The AKC is just a registry for purebred dogs. It's the breed clubs that are the gatekeepers.
Every breed of dog has a "Parent Club"Â that belongs to the American Kennel Club. That parent club sets the standard for the dogs in their breed. And every breed club has a Code of Ethics that its members must sign and abide by. Most, if not all, also have a Breeder Referral search section on their website. If a breeder is a member of the parent club, you're part of the way there.
You want a breeder who cares about their breed, actively participates in health testing of their dogs, stands behind their dogs for their entire lives, knows what happened to every single puppy they ever produced, and considers those puppy owners to be part of their family forever. The overriding concern of a reputable breeder is that their puppies are cherished members of the families they join.
Getting the third degree
Once you've found your breed and a few breeders to talk to, you still may not find smooth sailing. Reputable breeders are real people with jobs, families, and commitments. They just obsess about dogs in their free time. That being said, when you do make contact with a good breeder, you'll probably learn much more about the breed than you thought was possible. And, when you mention that you want a puppy, you'll probably be subjected to interrogation that makes a job interview look easy.
Remember that a good breeder has poured time, energy, love, and money into their dogs. Many people may think that breeders are just in it for the money. We know lots of good breeders. None of them makes money on the puppies they sell. If they're lucky, they break even on a litter of puppies. Consider: health testing before even conceiving the litter, veterinary care before and after the puppies arrive, puppy supplies, etc., the expenses can easily overtake the income from any litter. They're breeders because they love their breed, want to ensure its preservation and health. And want the best possible homes for their puppies.
There's actually a joke among dog breeders: "Want to be a millionaire dog breeder? Start with a billion!"
Don't be in a hurry
It's best to be patient. Good, reputable breeders may have long waiting lists. But they also have networks of fellow breeders. It's a good idea to be as flexible as possible in how far you're willing to travel to get your puppy. Flexibility may be important for timing, as well. Once you're on the radar, a puppy may become available because someone's situation changed. Or, if you're interested in an older dog, let the breeders you contact know that, too. On occasion, retired show dogs may be available to special homes.
If your chosen breed has a variety of fur types and colors, it's another opportunity for flexibility. If you're open to either a boy or a girl, of any color in your breed, your chances improve as well.
The perfect puppy for your family is out there. It just takes a little patience, some research, and possibly some persistence to find them. It's worth making the effort. The right puppy will be with your family for many years and become everyone's best friend. Each member of the family will have a special relationship with your dog. Finding the perfect dog for you is time well spent.
Resources:Here's a list of breed clubs for small dogs by AKC group:
Toy Group Non-Sporting Group