Thursday, May 28, 2009

Proper puppy shopping

If you’re going to get a dog from a rescue organization, kudos. Do it. I applaud it, and so does most of America. Who doesn’t want to see more homeless dogs get forever homes?
Let’s face it, though. Not everyone is going to the pound for a puppy.
A lot of people want a well-bred, purebred puppy. There’s no shame in that. If you’re shopping for a new, purebred puppy, good for you.
But take heed — your puppy shopping comes with extra responsibilities.
First off, I don’t recommend buying a puppy from a pet store. To all the pet stores out there, sorry. I just don’t trust it.
Pet stores are more apt to get their puppies from puppy mills. Health and behavioral problems abound from dogs produced by puppy mills. Most of us also find the conditions of puppy mills downright offensive. Who wants to support such an inhumane operation?
Secondly, be wary of breeders. Take extra precautions with breeders you find in Classified ads. My feeling on classifieds is, you may find a family who decided to breed their pets responsibly, but you have an equal chance of finding irresponsible breeders or worse, people who traffic puppy mill dogs.
Searching the Internet for responsible, established breeders is another option to find that puppy. There are also a lot of local breed groups, many of which have ties with breed-specific rescue groups, that can be great assets in the search for a new puppy as well.
Here’s some rules for proper puppy shopping that won’t lead you astray:
1. Meet the parents. You should be able to visit the puppies in their home so you can evaluate the living conditions, the people breeding the dogs, and most importantly, the parents themselves. The parents should accessible and well-tempered.
2. Ask for documentation of health testing. A good breeder will not breed a dog that has not been tested for health conditions that are prevalent in that breed — for instance, if you’re getting a lab, ask the breeder to show documents that both parents have been tested and cleared of hip dysplasia.
3. Ask about the puppy’s health and veterinary visits. Most breeders require that they keep the puppies long enough to have taken them to the vet a couple times, and your puppy will come equipped with its vaccinations and sometimes, a microchip. Know what health work your puppy comes with, and know what remaining work you will have to get done.
4. Ask whatever questions you can muster — about the breed, about training, anything, no matter how stupid it may seem. Asking questions is a great way to get a feel for how much the breeder knows and cares about the breed.
5. Use some common sense. There are so many conscientious, loving breeders out there who are so very concerned with bettering their breed of choice. They are often quite attached to their dogs, and many work very hard to ensure their puppies land a good home. If you don’t get that “loving environment” feeling when you visit the puppies, perhaps you should look elsewhere.

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