Pet shops where birds, cats, fish and puppies are sold (as opposed to being limited to pet supplies) can be found in many parts of the world. Dogs are the most popular pets sold, and many puppies are sold through pet stores. However there are other ways to acquire a puppy. Many private dog breeders offer a variety of breeds of puppies for sale. There are also animal shelters in almost every town, where homeless puppies are waiting for good homes. Each of these choices has their own pros and cons, which we will discuss here.
Although the practice is decreasing in popularity, there are still a lot of pet stores that carry puppies. You will find many of the most popular breeds of puppies available for sale, but in some cases, the pet shop does not provide the necessary hygienic conditions for the puppies or provide the physical space for them to be active. Far too often puppies are undernourished or mistreated, and the cages in which the puppies are housed are sometimes so small that the puppies are unable to move freely. There are also instances of puppies not being vaccinated against disease, leading to the spread of illness to the others puppies kept in the shop.
Some pet shops appear more like a factory, where the finished goods are crammed into the smallest space possible and the truth about the animal’s health is not shared in order to sell as many as possible before they become obviously ill. Many pet shops do not have any information about the lineage of the puppy, as many of the breeders that sell pups to pet shops do not give accurate information about the breed or background of the dog.
In addition, the puppies have been separated from their mothers, and the care and attention they need as they make the adjustment is often lacking in the pet shop environment. Such puppies will frequently have behavioral problems as they grow older. Even dog trainers find it very difficult to train such dogs.
From a financial point of view, shopping for a puppy in a pet shop is not viable. While the initial cost may seem like a bargain, the future costs of training and veterinary expenses will become overwhelming if the puppy has been irreparably damaged by its experience or if its genetic background was less than optimal. Unfortunately, what a person gets in such a pet shop is a dehydrated or malnourished puppy that is weak and ill. Most animal advocates advise strongly against buying from pet shops and puppy mills, since this will only encourage continued breeding by irresponsible dog breeders.
On the other hand, many pet shops are now partnering with their local animal shelters. Some shops will offer animal adoptions of shelter pets everyday, while some shops have scheduled days during the week when dogs are brought in from the shelter for adoption. Call your local shelters and pet stores to find out if they offer this to the community.
Most communities have animal shelters and rescues where stray and abandoned dogs are taken care of until they can be adopted. There is a fee for the adoption; this fee covers the cost of vaccinations, spays and neuters, and operating expenses that help to keep the shelter afloat. Some animal shelters will have special days in which the cost of adoption is less than normal in order to make room for more animals. You can find out more about this by calling your local shelter.
Responsible shelters will interview prospective owners to make sure that the dog is going into a safe and healthy environment. By the same token, many shelters will honor a return policy if the dog is not a good fit for the adoptive family. One of the drawbacks to getting a puppy (or dog) from an animal shelter is that sometimes the workers at the animal shelters will withhold information on the background of the dogs in the interest of getting them adopted out. Of course, they often just do not have any background information, since they will receive stray dogs with no known background.
It is important to keep in mind that some of the dogs found in shelters have been seized from disreputable breeders or captured by the authorities – although typically, these dogs will go to rescue organizations. However, some shelter dogs come from desolate backgrounds and may be undernourished, they may have been mistreated and have subsequent behavioral problems that make them difficult to manage, and some are either seriously ill or have physical problems from untreated injuries they have suffered. You will need to ask a lot of questions and be aware of how the dog is behaving and how it appears physically.
Most of the dogs here have been abandoned by their previous owners for one reason or another. Of course, most of the animal shelters will have the services of a trained veterinarian so that what they do know, they will share. And of course, many people do find suitable puppies and dogs in animal shelters. Still, the prospective owner has fingers crossed for good health and temperament in the puppy he or she adopts -- but this is true of any puppy, even those from “good” backgrounds.
As far as cost is concerned, getting a dog from an animal shelter is economical. But cost should not be the only factor used in determining from what source you should get your dog. Remember, this is a commitment that could last twelve or more years.
Private Dog Breeders
There are responsible and irresponsible dog breeders no matter where you live, so it is important to do more than a casual background check before you make a commitment to buy a dog from him or her. Often, the best way to find a reputable breeder is to talk to dog trainers and veterinarians in your area, and by contacting the accredited breed associations for recommendations.
One of the advantages of buying your puppy through a private breeder is that most modern breeders will have medical tests done on both the male and female breeding partners to make sure that communicable diseases will not be passed on to the pups, and genetic tests to make sure that the pair are a good match, ensuring the best genetic outcome possible. In addition, because the breeder takes part in socializing the pups, she or he can recognize character traits in the puppies and can appropriately match them to their prospective owners. A responsible breeder knows better than to allow the choice to be made on the looks of the animal alone.
If you are hoping to raise a show dog, then working with a private breeder is almost the only way to know for certain the pup’s lineage.
On the down side, the cost of buying a puppy can be significantly higher when you buy from a private breeder, but keeping all of the above mentioned benefits in mind, the cost of responsible breeding is significantly higher than simply allowing two dogs to mate with each other.
Before you settle on a private breeder for sure, make a point of visiting the breeder’s home to see how the parents of the puppies live. You will want to be sure that they are not kept for breeding purposes only, that they are not caged all the time, and that they are healthy. If the breeder does not allow for visits, you should take it as a red flag and wait until a better opportunity comes to you.
Once you have found the ideal breeder, make sure to make a list of questions you have about the breed. Some suggestions for questions include who they use for training their own dogs (i.e., the parents of the pups); what foods they have found to be best for their breed and how much they feed; how active the breed is and what types of exercises keep their pets at their optimal health; and what normal health challenges should be expected. For example, short nosed dogs must be protected from heat and strenuous exercise, while non-shedding dogs like poodles need to have their ear and anal areas kept clear of excess hair to prevent infection due to dirt and bacteria buildup.
Remember, every puppy has its own particular challenge that must be accounted for – regardless of where it comes from.
Image: Ian Phillips / via Flickr