Thinking about getting a puppy is super exciting but takes a lot of planning. It should not be an impulse decision. After deciding what kind of puppy will be best for your family and lifestyle, your next decision is where you should get the puppy from. There are a handful of places where puppies come from, but be warned – not all are happy places.
This term is used for someone who breeds one or two litters but doesn’t do it consistently. Usually, they are average pet parents who have a dog they really love and think they can make some extra income. While most of these people have good intentions, they are typically not very knowledgeable in what it takes to breed and raise very small puppies. In turn, puppies go home too early, may be unvaccinated or have some temperament or health issues because there was no careful selection of mom and dad.
A lot of buyers are drawn to these “breeders” because they offer a pure-bred puppy with a smaller price tag. These puppies are usually listed on Craigslist, Facebook groups or in the classifieds.
A legitimate breeder is someone who dedicates a lot of time, energy and research into one or two breeds. They usually own both parents and know the lineage back a few generations. This helps them determine which dogs they should pair together to get the healthiest puppies with the best temperaments. These breeders should be very knowledgeable in the breed and what it takes to care for small puppies. They will make buyers sign contracts stating that if they can no longer care for the dog, it will be returned to the breeder.
Breeders usually have websites, will allow you to visit the puppies before they go home, and meet at least the mother. These little balls of fur also come with pretty big price tags depending on the breed.
Puppy Stores and Puppy Mills
I lumped these two together because if you are buying from a puppy store, that puppy first came from a puppy mill. Don’t be fooled by what the store employees say. Some states have passed legislation that requires only rescued pets to be sold through puppy stores but unfortunately, that is not the case in Texas.
Just like the pet stores say, puppy mills will market themselves as responsible breeders, but these places are what puppy nightmares are made of. Mothers are used over and over and over again for breeding usually with not enough time in between litters and when she is unable to breed anymore, she is sold, let loose or killed. The mothers and their puppies are left in overcrowded, very small crates where they lay in their own urine and feces. They spend their lives walking on hard wire surfaces and never touch the ground. Harsh and overcrowded environments, and inbreeding lead to physical deformities and poor long-term and short-term health.
For more info and a map of Texas puppy mills, visit https://bailingoutbenji.com/puppy-mill-maps/.
Rescue Organizations and Shelters
There are plenty of city and private shelters that offer pets of many breeds, species and ages. There are indeed some pure-bred dogs available; there are even rescues dedicated to specific breeds. A little bit of looking and research can yield the best furry friend of your dreams. Rescuing a pet not only saves that one pet, but allows for other pets to be saved as the adoption opens a space in the organization.
So how do you know what you’re getting yourself into?
When looking at breeders, do some thorough research and ask LOTS of questions.
- Ask about the breeder- How long have they been breeding? How many litters have they produced? What is their experience with this breed?
- Ask about the parents- Why were they picked to breed? Do they have a great/friendly temperament? Do they have health issues?
- Ask about the puppies- What is the socialization process like before they come home? How old are they when they come home (they should be no younger than 8 weeks)? Will they have received vaccinations (they should receive at least one set)? Where do the vaccinations come from (they should come from a vet, not given by the breeder)?
- Ask about the process- Have past litters ever had a problem with illnesses, physical health, or temperament? Do they have a refund or warranty policy? Have puppies ever been returned and if so, why? Can you visit the facility and meet the parents and puppies first (the answer should be yes! If not, that’s a HUGE red flag. You should at least be able to see the facility)? Is there a deposit required?
Lastly, look them up on social media or see if they have a website.
When looking at rescuing, you can ask all the volunteers and staff about their experiences with the dog you’re interested in. Be sure to spend some time with the pet before making a decision. Ask about where the pet came from, or how he ended up in the shelter. Was he found on the street or owner surrendered? While a lot of pets may have a big question mark as a history, the more information you can gather, the better. And lastly, note that it may take some time for a new pet to get completely comfortable in their new surroundings. Their true colors and personality can take anywhere from a couple weeks to months to emerge.
Always avoid puppy stores, puppy mills and backyard breeders. You will most likely save yourself some money and some heartache and we need to end the cycle. Hopefully Texas will soon pass a law regulating these types of practices. Now this is where I may get in trouble with some of you. I don’t care where a puppy comes from, as long as the source is responsible, like a true breeder or a rescue or shelter. All that matters in the end is the kind of life and love you give your puppy. Know that you are making a big decision that will last 10 (or more!) years. You are making a commitment to the little life you bring into your home. So be a good pet parent and love that little ball of fur with all you have.