Dog Shopping 101
by Nawaar Farooq
How many times have we gone to a pet store and seen the perfect little puppy look up at us with those inviting eyes saying “Please take me home?”
I know I’ve been there. I go to the pet shop and I want to play with at least four puppies, two of which I normally contemplate taking home with me. In fact, one time I did do just that.
However, there are many things to consider when buying a puppy. They aren’t just something you can toss to the side when you get bored with them. They need attention and care, just like us.
When you are considering getting a puppy, you should know about where you are buying from. Many people think they know the right answer when the go looking for a pet. Purchasing puppies and dogs without having any idea of their background and history can be dangerous and you might wind up with a dog from a puppy mill.
What is a puppy mill, you ask? A puppy mill is pretty much like a farm for dogs, and not one of those cozy, homey ones. It is more like one of those giant cattle farms where the cows are mass bred to be slaughtered for your dinner at night. Not a very pretty sight. What’s especially scary is that Iowa has the third largest number of puppy mills in the nation with more than 400 facilities.
To be an educated puppy buyer, you must know where you can get dogs. There are three main places that most people look. These include pet shops/commercial kennels, breeders and animal shelters.
After talking to many people about where they buy their puppies and talking to people who sell puppies, I’ve come up with a list of things you can expect when you go to each of these places seeking a pooch. Keep in mind that all of these can be viable resources if you do your research and pay attention to some vital signs.
Many people like seeking breeders when looking for a new pet. Breeders can be tricky. Some breeders are essentially mass breeding through puppy mills and they have Websites that look amazing. People can get fooled by these Web sites and assume that these are reputable breeders. However, really they are just puppy factories waiting to ship out many litters to whoever will take them.
So how do you tell if your breeder is a good one that you can trust? Here is a list of things you should look for when getting a puppy from a breeder according to pet counselor Amy Braun from Iowa City.
- Good breeders ask a lot of personal questions. They might ask who you live with, how many hours you work,
what your housing is like and what kind of guests you normally have. They want to know this so they know that the puppies they are offering go to good, safe homes where they will have a good life. If your breeder doesn’t ask you questions about yourself, stay away!
- Good breeders will often provide a warranty or guarantee of some kind. The best breeders will offer lifetime guarantees, but even if you are offered one for a year or a few months, it is a good sign.
- If for some reason you absolutely cannot keep your dog, a good breeder will take back the dog, even if they didn’t actually breed the dog. Many good breeders are also involved with rescuing whatever types of dog they breed. This isn’t a surefire way to tell if your breeder is a good guy, but it definitely earns them some points.
If you are getting a purebred puppy, Krista Mifflin from About.com says there are a few things that should be included and that you should pay attention to. These are:
- A pedigree that goes back a few generations (usually three)
- Any titled champions within the first two generations (parents/grandparents of puppy)
- OFA certified hips and elbows
- Eyes have been CERFed and don’t have genetic abnormalities
- Care and grooming information
- Right of refusal, if you need to give up the dog for any reason
- Puppies should be healthy and socialized with humans that adjusts well to others being around
ANIMAL SHELTER/CITY ADOPTION CENTER
Another option when purchasing a new pup is to go through a local animal shelter. Iowa City has one called the Animal Care & Adoption Center.
Maggie Winegarden, a temporary animal center assistant at the City of Iowa City Animal Care & Adoption Center has been working there for two years and thinks animal shelters are a great resource when looking for a new pet.
“These animals already exist and are in need of a home,” she says. “Breeders and pet shops encourage more litters when there are already many animals in need of a home.”
Why not adopt a dog that already exists instead of constantly trying to produce new ones?
Here are a few of the other reasons she gave as to why people should look to animal shelters when looking for a new furry companion.
- These animals already exist and are in need of a permanent, loving home.
- Breeders and pet shops encourage more litters, which can lead to more dogs ending up in the shelter or with people who can’t take care of them. –
- Puppy mills are rampant in Iowa. When you go to a breeder or pet shop and don’t do your research, you may end up with an unhealthy, unsocialized dog that will cause you more problems in the long run.
- When you get a dog from the animal shelter, you have a history of where they are from and a good idea of what their health is and any behaviors they exhibit. Their temperament is thoroughly tested. When you get really young puppies it is harder to tell sometimes. You can’t usually tell a puppy’s personality until they are about 6 months old.
- Volunteers at the adoption center constantly work with puppies to be socialized (if they are not already) and are taught basic commands. You usually can’t assume that when buying from any breeder or pet shop.
- The adoption center also offers financial assistance for spaying/neutering to prevent having any unwanted litters.
Please view the following video to see some of the current dogs up for adoption at the adoption center in Iowa City:
PET SHOPS/COMMERCIAL KENNELS
Another option that you can look to (but might want to be wary) of is purchasing a puppy from a pet shop. There have been rumors that many commercial kennels take puppies from puppy mills and because of that pet shops have received a bad rap. Of course, this isn’t always true, and with any situation, it is the consumer’s responsibility to do their research before taking on such a hefty responsibility.
I have purchased a puppy from a pet shop and haven’t had any issues so far, but I was as careful as I could be when I did.
There are local pet stores and franchise pet stores. Both can have a great pet waiting for you inside and some can have sick animals. You should never buy a pet on impulse, no matter how cute they are. Instead, make sure you get the breeder history (if possible), so you know what breeder the puppies came from.
Pet Counselor Amy Braun used to work at Petland in Iowa City. She knows about the stigma attached to Petland and its rumored association with puppy mills.
“ With how much they are talking about puppy mills in the news, it leads the viewer to believe that puppy mills are around every corner,” she says.
Amy doesn’t believe that is the case and supports buying puppies from pet shops like Petland.
“Just because we are a pet store doesn’t mean we have puppies from puppy mills. Puppy mill puppies have health issues and aren’t socialized with people. Our puppies are well groomed and in general they love being around people and other dogs. We have warranties to back up each puppy. We will pay for veterinary bills regarding hereditary issues that occur within the year [up to the puppy’s’ cost]. Puppy mill puppies generally have hereditary issues, Petland puppies usually do not. You can also exchange puppies if necessary,” says Amy. “We would be completely out of business if we weren’t doing right thing.”
You can expect higher prices at pet shops. They have to make a profit, after all. If you do buy a puppy from a pet store, you should be offered the following:
- Initial vet records and check-up
- Warranty of some kind
- Microchipping in case your pet gets lost
Take a look at what Allie Brunn, the general manager of Petland has to say about her pet shop in the video below (I apologize for the shakiness, I didn’t have a tripod with me):
Hopefully that has given you some insight as to what to look for when you are on the hunt for a new pet. Just remember to do your research and don’t buy the first puppy you see. Each of these places can help find a healthy puppy/dog a new home, but it is up to you as a smart consumer to decide which resource is right for you.