Finding a Good Dog

There are lots of places to get a dog.  There are fewer places to get a good dog.  Pet stores, flea markets, auctions, and the person handing out puppies in a parking lot are bad places to get a good dog.  Shelters, rescue groups, and breeders are good places to find a dog.

Shelters take in stray or unwanted pets and try to find good homes for them.  Purebred dogs often end up in shelters, just as mutts do.  The advantages of getting a dog from a shelter:

  • Save a dog from death row
  • Dog is usually spayed or neutered, has all shots, and had been tested for heartworms and found clear
  • Can observe dog prior to obtaining him or her
  • Fee is usually reasonable for the dog
  • Fairly easy to pass muster as a good home

The disadvantages of getting a dog from a shelter:

  • Unknown history
  • Unknown ancestry -- it may look purebred, but you can never be sure
  • Some shelters skimp on screening
  • Some shelters have problems with parvo and distemper
  • Shelter personnel may not know much about the bred you are looking at
  • No papers for the dog
  • Dog must be spayed or neutered

Rescue groups take in unwanted dogs from shelters or individuals and try to find them homes.  While many groups rescue any dog, most specialize in one or two breeds.  This means they are more knowledgeable about the bred and any quirks the dog may have.  They also usually housebreak the dog and teach it a few manners.  The advantages of getting a dog from a rescue group are:

  • Dog is spayed or neutered
  • Dog has all shots
  • Dog is heartworm negative and generally healthy
  • Dog may be housebroken
  • Dog is screened for behavior problems
  • Volunteers knowledgeable about the breed and can give more guidance on care and quirks
  • Dog may be crate trained and leash trained

The disadvantages of getting a dog from a rescue group are:

  • Some rescue groups have very high standards for getting a dog from them
  • Volunteers may gloss over the dog’s problems to place the dog
  • Cost can be higher as the group has to pay for medical care themselves
  • No papers for the dog
  • Dog must be spayed or neutered
  • Some rescue groups are better than others and it can be hard to tell which one you are dealing with

Breeders are generally the most knowledgeable about the dog breed they have, about dogs in general, and about how to take care of any dog they produce.  It is important to note that while technically any person who produces a litter of puppies is a breeder, the people you want are the ones who produce a litter only when they have homes waiting for the dog, want to better the breed, and stand behind every dog they breed.  In return, they ask lots of question and try very hard to only place their dogs with good homes.

The advantages of buying a dog from a good breeder are:

  • Parents of the dog are known
  • Dog may be registerable in the American Kennel Club or United Kennel Club
  • Dog’s parents should be cleared for common health problems in that breed
  • Dog should be well socialized and healthy
  • Dog’s mother and possibly father are onsite so you can meet them
  • May be able to show dog in obedience, conformation, and agility

The disadvantages of buying a dog from a good breeder are:

  • May be a waiting list
  • Breeders thoroughly check out homes
  • May be a contract as to how dog will be cared for
  • Dog may have to be spayed or neutered, depending on whether the dog is pet quality or show quality
  • Dog may be expensive, especially for rarer breeds

In summary, good dogs come from good breeders, rescue groups, or shelters.  It is possible to find a good dog other places, but your odds of doing so are better at these locations.