Are you considering getting an adult dog or puppy? Once you make the decision to get a dog or puppy, you have to figure out where you’re going to get it! There are quite a few ways you can acquire a dog or puppy, but not all ways are equal. Different people have different needs for their dogs: do you want a dog to do a specific sport? do you want a couch potato? a running buddy? a dog who will be safe around your small animals? Think about what you want from your adult dog, not a puppy, even if you’re getting a puppy (they aren’t puppies for long!). At Canine Country Academy we support both ethical breeders and rescues. The key to both of those options is finding people who can help guide you, will not trick you to get a quick buck, and who will support you in your journey if you need help. Let’s go over the options of where to get a dog or puppy:
There are different types of rescues that vary in knowledge of their dogs.
County shelters/pounds– The first option is the county pound or shelter. These are usually crowded, noisy, and focused on adopting dogs out as quickly as possible to avoid putting dogs down. Generally these shelters are the easiest way to adopt a dog, but often they don’t have dogs very long and may not temperament test them. The main concern for most people going to a shelter is that they don’t know what they’re getting. A dog may act completely different in the shelter environment than in a home. Many dogs shut down in a shelter environment, so you may experience a different personality as they adjust to your home. The “two week shutdown” is a term used for the adjustment process for adopted dogs as they get used to your home. They may be more shy, skittish, more well behaved (out of uncertainty), and unsettled until they become comfortable. Often you have a random chance for your dog’s health since you don’t know the predispositions of the parents to genetic diseases or ailments. Many also do not test for common ailments such as heartworm or internal parasites, neuter, or give core vaccines. Often the adopter is asked to cover these costs after adoption, usually with a time limit (ie within a week).
Luckily there has been a movement for many shelters to understand dog behavior and provide a better transition experience for the dogs and adopters through support, training classes, a calmer shelter environment, and more health testing before adoption.
Foster based rescues- Foster based rescues are another rescue option that can help you have a more certain idea of a dog or puppy’s personality. These rescues have foster families who keep the dogs for their initial adjustment period as well as their neutering and vetting. Because dogs are fostered in a home environment you can have a larger picture of their personality around people and other dogs, and a foster may also begin to work on basic manners to help their foster dog adjust to your home. Your dog may still act differently at your house if the foster environment varies heavily from your home: ie. they have 5 other dogs and you don’t have any, if you have cats or small animals. The age of a puppy or dog also can affect the transition process as a puppy may learn and have manners, but as they become adolescents and become more confident in their environment they may test boundaries and ask questions like any teenager.
Breed specific rescues- These are great if you want to go the adoption route but have a specific breed in mind. These rescues know their breed well, are often run or helped by breeders, sometimes act as middle men between owners who need to surrender and adopters, and are often foster based so they can monitor the dogs as they adjust. When looking at breed specific rescues you should note that some are more rigorous in their application than other rescues. They want to make sure that the dogs they adopt out are adopted into their forever family rather than ping ponging between families.
Caution- There are also some “rescues” who are not actually rescues. Some people use the term as a way to hoard animals and make money from unsuspecting adopters. The dogs may also not be vetted and may be kept in bad conditions. Never feel pressured to adopt a dog immediately after seeing them, these rescues can often use guilt as a way to con people into immediately adopting a dog from them.
How to find a good rescue– Make sure the rescue is a registered 501(c)(3) charity so you know your money is going to a good cause. In the state of Georgia, rescues must also be registered and licensed with the Georgia Department of Agriculture which has annual inspections and can advise you of any complaints filed. Reputable rescues will be more than happy to answer any questions you may have, provide contact with prior adopters to give their experiences, and want to work with you. Visit their facility, if they have one, and talk to the staff who work or volunteer there. Ask how the handle behavioral or health issues in the dogs they adopt out: do they work with a positive reinforcement trainer? do they send the dog off to a board and train? do they ask the adopter to pay for private lessons or do they help cover the cost? do they have specific vets that will work with them for a better cost? Often if a rescue you talk to doesn’t have what you’re looking for, they may know other rescues in other states they can point you towards. Rescues love what they do, and they’re happy to talk about it!
Here are some basic pros and cons to rescuing that you may want to consider:
- Basic vetting is often provided and included in the adoption fee if adopting from a rescue (vaccines, neutering, microchipping) which can range from $50-$500+ depending on your location
- Many rescues offer a foster to adopt trial so you know the dog is a fit for your family
- Some require that a dog is returned to them if your situation changes and you cannot keep the dog
- Most want to help the dogs and adopters, and volunteers often get to know the dogs well enough to help guide you to a good match
- If you are getting from a breed specific rescue you often have a pretty good idea about size/breed and sometimes parents or at least mom.
- If you’re getting a puppy from a rescue, you don’t know what to expect from that puppy size and temperament wise (it is helpful if the mother is available to meet) Some rescues have requirements that include knowing your income, having a 6ft fence, home visits, etc
- Depending on which rescue route you go, you may be on your own if your dog develops a behavioral issue
- If you have a specific goal in mind for your dog (agility, obedience, etc), you may not end up with a dog who does not enjoy that sport or is behaviorally suitable for it
- If are are very specific about what you are looking for (ie. only a purebred, certain gender, or color etc.) you can wait a long time before a match is found.
Breeders come in all shapes and sizes, just like rescues. There are reputable, responsible breeders and there are ones who only want to churn out puppies to make a profit. Please note that responsible breeders generally work very hard to not allow their puppies and dogs to fall through the cracks and end up at shelters. The purebred dogs you often see in rescue come from back yard breeders or puppy mills.
Pet stores (online or brick and mortar)- Pet stores promise a wonderful thing. A puppy from a great breeder, often payment plans, and a health guarantee. Everything a pet store presents is a lie. Pet stores get their puppies mills where the environment is abysmal and the only goal is money. Often the dogs are bred continuously until they become useless and are too old to produce puppies. You may get a healthy puppy from a pet store, but most likely they will develop genetic defects or infections from their living conditions. When the only thing in mind is profit, puppy mill owners breed sick dogs, force them to live in small cages, and remove puppies way too early from their mother. Registry to the CKC (Continental Kennel Club) is a good way to spot a mill. This is a front organization that was created to trick buyers into thinking their dogs come from reputable sources. Even if a dog is AKC (American Kennel Club) registered, it doesn’t mean anything except that the dog is a registered breed and has parents who have been registered via submitting paperwork. Please do not feel like you need to “rescue” a pet store puppy. Purchasing a puppy only opens up an opportunity for another puppy to be put in its place. Often pet store puppies are the same price or more expensive than a reputable breeder’s puppies.
This website gives a great description of how puppies end up at stores: http://www.dontbuyintopuppymills.com/puppy-supply-chain/#!
Backyard Breeders- Often these breeders call themselves “pet” breeders or don’t call themselves breeders at all. The dogs may be kept in a clean environment and may even be kept in the breeder’s home. Often if you get a dog from an ad in the paper or craigslist or if a friend of a friend had some puppies available, you are purchasing from a backyard breeder. The issue with these breeders is that they have no goals except producing puppies and selling them or they just let their dogs breed with no thought of the consequences. The dogs are not health screened, there is no purpose to the breeding except getting more puppies to sell or unique colors or mixes, and the breeder may not do any kind of socialization with the puppies or provide vaccines/deworming. Often these breeders sell puppies when they are too young (under 8 weeks) and provide no support after the transaction is complete. You may meet the breeder in a parking lot away from their home or be unable to meet the parents. The fees from backyard breeders range from “free to a good home” to upwards of $4000 for specific colors or sizes.
The reason most people go to a backyard breeder is because they want “just a pet not a show dog”. Unfortunately if you purchase from a backyard breeder you are opening your future dog up to a higher risk of genetic defects, behavioural issues, and physical ailments. Supporting backyard breeders only encourages them to allow their dogs to breed more.
Reputable Breeders- Now we’ve gone over the bad, let’s go over the good. You can purchase a dog from a breeder and feel 100% confident that they came from a good place, will be as free as possible from genetic defects and ailments, and be socialized to many different things. Most responsible breeders don’t actually make much of a profit, even if the puppies are $1000+ each. The reason they don’t is because they take the best care of the mom and puppies, test the parents for breed specific defects, have certain body parts tested and scored (OFA and CHIC are resources to check when researching a breeder, they also offer complete lists on breed-specific testing), compete with their dogs, and put a lot of time and money into raising the puppies. Litters are often planned months or years in advance, and the purpose of these litters is to create a specific temperament or physical ability to better the breed or line. Often the initial cost of the puppy will offset the cost of future vet bills as their chances for breed specific issues will be lessened.
You will often be on a waiting list for a reputable breeder; many breed a maximum of 1 litter a year, if that. Depending on the breed, some only do every few years. Responsible breeders encourage you to visit their homes, the parents, and the puppies and are proud of the dogs they produce. Many will pick your puppy for you since they have experience knowing how a puppy will turn out as an adult.
Often breeders get one or two show dogs per litter, so the rest are “pet” quality meaning they wouldn’t do well in the show ring, but would be a stable, healthy, and well socialized pet for a family. Expect a contract with an ethical breeder: this will include either co-ownership if you do not intend to neuter or a requirement to neuter when they are old enough, breeder approval of any other home you may give your dog to with the breeder reserving the right to take the dog back if they don’t approve, the right to take the dog back or fine you if you breed the dog without their permission.
If you’re looking for an ethical breeder, your first step should be the breed club of your country. They will either have a list available or will send you a list of breeders who follow the strict guidelines of heath testing, competing with their dogs, socializing puppies, and producing the best dogs possible. You can also go to conformation shows as well as sporting events to find a breeder who produces dogs who would fit with your lifestyle. Make sure you not only like the breeder’s dogs, but you like the breeder as a person. Breeders are often involved in their puppies’ families, and offer advice or assistance for any situations you may come across.
If you would like an adult dog versus a puppy, many breeders know of or have adult dogs who are retiring from showing, not doing well in the breeder’s home if they have multiple dogs, have been returned by owners, or have been rescued who are available. They may not advertise them, but if you ask they can point you in the right direction.
Let’s go over the pros and cons of purchasing a dog or puppy:
- A reputable breeder will provide you with a puppy who has a better chance of being healthy through genetic testing of the parents which will cut costs as the dog grows older
- If you have a specific goal or temperament in mind a well-bred puppy or dog will be a more guaranteed physical structure and temperament
- Early socialization from reputable breeders helps you have a confident puppy who grows into a confident dog
- Ethical breeders care so much for their breed and puppies that they are happy to help you if you have any situations where you cannot care for the dog or need advice
- The cost of purchasing a puppy or dog from any situation will be much greater than adopting
- It can be difficult to determine what is an ethical breeder, backyard breeder, and puppy mill
- If the parents are not health tested and proven to be healthy, you may have a dog who develops crippling genetic defects
- You may face criticism from friends and family if you go the purchasing route, but if you buy from an ethical breeder you should not feel guilty
- Well-bred dogs will have higher instincts than badly bred ones, so be prepared for a bird dog who goes after birds, a livestock guardian who guards the house, and a sighthound who chases animals outside
No matter where you get your dog or puppy, make sure they are responsible and have the dog’s and your best interest in mind. Never feel like you HAVE to take a dog or puppy because someone says so, and make sure you’re ready for the commitment. We here at Canine Country Academy have acquired our dog from every situation you can think of, and our goal with this post is to educate you on making the best decision for you and your family without being tricked by people who only want money. We are always happy to come with you to see and evaluate puppies or dogs from breeders or rescues!