by Kimberly Bowe
The purpose of this article is to define how NOT to purchase a new puppy and to outline the consequences of purchasing a puppy the wrong way.
There are many “wrong ways” to buy a puppy. Primarily, the worst way to purchase a puppy would be from a pet store or puppy mill. And according the ASPCA and Humane Society, 99% of puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills.
So not only would someone be supporting an industry that treats dogs like unfeeling products, allowing them to live in barbaric conditions without human contact or veterinary care…. But they would also be purchasing a puppy with extremely poor breeding and genetics.
The “wrong way” to buy a puppy is also to act on impulse (i.e. purchasing the first adorable puppy you see in the window). If you are going to share your life with a dog for more than a decade, you should make sure that you’re buying a dog that will complement your lifestyle. It makes no sense for a tiny older woman to buy a rambunctious Rottweiler or Border Collie. It makes no sense for someone who works all day to buy a dog that doesn’t do well when left alone. If someone needs help finding a dog appropriate for his or her lifestyle, then PuppyProject’s Canine Compatibility Page here is the 1st step toward making this important decision.
The perils of buying a puppy could be divided into three umbrella categories: health, behavior, and legalities.
Now come on—every puppy is adorable and deserves to be saved. Look at those faces! If only you had a crystal ball to allow you to look into the puppy’s future. Well… hello! That’s where we, the veterinarians can help you. And thus our first category is “health.”
What we know to be true:
There is a much higher incidence for a puppy purchased from a pet store or “less than reliable breeder” to become sick immediately or shortly after adoption/purchase due to stress, parasites, poor
nutrition, and/or lack of veterinary care. Unreliable history exacerbates the issue of dealing with a puppy’s health or illness. From the day you show up in our office your dog becomes a mystery to be solved. In contrast, dogs from responsible, ethical breeders come with clearly written health records and permission to contact the breeder should there be a question. And even better, breeders certified by the Veterinary Council for Breed Stewardship are required to vaccinate and deworm their puppies and breeding stock according to the same standards recommended by the American Animal Hospital Association.
By the time a new puppy who was purchased in a pet store hits middle age, there is a greater probability for them to develop problems such as endocrine diseases, arthritis, hip dysplasia, and cancer. But responsible, ethical breeders provide health certificates. Many also have their breeding dogs tested and certified against various genetic disease that may be prevalent in the breed.
Behavior problems are the #1 cause for dogs being abandoned into shelters or euthanized. Lack of socialization in the first weeks of puppyhood leads to difficulty being with people or other dogs. It also leads anxiety, OCD, and other more serious behavioral problems.. The short time being raised in a puppy mill, shipped cross-country in trucks full of other puppies, and finally spending time in the pet store leads to the canine equivalent of PTSD. Anxiety leads to fear. Fear leads to aggression. Aggression leads to bite wounds. Bite wounds lead to surrendering of animal or euthanasia.
It is not uncommon for a dog to be re-homed 2-3 times during his/her “fear stage.” When the dog finds a loving family who thinks they can handle him/her it can be too late. The PTSD is now too extreme: the dog lives above his/her respective anxiety threshold on a daily basis (i.e. in a panic state) making it unhealthy to live, which leads to abandonment or euthanasia.
Puppies that end up in “the system” come with little to no records. This is important information for behavior management. Should a dog not have been with his/her mother the entire 8 weeks of the weaning period there is a higher probability that dog will be more difficult to house train. Instead of the normal crate-training schedule everyone uses you would need to adapt it and go about this in a completely different manner. When dogs cannot be house trained they are surrendered quickly back to the shelter. No one wants a dog that cannot be house trained in a few weeks. In addition, these dogs often exhibit antisocial behavior at a very young age. New owners must be aware of this and be capable of working with a dog like this before accepting this type of dog into your home. But many new owners have never had a dog before and don’t know what to consider “normal” behavior.
Legally, pet Lemon laws vary by state. If you buy a dog from a “breeder” in another state will make Lemon laws difficult to enforce. Best lemon laws only require pet store/breeder to pay up to the cost of the dog, which rarely covers medical expenses.
Responsible, ethical breeders contract their own binding documents to make sure you are covered for all genetic-related health conditions that were screened for, are asked to be notified immediately when anything happens to a dog from their bloodlines to offer support, put together a fund to raise money for you, and more. You are not alone. In addition, responsible, ethical breeders always take their puppy/dog back, no questions asked so the dogs do not end up in rescues or pet shops. Contrary to mainstream belief, they are never euthanized (although they often if they’re returned to a pet store). They are simply found a new home within the current “family network” or those who already own a dog from their bloodlines and are experienced with whatever the issue is for the return. If no one volunteers then the breeder keeps the dog.
The whole pet industry is in trouble. The factors noted above lead to an increase in dogs being abandoned into shelters or rescue groups, which essentially recycles problems. We need to decrease then number of dogs being abandoned by making sure that the puppies are appropriate for the customer’s lifestyle, that the puppies are socialized to humans and other dogs, and by offering medical insurance should a dog become sick.
The task of changing the pet industry so the public can easily find great puppies from great breeders is a difficult one. But the Puppy Project, is a giant first step in stopping the dominance of the puppy mills that flood the market with poor quality, poorly socialized, often sick puppies. It will help the public, yearning to purchase a great dog that will be part of their family, make smart decisions and have a great life with the puppy they choose.