For more on determining if you are ready for a dog, how to choose a dog, where to go for a dog, etc., please check out this book (click here).
There are only TWO places you should consider getting a dog from: a good, reputable breeder and a rescue.
You forgot to list pet stores. Why? A pet
store is the WORST place to go. Yes, they are convenient and yes, they will sell to anyone, but there is no quality control. Also, a pet store will tell you exactly what you want to hear to make the sale and not
what you should hear. Health care is limited to what is needed for shipping. Parents are not tested for hereditary problems - it is not cost effective for the person breeding the puppies to be sold.
There is a greater chance you will get a pup that has hereditary problems and even behavioral ones from lack of socialization.
Living the formative weeks (up to age 8 - 12 weeks) in a cage predisposes a puppy to crate soiling issues. The puppy has to learn to tolerate eating and sleeping where he potties. This can mean that your new puppy does not mind pottying in his crate and you have now lost a housetraining tool. It is not easy to retrain a crate soiling pup. Being kept in a cage for the formative weeks is not proper socialization. The first 12 weeks of development set the foundation for the puppy. Not getting exposed things can create a puppy that develops fears of things. A puppy cannot be properly socialized in a pet shop. The longer he has been there, the more likely problems may develop. If puppy has not been well socialized at the breeding facility then shoved into a cage in a store after what can be a long delivery trip, he is already predisposed environmentally to a greater likelihood of issues. And no, just a little love and training may not be enough. Do you want to spend $800 - $1200 or more for a pup that has a greater chance of developing problems?
Pet Stores are concerned about the bottom line as well. Think, is it easier to sell $1000 worth of pet products in one day or one $800 puppy and supplies? Pet
Stores will insist their dogs are from breeders. Technically, they are, anyone who lets dogs breed can be called a breeder. But a reputable breeder does far more than sell dogs and you will NEVER find a pup from a
reputable breeder in a store. (However, some Back Yard Breeders - see the next section - will also sell to pet stores and many people think BYBs are good breeders.) Some pet stores will even say the pups are from
rescue groups. Well, no reputable rescue will send puppies to pet stores for sale though sadly there is now a trend in many states where this is happening.
Puppies are brought up from shelters in other states and placed through pet stores. Do not fall for the "we get our puppies through rescues only," even if it is true. They are just using a different source.
What about a newspaper ad? Many
back yard breeders just breed purebred dogs – many just breed dogs, crosses or not. Some BYBs like to create breeds out of ignorance or the desire to make money from a sucker who knows no better. How many times do
ads run for Sheltie-Poos? This is nothing but a cross between a Sheltie and a Poodle. A BYB may not know the standard for the breed and often breed dogs that are not good breed representatives. AKC registration is
NOT a Good Housekeeping seal of approval for dogs. What quality the dogs being bred are is up to the integrity of the breeder. So do not be blinded by AKC. And do NOT be blinded by Champions in the background. There
is far more to breeding than getting Champion dogs to mate.
Back yard breeders tend not to breed the best quality dogs. It is questionable whether they will test the dogs before breeding for genetic issues. Do you want
to support someone who really does not have the best interest of the breed at heart - though they may think they do? Some reputable breeders may have started off with a backyard litter and probably sold the litter
through an ad. However they have educated themselves about good practices and the importance of bettering a breed and proving they have good dogs. This is not to say you cannot find a great puppy through what is
often called a back yard breeder, but just be aware that the testing for health and temperament may not be there.
Why a rescue? Aren't dogs given up because they have problems? No, in fact many dogs are given up due to other reasons: move, new baby in the family, not enough time for dog, family was not prepared for what it means to be a responsible dog owner.
Some are given up because they just got old. Yes, some of these dogs may not be the best trained, but they are far from lost causes. Many "behavior issues" are merely bad manners that the former owners
never worked with. It is very possible to find a loving, sweet pet through a rescue. Many breeds are very popular and this popularity leads to an abundance of them in rescue! Rescuing a dog gives a second chance not
only to the dog you adopt but also to another dog who may be unwanted. Adopting a dog opens up space for another rescue to come in and hopefully find a home.
HOWEVER, not all rescues are created the same and there are rescues importing dogs from other states, doing minimal health and behavioral evaluations and then adopting the dogs for high rates. These are the pet shops of the rescue world. You have to do your homework!!!
However, sadly, not all rescues are the same, you need to do your homework, educate about how to choose a rescue dog and learn what questions to ask.
Adapted From Will O'Wisp Shelties ...
So, how do you find a serious breeder or a pure breed rescue?
Start by contacting dog clubs.
Star at the top and network down. Good breeders have contacts all over. Personally, I have been able to assist people all over the US hook up with local or regional dog clubs to help them find a breeder or rescue in the breed they are interested with.
You can start at the top - the two legitimate registries in the US:
American Kennel Club - www.akc.org
United Kennel Club - www.ukcdogs.com
Registries will not recommend breeders. But you can use them as resources to find local or regional dog clubs (even if there is no club for
what you want in your state, contact the closest ones and network to someone closer).
Smaller dog clubs will have a breeder code of ethics and will be able to assist you with finding a good breeder who is involved with their dogs or a rescue group.
Once you have contacted a club, breed or rescue, BE PATIENT!
Good breeders may not always have a pup available when you call - you may have to be placed on a waiting list. Rescues will try to match the best dog to your home and you may have to wait for one that is suitable to come in and then be screened by the foster home. Being in a rush is often what send people to pet shops and back yarders. Finding that right dog required patience. Think of it as a fine wine... A good aged cheddar... Rushing will ruin it.