Bringing home a new dog or puppy is an exciting yet overwhelming endeavor. Dogs are a lot of work, and they take quite a bit of time to assimilate into your life and schedule. It also takes time for you to get to know your new dog’s personality, quirks, and behavioral cues. Before you get to know your dog, however, you need to pick one out. Buying a dog can be a stressful endeavor, but there are a few tips and tricks for buying a dog, where to buy one, and how you should go about it.

black and white short coated puppy

Types of Breeders

There is a myriad of ways to get a dog. You can rescue or adopt one from a shelter, breed your own dogs, or buy one from a reputable breeder. If you choose to get a dog from a breeder, remember that not all breeders are alike.

Backyard Breeders

Backyard breeders typically fall into two very different categories. One is a family with a female dog they want to breed but lacks breeding education and does not research different males (they usually choose a male an acquaintance has). The other is a serious breeder with a male and maybe one or two females. This type of backyard breeder is solely looking to make money and is usually just as uneducated about breeding as the other type.

Generally, backyard breeders do not understand genetic health issues prevalent in their breed of choice. They more often than not do not genetically test their males or females for the genetic markers of these diseases.

white and brown long coated small dog on dried leaves

Commercial Breeders

Commercial breeders house many males and females, usually of several different breeds. These breeders breed females every time they come into season until they can no longer have puppies, at which time they are either sold or disposed of. The animals are kept in kennels which may or may not be kept clean. Many of these breeders do not offer the option of buying a dog with registration papers because institutions like the American Kennel Club require that the dogs be kept in an acceptable and sanitary environment.

Dogs from commercial breeders are born and raised in a kennel, so they do not have exposure to living in a house before coming home with you. Commercial breeders are often called “puppy mills;” their main focus is to produce as many puppies as possible to brokers who can then sell the dogs in pet shops. 

long-coated white puppy litter, buying a dog

Hobby Show Breeders

A hobby show breeder usually breeds a specific breed of dog. Their goal is to create individual dogs that better represent the breed standards. They are often involved in dog shows that value proper confirmation and proportions, obedience competitions, or agility. These breeders are likely engaged in kennel clubs and specific breed clubs. Hobby show breeders breed only one or two litters per year, valuing the health and safety of mom and pups over mass-producing puppies.

Most breeders in this category have extensive education on their specific breed and are familiar with the potential health issues of the breed. As a result, these breeders genetically test their males and females before breeding. One of the most significant upsides to buying a dog from a hobby show breeder is that the dogs are born and raised in a home with plenty of socialization, love, and sanitary conditions. 

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Questions To Ask When Buying a Dog

Even when buying a dog from a seemingly reputable breeder, there are still essential questions you should ask and what responses to look for. 

Buying a Dog: The Parents

Inquire the breeder about any genetic testing done on the parents and the results. Most purebreds have some sort of genetic predisposition to health issues or diseases. Even not purebred dogs can have significant health problems; you just don’t know which ones to look out for or test for ahead of time as you do with purebreds. You might also ask how and why they chose the sire and dam (father and mother) for the litter.

If one or more of the parents is an AKC champion, that tells you that they have exceptional confirmation for the breed. You want to hear that the parent(s) were champions and that they were selected to whelp this litter because of their fantastic conformation, temperament, and health.

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How Are the Puppies Raised?

The breeder should indicate that they were with the dam 24 hours each day, from the day she gave birth until several days later. You also want the breeder to mention that the puppies are raised in their home with plenty of love and social interaction with people. They should be socialized with plenty of visitors of all shapes and sizes who come to the house. A good breeder will also take the puppies outside the home starting at about 7 weeks old. 

yellow labrador puppies in green plastic container

How Do You Choose a Buyer?

Just as you are vetting the dog breeder, any reputable breeder will thoroughly vet you. The breeder should describe the screening process they put potential puppy parents through when buying a dog. Reputable breeders sell puppies “on contract,” meaning whoever is buying a dog must adhere to a specific set of requirements. These requirements usually include spaying or neutering the dog by a certain age, standards of care, and circumstances under which the dog must be returned to the breeder. 

German shepherd puppies

Buying a Dog the Right Way

People who choose to “shop instead of adopt” are often given a bad rap by those who support adopting dogs from a shelter only. However, there are plenty of reasons for buying a dog that is purebred from a breeder. It is easier to know precisely what you are getting with a purebred dog; you can estimate their size, health, and temperament better than a dog of unknown breed mixtures. If you choose to buy a dog instead of adopt, you must find a reputable dog breeder that can answer all your questions and provide you with a healthy, happy puppy to rake home.

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