Where to Buy a Puppy

by Ron and Pat Leight


                   **** First pick a breed to best fit your household ! It's a lifetime commitment****


Our advice is to not select a breed based on any "cuteness" factors. Do research!  Go to the library and look at dog books.  Go to dog shows. Call your local kennel club or most breeds have a national breed club. And don't forget there is much information online.  A good place to start is www.akc.org.   A dog is hopefully going to be a member of your family for the next 12-15 years!   A puppy purchase deserves more careful planning than what kind of brand your next washing machine will be! Do make sure your whole household is in agreement about wanting a puppy! Don't give one as a "surprise gift" for someone unless you plan on helping to pay its vet bills, take it to obedience class and let it out while the owner works a 12 hour shift! Do find out about puppy aptitude testing! Do carefully observe the whole litter of puppies and look to see who is more dominant or submissive! Ask to see the sire and the dam! Don't come home without a written contract! Make sure the breeder is breeding for quality, not quantity! Ask the breeder how much socialization the littermates have received.

 Scroll down this page and MAKE SURE TO READ the article "The Perfect Dog"!

We should mention here exactly what it means when you see "AKC registered " advertised. The American Kennel Club is a registry service. Purebred dogs are registered through them - the breeder of the dog will give you the necessary paperwork, which you will submit with a fee, and a certificate is then mailed back to you. The AKC does much to try to educate the public about responsible pet ownership. But they can't control or monitor every breeding that takes place. Please do not think that an ad for a " AKC registered dog " represents a guarantee of quality. If your dog develops hip dysplasia (a serious genetic disease) the AKC can do nothing to prevent that breeder from breeding again. As long as the sire and dam are pure bred they can sire offspring that can be registered with the AKC even if the offspring are blind, deaf, hip dysplastic, etc.

 The AKC recommends the following when purchasing a puppy:

  • Beware of a breeder who offers to ship a dog to your address within 24 hours.
  • Beware of people offering 3 or more breeds
  • Look for breeders in your state; check their history
  • Meet breeders in person; see puppies before buying.


We recommend at the very least finding a breeder with a written contract that screens for genetic defects.  If they don't OFA and CERF and test for Von Willebrands then you are opening yourself to potential future problems with   your puppy. If it does not state in your contract that the breeder will take the puppy back in the event that you can't keep the pup, for whatever reason, then perhaps this is not the breeder for you.  If you think all of this is not necessary then don't be upset when in eight months you have lost your job, and can't pay for your 8 month old Mastiff's care.  If you think you can just place an ad in the paper, think again.   Not everyone wants your 8 month old unruly Mastiff. You will not find a long line of buyers.  If this were true, there would be no need for pure bred rescue groups.   If rescue groups have problems placing dogs, then don't think that you  won't have a problem.  There aren't enough homes for them all and rescue groups struggle to find good responsible homes.    A good breeder that takes a dog back if there is a problem is potentially keeping one less dog in the shelter system.  We can't stress enough the importance of finding a reputable breeder. You may ask what is wrong with answering an ad in the paper or going to the pet store? To answer these questions we would like to provide a simple outline on how to tell a reputable breeder from what is known as a "backyard breeder".


REPUTABLE BREEDER: Breeds to improve the quality of the breed, plans breedings based on genetic research into the lines of the sire and dam, sire and dam should be guaranteed against hip dysplasia either through the Orthopedic Foundation of America or by a veterinarian certified in Penn Hip. Their eyes should be certified clear (CERF certificate) and puppies should be guaranteed for good health in writing. Breeders should have extensive knowledge of the history of the breed, genetic illnesses prevalent in the breed, temperament, and AKC standards (you should be able to judge the breeder's knowledge if you have done your homework and have your own knowledge of the breed), you should be able to see the sire and the dam and observe the cleanliness of their surroundings, the breeder should screen you and may even put you on a waiting list- this shows he cares about the homes the pups are being sent to and is not trying to make a profit. In fact, a reputable breeder does not make a profit because he invests so much back into the care of his dogs. A reputable breeder should also be active in exhibiting his dogs since this shows an interest in improving his lines and be involved somewhat in dog-related activities or clubs. Should also be aware of the importance of socializing the pups and should have some sort of written contract for the sale of the pups, a guarantee of health as well as a spay/neuter agreement to those pups that are not show quality, to prevent unwanted or amateur breedings. A good breeder should like to hear from you in the future about how the puppy develops. A good breeder also feels a responsibility towards the pups they have brought into this world and will take the dog back if a problem should arise and you find you cannot keep the dog.



BACKYARD BREEDER: motive for breeding is to make a profit or to "show the kids the miracle of birth". Will pretty much sell to the first buyer that comes along, breeds his pet to another pet of the same breed- has no idea of genetics or behavioral traits of the other dog or whether it is compatible to his dog, all he cares about is being able to advertise "pure-bred pups", will sell pups under the age of 8 weeks, no guarantees, in general no shots, no knowledge of whether the sire and dam have any negative inherited genetic traits such as luxating patellas, hip dysplasia, progressive retinal atrophy, von Willebrands disease, etc., being passed on to puppies, puppies will be low priced so they can "get rid of them", dogs will have no AKC titles and probably have never been in the show ring indicating poor specimens of the breed. Will claim none of the above is important since they are " just pets". Basically he is contributing to the pet overpopulation problem and also will not care if you spay/neuter the puppy you select. Has no idea the number one cause of death in adult dogs is euthanasia as a result of behavioral problems due in part to poor breeding. Doesn't want to be contacted if you have any problem with the puppy. No concern for the breed as a whole and does not belong to any dog-related organizations. Note: Beware if you see a lot of puppies on the premises and the breeder states that he is "USDA approved"- this is a puppy mill !!!!!! In fact a Class B USDA dealer does not have to sell only puppies he has bred on the premises. This means he can buy dogs advertised in the paper and turn around and sell them to research labs, pet stores or laboratories. The US government approves these dealers and your tax dollars support this. Beware of out of state breeders whose only question for you is what is your VISA number! Beware of puppies that may have been acquired through the notorious Ohio Amish puppy auctions. Beware of ads stating "championship lines" which basically can mean the pups great, grandmother was a champion, which really doesn't affect a puppy that far down the genetic line.  If my great grandmother was Miss America that doesn't make me a beauty queen. If the sire and dam are champions then you can be assured it was a quality breeding. Beware of accidental breedings unless you like taking a spin on the roulette wheel!


PET STORE PUPPIES: Supplied (usually from a puppy mill) to meet demand, breeder is little more than a supplier who mass produces, and any puppy that doesn't fit criteria is culled after birth, incidence of inbreeding is high( mother to son, brother to sister), same stud and dam bred continuously, usually poor specimens of the breed since quantity not quality is important here, may dispose of puppies too old to sell by selling to a research laboratory, not well socialized since during the critical socialization period between 9-12 weeks of age it is living in a 3x3 cage. Remember that the puppy behind the glass has never seen a tree or felt grass under his feet, has not had a chance to develop his depth perception since he is in an enclosed environment and probably won't even know how to climb stairs. May be overly timid due to lack of varied stimuli. Paying a high price for poor quality and potential problems. Incidence of disease at pet stores is also high- I can personally name three pet stores that have had problems with parvo!

True Story:  There was an adorable puppy at a recent meeting of our local Siberian Husky Club, to which we are members.  This puppy was in the care of our rescue coordinators.  He had been saved from certain death at an "Ohio Amish puppy auction".  This 16 week old puppy had been beaten and abused,  kept in a barn stall where all it saw were 4 walls & was torn from its mother too early. It had never seen other people and needed socialization. He was purchased at a cost of $35(cheap because he was a male). If he hadn't sold he would have been drowned and buried, treated even worse than Amish livestock. A mere money making commodity.   

True Story:                           "DEALING DOGS" TO AIR ON HBO.
Documentary "Dealing Dogs"  A documentary on the shocking mistreatment of dogs at an animal dealer's facility. Dealing Dogs focuses on Martin Creek Kennel of Little Rock, Arkansas, a kennel owned by Chester C. Baird, who was licensed to sell dogs to research facilities. The film follows an undercover investigator employed as a kennel worker but who was actually a member of the animal protection group Last Chance for Animals (LCA), which used the footage to expose the beating, shooting, malnourishment, and poor living conditions of the dogs at the kennel.

As a Class B dealer, Baird, his wife, and their daughters, had been licensed to sell animals to veterinary schools and research facilities. (A Class B licensee is a dealer whose business involves the purchase and/or resale of any animal.) The U. S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the agency responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), requires dealers, and research facilities, to keep accurate documentation to ensure that animals obtained through Class B dealers are procured legally and are not stolen pets. LCA presented its evidence against Baird to the USDA, which, in January 2005, permanently revoked Baird's Class B license and levied a $262,700 fine for mistreating animals, acquiring animals from "random-source" dealers, and failing to keep accurate records (including regarding the origin of the animals). The fine is the largest civil penalty ever assessed and paid in an AWA case; persons with revoked AWA licenses do not qualify for future licensing.

Source: USDA; The HSUS; Last Chance for Animals


If you have a low pain threshold, you may not want to read this. I've included it so you can make a copy and hand it to your friends when they ask, "Why shouldn't I buy that cute little puppy in the pet shop?" We know it just encourages the "puppy mills" to produce more "AKC registered" puppies to foist off on the uneducated puppy buyer. But they're still trying to figure out why it took you a year to find your puppy, or why you rescue dogs.


I don't remember much from the place I was born. It was cramped and dark, and we were never played with by the humans. I remember Mom and her soft fur, but she was often sick, and very thin. She had hardly any milk for me and my brothers and sisters. I remember many of them dying, and I missed them. I do remember the day I was taken from Mom. I was so sad and scared, my milk teeth had only just come in, and I really should have been with Mom still, but she was so sick, and the Humans kept saying that they wanted money and were sick of the "mess" that me and my sister made. So we were crated up and taken to a strange place. Just the two of us. We huddled together and were scared, still no human hands came to pet or love us. So many sights and sounds, and smells! We are in a store where there are many different animals! Some that squawk! some that meow! Some that peep!

My sister and I are jammed into a small cage, I hear other puppies here. I see humans look at me, I like the "little humans", the kids, they look so sweet, and fun, like they would play with me! All day we stay in the small cage, sometimes mean people will hit the glass and frighten us, every once in a while we are taken out to be held or shown to humans. Some are gentle, some hurt us, we always hear "Aw they are so cute! I want one!" but we never get to go with any.

My sister died last night, when the store was dark. I lay my head on her soft fur and felt the life leave her small thin body. I had heard them say she was sick, and that I should be sold at a "discount price" so that I would quickly leave the store. I think my soft whine was the only one that mourned for her as her body was taken out of the cage in the morning and dumped.

Today, a family came and bought me! Oh happy day! They are a nice family, they really, really want me! They bought a dish and food and the little girl holds me so tenderly in her arms. I love her so much! The mom and dad say what a sweet and good puppy I am! I am named "Angel". I love to lick my new humans! The family takes such good care of me, they are loving and tender and sweet. They gently teach me right and wrong, give me good food, and lots of love! I want only to please these wonderful people! I love the little girl and I enjoy running and playing with her.

Today I went to the Veterinarian. it was a strange place and I was frightened. I got some shots, but my best friend, the little girl, held me softly and said it would be OK. So I relaxed. The Vet must have said sad words to my beloved family, because they looked awfully sad. I heard severe hip dysplasia, and something about my heart... I heard the Vet say something about, back yard breeders and my parents not being tested. I know not what any of that means, just that it hurts me to see my family so sad. But they still love me, and I still love them very much!

I am 6 months old now. Where most other puppies are robust and rowdy, it hurts me terribly just to move. The pain never lets up. It hurts to run and play with my beloved little girl, and I find it hard to breath. I keep trying my best to be the strong pup I know I am supposed to be, but it is so hard. It breaks my heart to see the little girl so sad, and to hear the Mom and Dad talk about "it might now be the time". Several times I have gone to that veterinarians place, and the news is never good. Always talk about Congenital Problems. I just want to feel the warm sunshine and run, and play and nuzzle with my family.

Last night was the worst. Pain has been my constant companion now; it hurts even to get up and get a drink. I try to get up, but can only whine in pain. I am taken in the car one last time. Everyone is so sad and I don't know why. Have I been bad? I try to be good and loving. What have I done wrong? Oh if only this pain would be gone! If only I could soothe the tears of the little girl. I reach out to lick her hand, but can only whine in pain.

The veterinarians table is so cold. I am so frightened. The humans all hug and love me, they cry into my soft fur. I can feel their love and sadness. I manage to lick softly at their hands. Even the Vet doesn't seem so scary today. He is gentle and I sense some kind of relief for my pain. The little girl holds me softly and I thank her for giving me all her love. I feel a soft pinch in my foreleg. The pain is beginning to lift, I am beginning to feel a peace descend upon me. I can now softly lick her hand. My vision is becoming dreamlike now, and I see my Mother and my brothers and sisters, in a far off green place. They tell me there is no pain there, only peace and happiness. I tell the family, good-bye in the only way I know how, a soft wag of my tail and a nuzzle of my nose. I had hoped to spend many, many years with them, but it was not meant to be. "You see," said the Veterinarian, "Pet shop puppies do not come from ethical breeders."

The pain ends now, and I know it will be many years until I see my beloved family again. If only things could have been different.

(This story may be published or reprinted in the hopes that it will stop unethical breeders and those who breed only for money and not for the betterment of the breed. Copyright 1999 J. Ellis)


            SO YOU WANT A PERFECT DOG?:::::: READ ON....

written by Jon Katz, Washington Post

The Perfect Dog is an enticing fantasy pooch. It's the dog that instantly learns to pee outdoors, never menaces or frightens children, plays gently with other dogs, won't jump on the UPS guy, never rolls in gross things, eats only the appropriate food at the right time, and never chews anything not meant for him. This dog does not exist.

(The Perfect Dog is first cousin to the equally yearned-for Disney Dog. That's the one who loves you alone, who will sacrifice his life to pull your toddler back from the busy street, who will cross 1,000 miles of towering snowdrifts to find you if you accidentally leave him behind in the Arctic. I want such a dog, but I don't have one. Mine would make their way to the nearest deli and stay there.)The peddling of Perfect Dogs amounts to a multibillion dollar business in the United States. You'll never see images of ugly dogs vomiting in the living room or terrorizing the letter carrier on dog food commercials. Those dogs—the ones we want—are always adorable. Their happy owners are not holding pooper scoopers.

Because people have such ill-informed and unrealistic expectations, dogs often suffer when their true hungry, messy, and alien natures are revealed. They get yelled at, irritated by studded chains and zapped by electronic collars, tethered to trees, hidden away in basements and back yards, or dumped at shelters and euthanized.

The most important time for you and your dog is the stretch you spend considering whether, where, and how to get a dog and what sort of dog to get. Unfortunately, that process lasts only a few minutes for most people. Thus, much trouble for both species.

Most Americans acquire dogs impulsively and for dubious reasons: as a Christmas gift for the kids. Because they saw one in a movie. To match the new living-room furniture. Because they moved to the suburbs and see a dog as part of the package. Because they couldn't resist that wide-eyed puppy in the mall pet store or the poster published by the local shelter.

Even the scant time it will take to read and mull over the following questions (and some answers) might improve your chances of finding the right dog.

1. Why do I want a dog?
Researchers studying human-animal attachments find we have complex personal motives for wanting a dog (or cat) and for choosing a particular one at a given time. It's important to understand some of those impulses, even if it means picking at psychic scabs. Are you lonely? Sick of people? Unhappy at work? Re-enacting some familial drama? Drawn to the aesthetics of a beautiful purebred? Compelled by the idea of rescuing, but not necessarily training, a dog? Understanding your own motivation doesn't mean getting a dog is wrong, but it may help you make a better choice of animal—or decide that what you really need doesn't come on four legs.

2. How can I get a well-behaved dog?
You can't. You can only create one. Dogs don't come that way. It's natural canine behavior to chew on all sorts of things, roll in other animals' droppings, hump and fight other dogs, menace anything that invades the home. All these behaviors can be curbed, but that takes a lot of work. Trainers say it requires nearly 2,000 repetitions of a behavior for a dog to completely absorb it.

3. Does it matter what kind of dog I get?
There is a kind of canine communism that suggests all dogs are equal and, potentially, wonderfully alike. I don't think so. It is both foolish and irresponsible to know nothing about the characteristics of the animal that you, your family, and your neighbors will have to live with for years. Last year, more than 400,000 kids were bitten badly enough by dogs to require a hospital visit. Don't add to the number.

4. Is it wrong to buy a purebred when so many dogs face confinement and death in shelters?
It's about as wrong as having a baby when millions of poor children suffer. Getting the right dog involves not only moral but practical considerations. Acquiring a rescue or shelter dog can be incredibly rewarding, but when you adopt one, you may also acquire behavioral issues caused by previous mistreatment. You may need to be prepared for even more arduous training than usual. Raising a dog acquired from a good and reputable breeder, who understands the dog's temperament and the human's circumstances and can match the two, is much easier. Working with a Lab, standard poodle, golden retriever, or German shepherd—breeds that have worked with humans for centuries and whose behavioral traits are well known—may mean fewer surprises.

5. How should I get a dog?
There's no one way. Avoid the puppy mills—unscrupulous breeders mass-breed and in-breed dogs and sell them to pet stores. Go to a shelter, rescue group, or experienced breeder (get some references). Whoever provides the dog should be skeptical. A good breeder or experienced rescue agency wants you to prove that you'll be a capable caretaker. The interrogation and screening can be annoying, but it's also a sign that you're on the right track. A breeder ought to know if you work long hours away from home, have a fenced yard, have kids or other animals, or if you have access to parks. Why are there all those mastiffs, Rottweilers, and border collies in Manhattan? It's what happens when unscrupulous breeders meet thoughtless customers.

6. Is it a mistake to buy a dog for your child?
Only if you are unrealistic enough to believe your kid's promises that of course she'll take care of the new puppy. Kids have short attention spans. They'll coo over the puppy, but in a few months it will be a dog. And who will be walking it at 6 a.m. on a winter morning? Don't surprise your kids with a puppy—they really might prefer a new computer.

Some romantics see the match between a human and dog as kismet; If they're "right" for one another, or destined to be together, they'll fall in love at first sight. But most puppies are cute. And few humans like to accept the idea that the affectionate puppy is as drawn by the food he smells on your hands as by some mysterious ethereal connection. Be cautious. Go slow. Think about it.

Jon Katz is the author of  The Dogs of Bedlam Farm: An adventure with three dogs, sixteen sheep, two donkeys and me. He can be e-mailed at jdkat3@aol.com.