The numbers will make any pet lover blanch with disgust, anger, and sadness. The Humane Society of the United States calculates that as many as 500,000 puppies every year are sold in pet shops, and that many of these pet shops buy their pets from the worst breeders—so-called puppy mills. What do these puppy mills (and kitty mills) have to do with you if you’re on the market for a new furry companion? You know what you’re doing when it comes to buying a purebred, right?
Truth be told, puppy mills are largely responsible for even harsher statistic: as many as 25 percent of all purebred pups suffer from genetic difficulties because of bad breeding. And as knowledgeable as you think you are about buying a dog, you could come across one of these poor pups and not even know it.
That could mean that you spent hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on a pet, only to have it succumb to a birth defect and maybe even die at an early age. Even if this worst-case scenario doesn’t occur, buying from the wrong breeder can also land you an animal that picked up diseases because of the intolerable conditions at the breeder. That could lead to additional thousands spent on vet bills.
Why leash yourself to such heartache? There’s no need when there are so many great and trustworthy breeders out there, who can pair you with a loving new puppy.
To find the right breeder for you, start local. Your best bet is to find breeders within driving distance. That way, you can visit the actual breeding facilities. And while there, be sure to scout out for the following characteristics that all best-of-show breeders possess:
• A litter of dogs that play, smile, and show all the other signs of being happy and healthy. Take notice, too, that the pups are sociable to the breeder, you, and their brothers and sisters.
• More demand for their dogs than they can handle. Usually a long buyers’ waiting list at a breeder is like a wagging tail on a puppy—a good sign.
• A discerning eye for customers. Good breeders should ask you as many questions as you ask them, on topics such as your reasons for wanting their dog, your past pet experience, whether you have enough space at home, and who in your family will be responsible for daily puppy care.
• The willingness to show you the puppy’s parents during your visit if you provide the right answers to the above questions.
• A wealth of knowledge on the dogs that they breed, including specific advice on the breed’s standard and temperament, to satisfy all of your questions and concerns.
• A health guarantee in writing that shows exactly what vaccinations the pup has had.
• The friendly advice about what future vaccinations you should give, along with the best ways to train and care for the puppy.
• A guarantee, again in writing, this one stating that the breeder would be willing to take back the dog if you cannot keep it at any time.
• The care and thoughtfulness to keep in touch for some time after your purchase, to check on the dog and offer further advice when needed.
If you keep your eyes peeled and your ears perked for these signs of a good breeder, you won’t have to rely on luck or a good reference in finding the right puppy (though those don’t hurt either). You’ll learn soon after you bring your new pal home that you made the right choice, and over time, your family and pet bond. Your pet will live a long, healthy life as part of your family.