Ways to Get a Dog
If you're reading this page it probably means you've decided to get a dog and you are on an excited rampage to find what you want as quickly as possible.
BEWARE of letting your excitement overcome your good sense and ethics.
Your dog will be with your family for the next 14+ years. Do the same kind of research on your potential companion as you would if you were buying a new car.
Don't get a dog if:
You are making a choice of breed based on looks alone. Looks fade, breed temperament doesn't. Do an internet search and read about the breed!
You have a very busy lifestyle and limited time at home (got kids in hockey?? Where does the dog fit in that picture?)
You lack knowledge on the vast amounts of training and socialization necessary to create a great pet. No getting around it...you need to be prepared and do thoughtful, planned training.
You are a neat freak. Dogs poop, pee, vomit, fart, get on the furniture, steal food, chew stuff up, and shed. Did I mention SHED?
You have no way to provide outdoor exercise on a daily basis...this means more than just leash walking. Dogs need a place to run freely at least three times a week, no matter what the breed.
You lack funds to support a dog. Budget about 50 dollars a month for 14+ years. Can you really afford a dog?
You want to breed and think it's going to make you money. It won't.
You have kids that are pestering you for a dog that say they will take care of it. Never happens. Plus kids grow up and move out, and the dog gets left behind. If your child is 10, and you get a dog, the dog will live until the child is about 24, by which time the child is probably long out of the household.
You plan to have it as an outdoor-only pet. Never works. Dog goes mentally insane and your neighbors won't like you anymore.
You have members of the family that are not as excited about getting a dog as you are.
Bad idea, don't do it!
Pet stores get their dogs from puppy mills. Puppy mills are big barns occupied by hundreds to thousands of dogs stacked in cages. The dogs live in their own waste, never get to run or play, and often are sick or dying. It is common that toenails grow so long that they curl around and peirce the pads of the feet.
Females are bred each time they come into heat (every six months) and are killed when they cannot have puppies any more. Puppies are taken at 5 weeks and put onto large semi trucks and shipped all over the country with several dying en route (the puppy mills are aware that this happens and to them it's just a "percentage" that they can live with. As long as they are still making money it doesn't matter to them that pups die in transit. It's just like a lettuce farmer being aware that some of the heads of lettuce are not going to be sale-able on arrival. The farmer knows it, the grocery store knows it, and they accept it as part of the process).
Pet stores are aware that the general public is becoming more knowledgeable about the puppy mill industry and have taken steps to be able to "suck you in" and make you think that the adorable pup you see in the window did not come from this source. Some pet stores have training programs for their salespeople to coach them on the "right things to say" to convince you that the pups didn't come from a big barn. Common things they will say to you:
We got them from a nice breeder in Alberta / Kansas / who always sends us great pups.
We got them from the Amish down the road (some Amish communities have discovered that this is a very profitable business that allows them to continue abiding by their religious beliefs of not using much technology. There are dozens of huge Amish puppy mills in the US).
Oh no, he didn't come from a puppy mill. We got him from a person whose sole occupation is breeding dogs. She's really an expert.
This is a cross-bred dog and that means that he's going to be healthier (puppy mills often cross-breed smaller dogs. They know that "little and cute" will sell whether it's a purebred or not. They also do it to avoid the birthing problems that some pure breeds experience).
We got them locally from a guy who has 5 dogs (no breeder who cares about the dogs he produces would ever sell to a pet store and rarely has done health checks).
We got them locally from a breeder who is crossing Yorkies and Maltese just so you can have a great pet (this breeder is producing pups for money and doesn't care if his pups get eaten by Pit Bulls to train them to fight).
They're not registered, but they are purebred! Or, they are registered with (fill in the name of a bogus registry). There are many registries in the US and Canada who for a small fee will send a registration certificate for any dog, even a mixed-breed. In Canada, it is illegal to sell a dog as purebred unless it is registered with the Canadian Kennel Club.
We give a one-year guarantee! (One-year guarantees are useless with most breeds, as the genetic diseases normally don't show up until after 14 months or so).
When you go to a pet store and ask about the puppies in the window, try a little experiment. Ask them if there has to be a home visit or if you have to fill out paperwork about your lifestyle. The answer will always be no. They don't think about whether or not your home is a good one. If you've got the money, they've got a puppy for you.
Even if there are puppies that seem to be in distress at the store, please do not buy them. The only thing you will have done is open a spot for another puppy on a semi truck to come in and be in distress as well. You will be supporting the puppy mill industry. Your money will go toward more dead dogs, more toenails piercing pads of feet, more living in filth and agony. If you want to help the puppies in the window, make a call to the local SPCA or law enforcement and get the pups removed in that way or the pet store will be forced to provide better care.
In short, stay away from pet stores. Do me another favor, too...don't shop at a pet store that sells puppies. Go in and tell them that they have lost a customer due to their un-ethical practice of selling dogs.
Good idea, but be careful and do your research!
There are thousands of dogs available out there in rescue and shelters. Many people shy away from doing this because they think that all the dogs were given up because of some sort of real problem. In most cases, the dog is a normal everyday dog that just happened to get an idiot family (sorry, not politically correct, but true). Often, you can get a great pet from this source, but you need to be aware of the pros and cons.
There are a few ways to adopt a dog that has come into a rescue system.
This is probably the least risky way of adopting a "secondhand" dog.
If you have your heart set on a purebred dog, you should do a Google search on "_______ Rescue" and see what you find. Nearly every breed of dog has several breed-specific rescue organization.
If you are looking for a mixed breed, there are even more rescue organizations available.
Most rescue organizations charge an adoption fee, and many will ship the dog to you (not as expensive as you might think!).
Dogs in rescue organizations such as www.aussierescue.org are kept in foster care and not a kennel environment. This means that the temperament qualities are WELL-KNOWN to the foster family and rescue representative. Often, the dog's background is known as well, which can give you valuable information on whether the dog will fit into your family. You can often find out if the dog has lived with kids, cats and other dogs, or if the dog has any issues that need work. Most of all, a rescue organization will usually carefully screen you with questions about your lifestyle, and will give good advice on whether or not the dog in question will fit. You also usually have good support, telephone or e-mail contact with the person adopting out the dog after you've actually got the dog...someone to call or write to that can answer questions and give you tips on integrating the dog into the family. Rescue organizations require that if the dog isn't working out, that you give the dog back to them. This is a nice form of "insurance" in case things don't work out.
Choose a rescue organization that asks you lots of questions and that doesn't seem eager to just foist a dog off on you. Ask them about what support they offer afterwards, and if you can keep in contact. Make sure to ask what happens if the adoption doesn't work out.
Rescue organizations often end up with whole litters of puppies adoptable...they often get pregnant older dogs in, or have whole litters dumped on them. It doesn't have to be an older dog if you adopt through a rescue organization!
Shelter Dogs or "Pound Puppies"
Shelters are a great place to get a good pet if you choose carefully and resist the impulse to "save" the first thing you see. Your best ally in this endeavor are the shelter volunteers or employees. Shelter workers are usually quite happy to help you, a LOT, if only you ask.
Ask them detailed questions about what they have observed in the dog. Find out if any background information on the dog is available, such as previous home environment. If you have children or other pets, you need to be thinking most of all about the dog's exposure to children and other pets when the dog was young...and if the dog likes kids and is friendly with other animals. If the dog has no background, try to see how the dog reacts to children walking by his cage and take him for a spin on-leash and see what his reactions are to his environment. Take him for a ride in the car and see how he does. If the shelter won't let you do this stuff, reconsider getting a dog from that source. Find out what happens if the dog doesn't work out. Will they take the dog back and place him?
Most of all, THINK and don't do anything on impulse. If you find a dog you'd like to adopt, put a deposit down and go have a coffee, or better yet go home and sleep on it.
If you visit the shelter and you don't find something that appeals to you that day, make up a list of the things you would like in a dog such as personality traits, coat type, and size. Put your name and number on the paper and give it to the shelter and ask them to call you if they see anything they think might work for you.
Shelters often have young puppies available. If you would rather have a puppy, ask to be phoned about any young dogs that come in.
If you're very careful, this could be a good thing!
There are quite a few ways to get a purebred dog. Some are good, some are decent, and some are very, very bad.
Purebred dogs from a responsible breeder
Purebred dogs from "backyard breeders"
Breed-specific rescue organizations
It is never a good idea to get any dog from a pet store. If you skipped the "pet store" section above, please scroll back up for more information.
Purebred Dogs from a Responsible Breeder
What a good breeder will offer:
Contracts and guarantees that give you recourse if the dog shows up with a genetic disease. Hips, eyes, auto-immune problems are present in nearly every pure breed of dog. Good breeders ALWAYS want the dog back from you if it doesn't work out.
The breeder will have done every health check possible to make sure that the litter has little chance of producing any health problems. The breeder also will be keeping track of other progeny to make sure everything's turning out all right.
Support with how to raise and train the dog, and what to expect from the breed.
The ability to see one or both parents and relatives (sometimes the stud dog is somewhere else, that's normal)
Open honesty about what negative traits their dogs possess, both mentally, physically, and in relation to health problems.
High level of caution about where their puppies end up. You will be grilled about the type of home you offer, and you might get turned away if the breeder thinks it's not a good risk. Responsible breeders want to make sure that their puppies are going to a good home...a home where the owners understand breed nature, are going to socialize and train the dog, and are going to KEEP IT for its whole life.
Responsible breeders are usually showing, working, or otherwise attempting to find out through performance whether or not their breeding stock is worthy of being bred.
To find a breeder, you have many options. Consult your local kennel club (kennel clubs often have someone manning a telephone or e-mail account that are there to answer your questions), do an Internet search, buy Dogs in Canada Annual magazine and look through their breeder directory.
Don't be discouraged if there are no breeders in your immediate area. There probably won't be! Remember, you are searching for a great family pet that could live with you for 14+ years...best to buy from the PERFECT breeder for you than to only think locally. It's worth it to have the dog shipped from a wonderful breeder that is doing things right and that you get along with well, and it's done all the time. Think about it in relation to buying a car...if you had to have air conditioning, and there were no cars locally that had it, wouldn't you wait for the right car to be brought to you by the dealership? It's worth the wait!
Be aware that in Canada, it is illegal to charge extra money for papers. If you get someone that says one price with papers and one price without, look elsewhere.
Purebred Dogs from Backyard Breeders Or; Guy Down the Street Has Puppies
Often the situation is that someone has a purebred dog, finds a dog of the same breed, and breeds a few litters. Or, sometimes a person buys a few dogs for the sole purpose of making money off the litters. Both types of breeders usually advertise in the newspaper, through word of mouth, or by putting up flyers.
Dogs from these sources are usually much less expensive than dogs from a responsible breeder. For example, here in Newfoundland a backyard-bred Lab goes for around $200.00 (in comparison to $500.00 or more from a responsible breeder). This single fact is the reason that these sources are so tempting.
Dogs from these sources are rarely registered and usually the owners have no idea of the health problems present within the ancestors of the dogs (and in purebred dogs there are ALWAYS health risks present in the ancestors). Owners assume that because their dogs do not exhibit easily seen health problems, that there is no reason not to breed. This is far from the truth.
Hip and elbow dysplasia, eye defects, and autoimmune problems run rampant in some of the more popular breeds of dogs. If the breeder has not carefully screened his breeding stock and paid careful attention to the pedigree of the dogs, it is much more likely that genetic diseases can happen.
|The Story of a
Bargain Pup: Jane's Labrador
Not long ago, a lady (let's call her Jane) called me for advice on finding a Labrador Retriever. I told her everything I knew and she did research on the web and contacted a responsible breeder. She was screened by the breeder and approved to buy a puppy. The litter was almost ready to be born and Jane was preparing for her new puppy to arrive in about 2 months. Purchase price of her new puppy was $600.00, shipping price $150.00. Total price of pup: $750.00
Then Jane spotted a flyer at the local post office. "Labrador Retriever Puppies, $200.00." The contact number was from her very own town! Not only that, the owner of the litter was a charming, intelligent lady that was widely considered as a very nice person in this very small town.
Jane called the number, went over, and walked out $200.00 poorer and with a 6-week-old yellow Lab in her lap. She called him Oscar. He was from a litter of 10 but Jane only saw three pups because the others had been sold starting at 5 weeks of age.
A few weeks after that, I held an obedience class in the same town. There were five puppies from the same litter as Oscar. All of them were very pretty and had sweet temperaments, but some problems were evident from the get-go.
All of the puppies showed extreme levels of puppy biting and all owners were struggling with this. Extreme mouthing/play biting is an absolutely predictable occurrence with pups that are removed from the mother and litter prior to the age of 7 weeks (they need that time to "teach" each other how much is too much). They all had problems socializing with other dogs (again, the early removal from the litter and mother prevented them from getting the early dog language socialization necessary). As in many cases of backyard breeders, the owner of the litter had assumed that because the puppies were no longer eating off the mother (stops between 4-5 weeks of age) that they could go on to their new homes.
A few weeks into the obedience class, we took a three-week break for the holidays. When I saw Oscar for the first time after the break, I was shocked. His hind legs were the same size as they had been when I last saw him, but the rest of him had grown. He was walking with a hopping gait, holding both back legs together and "hopping" to get around. The muscles in his rear end showed severe atrophy and something was definitely wrong. I told her the dog needed to be seen by a vet.
A few days later, Jane called me in tears. Oscar had been seen by the vet and was suffering from severe hip dysplasia. He had basically been born with no hip sockets. The vet had advised her to put Oscar down immediately. Jane asked if there were any options, and the vet agreed to send the x-rays off to a university vet to see if hip replacement was an option.
The vet told Jane that unless she severely curtailed Oscar's exercise, the disease would progress to much worse proportions and that if she chose to let him remain alive, she should not allow him to go up and down stairs, run in any way, jump into or out of a car, and certainly free play with other dogs was a no-no. Jane chose to follow this advice while waiting for word from the university.
Oscar went crazy within a very short time, less than a week. His puppy brain wanted to be busy. His puppy body was crying out for exercise. He began to toilet in the house, destroy everything he could get his mouth on, and he began to show signs of separation anxiety (probably because the only time he got any kind of mental or physical stimulation was when the owners were home).
When Jane got the results back from the university, Oscar's condition was so severe that he was not a candidate for the $2500.00 surgery. Jane would have paid anything to fix Oscar, but she had no choice. No amount of money was going to "fix" him.
Jane called me several times over the next two years as Oscar developed more and more extreme behaviours. I gave her what advice I could to provide Oscar with as much mental stimulation as possible. Despite our best efforts, Oscar was basically a raving lunatic. I felt that he should be put down. Jane disagreed, mostly (I think) because she had two small children that of course were going to be devastated by Oscar's death. I think that Jane was somehow hoping for a miracle that was unlikely to come...that Oscar would get better.
I don't know what has happened to Oscar. I think it's likely that he's dead...it's been three years since last I talked to Jane.
I found out later that of the five pups in my obedience class, four were dysplastic. Two had hip replacement surgery ($2500.00), one was put down, and the other is not going to get the surgery and is starting to show signs of severe arthritis. I know that several pups that were not in my class have been put down but I do not know the reasons why.
I contacted the breeder with all of the information that I had. She was unwilling to accept that her dogs had produced this or that the problems were genetic in nature. "Both my dogs are FINE, mind your own business" were the last words she said to me as she hung up the phone.
Six months later, she bred another "bargain pup" litter of 10 from the same parents and sold them all without telling anyone of the previous litter's problems. Charming, intelligent, nice lady, remember? I'm sort of glad that I don't know what happened to these guys.
So you tell me: Was Oscar a bargain? Jane saved a 2-month wait and ended up paying more for Oscar than she would have for a healthy, well-socialized puppy from a responsible breeder. She incurred massive amounts of vet bills just from trying to find out what was wrong with him. Had she been able to get the surgery done she would have paid an additional $2500.00 plus hotel bills and travel costs to get him to the vet who could perform the surgery.
The litter from the breeder where Jane originally had a deposit down on a pup today are all happy, healthy adults. I feel the most sad for Jane's kids, who have learned a life lesson the hard way because their mom got too excited about a "bargain."
Be very, very careful...you might get a great dog, but you might get something really, really bad!
Superficially, this can seem like a great way to get a dog. Free! Sounds good, but this particular situation is one that you need to be especially careful of. Most of the time you have no recourse if the dog does not work out and then it's up to you to solve the problem if you can't keep him.
And just for the record, there are NO free dogs. Dogs come with a price tag no matter where you get them. Sometimes paying a bit of money to get a dog from other sources will offer you much more than taking a dog free.
It has been my experience that people who are giving away a dog rarely tell you the whole story. Some outright lie. I recently took a dog into rescue that was a known aggressive dog...we found out after he had been placed in his new home. The former owners knew quite well that he had a bite history, and looked me straight in the face and LIED with a smile. The dog is now dead. We were lucky that the injuries he inflicted at his new home were not more serious. Be careful.
The key to getting a dog from this source is asking the right questions and filtering through the bullsh*t. People who are anxious to get rid of their dog are worse than used car salesmen, with rare exceptions. Even if they are trying to hide the real reasons, you can usually figure out what's going on. Even if they think the dog is "bad," their communication with you can actually tell you the good things!
Here are the most common things that people say when they don't want you to know the *real* reason why they are giving up a dog, and the most common "real" things that are going on.
|WHAT THEY TELL YOU||WHAT IT USUALLY MEANS|
|He needs more room to run||They haven't taught him anything, don't exercise him enough, and he's a bit wild and crazy as a result.|
|We have allergies||The dog hasn't been taught anything, doesn't exercise enough, and they don't want him anymore. Ask them if they had an allergy test done...they'll say no.|
|We don't have time for him||They haven't taught him anything, don't exercise him enough, and he's a bit wild and crazy as a result. He's bothering them in some way or they wouldn't be giving him up.|
|We just had a baby||They haven't taught him anything, don't exercise him enough, and he's a bit wild and crazy as a result. He's bothering them in some way or they wouldn't be giving him up.|
|We want him to have a better life||They haven't taught him anything, don't exercise him enough, and he's a bit wild and crazy as a result. He's bothering them in some way or they wouldn't be giving him up.|
By far the most common reason that people give up dogs is because they just didn't do what is needed with any dog...they didn't train him or provide him with what he needed, and he's acting out. During the course of his life with them he's probably learned some bad habits as a result of the non-proactive way he's been handled.
It is important when considering a dog from this source that you ask all the right questions. You need to find out what this dog is like, how he acts, and most importantly, has he ever bitten someone.
If he has seen a vet, ask permission to review the vet records. Often, bites or major health problems will be uncovered by this research. I was once asked to take a dog into rescue that was "sweet, wonderful, but we just don't have time." When I looked at the vet records, I discovered the dog had severely bitten 3 people in the last 6 months.
When you are communicating with the current owners, don't ask questions that inspire one word answers. "What's he like with other dogs?" or "How does he like kids?" will almost always result in the answer, "Fine" or "Good." Instead, ask questions like:
What does he do when he sees another dog while on the leash?
What does the dog do when he meets kids/men with hats/ etc?
What is the dog's normal routine? Where does he sleep? What is his feeding routine?
What does he do when he rides in the car? (LOTS of dogs are given away because of carsickness).
Has he ever been to the vet for a health problem, and if so, can we call the vet and ask about it?
What does he do if he has a bone and you try to take it away from him? What about if another dog comes close while he has a bone?
Don't settle for answers like "he likes kids" or "he likes dogs." Get them to describe to you exactly what he DOES in those situations, and you will discover a LOT about the dog.
Answering a newspaper ad can get you a great dog. If all that's wrong is that he needs a good owner to take him in and give him what he needs, you've found a good one! Just tread lightly and don't act on impulse. Go home and sleep on it before you take the dog.
The very first part of responsible pet ownership is where and how the dog is obtained.
Sadly, many pets and owners suffer because people just don't do their research prior to getting a pet.
It is my personal goal to make life better for people and dogs. I feel that there are two ways to pursue this goal.
Education--providing the general public with good information to help them make decisions that benefit their families and dogs. My request to you is that you speak up and provide this education in any way you can when you get the opportunity. Offer to help! You might save a dog's life!
Peer Pressure--Speaking up with your negative opinions when people do things because of excitement or apathy. Dog owners owe their dogs respect, effort and love. It isn't right to buy a pup from a pet store so that the puppy mill owners continue to earn a living. It isn't right to kill a dog for acting like an untrained dog (when the owners haven't trained him). I ask that you get your eyes up, your chest out, and tell people that it's wrong! Right now, too many people turn their head and keep silent. This allows folks to throw away pets without a single regret. If it becomes popular opinion that dogs are owed our effort, people will start trying to make that effort.