Now that you have decided to add a dog to your family, and what kind of dog you are looking for, it’s time to find them. We’ve reached the easy part, right? Unfortunately, not so much. Deciding where to get your dog from can be just as confusing and complicated as the rest of it. Honestly, sometimes it’s the most confusing part.
But what’s to be confused about? I just go to the shelter, tell them what I’m looking for, and meet my new dog! Right?
You can definitely do that! And sometimes you will absolutely get lucky. The problem with that plan is that sometimes the shelter isn’t going to have the dog that fits your criteria. In fact, more often than not, they probably won't. It is also possible that they have a dog that fits most of your criteria, but they may not know at all about the rest of it. Most dogs in a shelter have never been seen in a home environment by the people who work there, so this leads to shelter workers making best guesses depending heavily on the reports of those who have surrendered the dogs. This is not their fault, of course, but it can make it difficult to make sure you are bringing home exactly the right fit for your household. Especially if you have an extremely particular dog. If you decide to go this route then there are few extra steps you can take to be as sure as possible before taking the dog home.
Make multiple visits. Try to visit at different times of day so that you can really get a feel for this dog’s personality throughout the day, and see what they are like at times when the shelter is quiet as well as when it is busy. Vary who you bring with you as well. If you are a multi-person household you want to see how they react to each person individually as well as the family as a group.
Make sure to do an introduction of your dog and your potential new dog at the shelter. Most shelters will require this, but insist if they don’t. This is also a good thing to do multiple times to make sure that the pups getting along isn’t just a fluke.
Ask lots of questions. Ask if you can speak to any of the volunteers that walk this dog on a regular basis, or any fosters who may have brought the dog home, even for a brief weekend respite.
Ask the shelter if they do a Foster To Adopt type program. This would allow you to bring the pup home for a period of time to see how it goes without fully committing. If it goes well, great! You get to adopt the pup and keep them. If you find they aren’t the best fit, you can take them back with no hard feelings and provide the shelter with even more detailed information to help them find the perfect fit for that pup.
What if you feel that going the shelter route isn’t the best fit for you? What are our
If the shelter route makes you a little nervous, there are a couple of extra options that we can consider. The main remaining options to us are adopting from a rescue group, or purchasing a dog from a breeder.
Yes. Purchasing a dog from a breeder is a perfectly viable and acceptable option. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for rescue. All five of my pets are rescues. But sometimes a rescue just won’t be able to meet your needs, and that’s perfectly okay. The biggest thing when considering purchasing from a breeder is making sure that you have found a reputable breeder who is doing right by their dogs and their breed. After all, without reputable breeders, the dogs and breeds we love so much wouldn’t exist.
So what exactly does a reputable breeder look like?
That can be a tricky question to answer. It’s really easy to tell you what it doesn’t look like. You will never find a reputable breeder on Craigslist, selling puppies out of a parking lot, or advertising on flyers and in newspapers. You will also never find a puppy from a reputable breeder being sold in a store. In those situations it can be hard to pass up the puppy. They are so cute and a lot of times it feels like rescuing just as much as going to the shelter does. Unfortunately, those are the “breeder” situations that actually do contribute to the overpopulation and sheltering issues that we do have.
Oftentimes, good breeders will have wait lists for their puppies long before they are on the ground, sometimes even before the breeding is confirmed. Good breeders will also do a slew of health tests on their dogs, and treat them like family. If you are looking at a breeder, make sure that they are doing all the appropriate health tests. The appropriate health tests very from breed to breed, so make sure to do your research and discuss with your vet what you should be looking for.
Reputable breeders don’t often have too many litters in a year, and very rarely have more than one litter at a time. They also will typically have a contract that will often state that they will take the dog back in the event that you need to rehome the dog at any point in their life. A good rescue will often have the same clause. People and organizations who want the best homes for the dogs in their care are committed to that dog for the rest of their life, not just the short time they are housing them.
Whether you are looking at a breeder or a rescue, it is always a good idea to meet the dog in the home they are currently living. With a breeder this will give you an opportunity to meet the parents and assess the conditions in which your puppy is being raised (or will be raised). With a rescue it gives you a chance to see the environment they are living in, and how they behave somewhere where they are comfortable. Behavior can change based on the environment around our dogs, and it can be hard to get to know a dog while they are still trying to adjust to an environment. Seeing a potential dog and interacting with them somewhere they are already comfortable will give you a better idea of their personality and if they are a good fit for you.
Not all foster families will be able to let you into their home to meet a pup. Sometimes they have a lot going on at home, other dogs who might not be okay with visitors, or simply reasons to keep their home private. This is understandable, and in these situations I recommend doing your first meeting at a park or similar space that they frequent with the dog. Basically, you don’t want your first meeting with the dog to be in a completely new to them space if you can avoid it. With breeders we cannot be quite as forgiving. Not letting people see their facilities are how a lot of puppy mills and less reputable breeders fly under the radar. It is very important to at least meet the parents. Seeing their personalities and their condition will help you get a small idea of what to expect from your puppy, and the care that they will receive at the breeders home.
When you are working with a breeder you can also ask for recommendations from owners who have purchased puppies from them in the past. Seeing how some of their pups have grown up can also give you a really good idea of the kind of puppy you might get.
So how do I start finding these breeders and rescues?
Now that you know what to look for once you find a rescue or breeder, how do you even go about finding them? Referrals are usually the best idea, especially with breeders. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations, ask your trainer, ask friends! You can also reach out to us to help you look at breeders and help determine if they are the right fit for you. The AKC can be a good resource, but being an AKC breeder doesn’t automatically make them reputable.
When it comes to rescues, referrals from friends are also a great way to find them. If you have picked a specific breed that you would like to share your home with, there are many breed specific rescues that are great to work with. Even at a rescue, make sure to ask lots of questions, and be prepared to walk away if you don’t like any of the answers.
Now let’s start looking!
Now that you have all the information and questions to ask, get out there and start looking! I highly recommend finding specific rescues or breeders to speak to, before starting to look at actual dogs. It makes it easier for you to move on if you are uncomfortable with any of the answers to your questions. And, as always, if you are ever unsure, reach out to us and let us help you find the right fit!