Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter
From 4 September 2001 Issue
Don't Buy That Puppy in the Window
10 Reasons NOT to buy a puppy from a pet shop
That adorable puppy in the window of the pet store is hard to resist, but you may be paying a lot of money for a dog that you know very little about. Pet stores generally rely on impulse buys to sell their "product". There is a good chance that the pet store puppy will develop a health problem sometime in its life that may cost you a lot of money to remedy. When you buy a pet store puppy it is very unlikely that the puppy's parents were screened for genetic diseases that can be passed to their offspring. Every breed of dog has genetic problems that are passed from generation to generation by breeding dogs that carry the flawed gene. Many of these genetic problems can be detected with today's technology, but these tests are expensive. People who are concerned about the welfare and future of their breed will have these tests conducted to preserve and improve in the future quality of their breed. Most good breeders are more concerned about the health of the puppies that they are producing than the money that they will or won't make on the production of a litter.
2. The myth about AKC papers
Most pet shops would like you to believe that if a puppy is registered by the American Kennel Club, this guarantees the puppy will be healthy and a good example of the breed. This is not so. The only thing that AKC papers certify is that the puppy is a purebred and produced out of AKC registered parents. Even this can be fiction, as some producers register more puppies than are actually born in each litter to receive extra registration slips to pass out with unregisterable puppies. The parents of your puppy may be unhealthy or carriers of crippling or deadly health defects which they may have passed to their offspring - your puppy. They may also be horrible representations of the breed that you are buying. Often times the parentage of pet store puppies is also questionable due to poor record keeping. In other words, your puppy may not even be a purebred, even though it has AKC papers. Responsible breeders do register their puppies with the AKC, but that is only the beginning.
3. The pet shop guarantee
Many pet stores provide a form of guarantee for people buying puppies from them, but their guarantees may be as bad as none at all. A not-so-uncommon scenario goes something like this: after your family has become attached to your adorable new puppy you find out it is sick. It will cost you several hundred dollars to treat, so you take the puppy back to the store to receive your guarantee. What they will most likely offer to do is trade you puppies - take away your beloved pet and replace it with a new puppy, not necessarily a healthier one, either. They will most likely euthanize the puppy you brought back, because this is cheaper for the store. The other tactic that some stores use is to tell you your puppy will grow out of the problem - until their guarantee has expired. Do you want to take this risk?
4. What will that puppy look like when it is full grown?
You may have seen specimens of the breed that you are buying, but this does not guarantee that this puppy will fit the breed standard. You do not know if the parents fit the standard either and cannot see the faults that each parent has. There is no perfect dog, but a good breeder will be willing to discuss the faults and strengths that each of their dogs possesses. You should also be able to see at least the mother of the puppy that you are buying if bought from a responsible breeder. Even then you can not tell exactly what the puppy will look like, but you will have a much better idea of what to expect. Why spend so much money without even knowing what the puppy's parents look like?
5. What do you know about the breed?
Employees of pet stores generally know very little about the dogs that are in the store. They can probably tell you a little bit about the breed and then point you to a rack of generic dog books. What do you do after you bring the puppy home, only to find that this breed is not the right one for you and your family? Good breeders are full of information about the breed of puppy that you are considering. They should be able to tell you the general temperament aspects of the breed and help you predict whether this breed of dog will fit into your lifestyle. They will also be able to warn you about specific health problems that the breed is prone to and will be able to tell you what aspects the breed excels in. There is no breed of dog perfect for every person and a good breeder is concerned that their puppy goes to a home that they will fit into.
6. Housebreaking and training problems
This puppy that you are buying from a pet store has most likely spent much of its life in a cage. Many pet store puppies have never seen carpet and may never have even seen grass or dirt. Due to the conditions that puppies are kept in at pet stores, they have been forced to eliminate in the same area that they sleep and eat. This goes against the dog's natural instinct, but your puppy has had no choice. This habit may make housebreaking your puppy much more difficult. A good breeder keeps the puppy area very clean and makes sure the puppy has a separate elimination area. By the time the puppies are ready to go to their new homes they will be well on the way to being house trained. Good breeders will often also start teaching their puppies how to walk on a leash and to lie quietly for grooming. A pet store puppy has most likely never walked on a leash or been brushed before. It can be much more difficult to teach a pet store puppy these daily exercises than a puppy that has been brought up properly. Responsible breeders also base their breeding decisions in part on their dogs' temperament and personality, not only on looks or the fact that they are purebred. Most pet store puppies' parents have not been selected for any reason other than they can produce puppies that sell as cute "purebreds" registered by the AKC.
7. How about Socialization?
Your pet store puppy may well have never been in a house before. If this is the case then everything will be new and scary for them. The doorbell, vacuum cleaner, and children playing are all new sensations that can be terrifying to an unsocialized puppy. Good breeders will expose their puppies to many situations so that the puppies are used to them by the time that they go to their new homes. Most responsible breeders have evaluated the temperament of each of their puppies before they are placed in a new home. A good breeder will know, due to hours of observation, which puppies are dominant and which are shy, which are energetic and which are easy going. Then the breeder will be able to match the puppy to the new owner and make sure that energetic pups go to active families and that shy puppies go to a home that can help them overcome their insecurity. This careful evaluation enables a breeder to choose which puppy will fit your household and much of the guesswork is taken out of the selection process. Good breeders can help you make an educated decision about all aspects of your puppy's feeding, training and overall maintenance and care based on your family situation. If you are going to spend so much money on a dog that you plan to keep for its lifetime, why not find one that will fit into your lifestyle well?
8. What is a pedigree worth?
Some pet shops make a big deal out of their puppies' pedigrees. This is interesting, as the pedigree is really just a piece of paper with names on it. Unless you know the dogs behind those names the pedigree is really quite useless to the new owner. Can the pet store tell you what your puppies grand- parents died of, or how long they lived? Do any of the dogs in your pup's pedigree carry genetic diseases? Most pet store employees do not know any more about your puppy's background than you do. A reputable breeder can tell you all of this information about your pup's family tree and more. When you buy a puppy from a reputable breeder you are getting more than a piece of paper, you are getting the important information associated with the names too. Almost all responsible breeders will achieve titles on their dogs by showing them under unbiased judges. They will achieve championships on their dogs, which tells that the dog is a good representation of the breed. Some breeders also obtain obedience, or other titles that relate to the job that their breed of dog was originally bred to perform. Many also achieve canine good citizen titles on their breeding dogs. These titles will be shown on the dog's pedigree before and after the parents' names. Ask the breeder to explain what the letters mean.
9. Do you want to support puppy mills?
Almost all puppies that are in pet stores come from puppy mills. These operations are exactly what the name implies. Most mass produce puppies with money as the prime motive. Their breeding dogs are often kept in very poor conditions and are sometimes malnourished. The dogs are almost never tested for genetic diseases and may not receive vaccinations. Puppy mills often obtain their breeding dogs from people in a hurry to get rid of their dogs for some reason, often through "free dog" ads in newspapers or public auctions. Occasionally they are stolen from their owners. Females are generally bred every heat cycle until they are worn out and then they are often sentenced to death. The horror of puppy mills is encouraged every time a puppy is bought from a puppy store. How do you know that your puppy comes from one of these places? The main reason is that almost no responsible breeders will sell puppies to pet stores. Good breeders want to make sure that their puppies go to good homes and are well cared for. They want to be actively involved in screening the home that their puppies go to. Breeders are also concerned about keeping track of their puppies after they leave the breeder's home. They will know about any health problems that their lines may carry, and will be interested in any health problems that a puppy of their breeding develops. A pet store usually never hears about their puppies once they leave the store, and generally really don't care. Buying from a pet store does not mean that you will save any money in the purchase price of the puppy either. When you buy from a reputable breeder there is no middle man involved who wants to take his share of the profit out of the price of the puppy. Often the price that good breeders charge is no more, and sometimes less, than what you will pay buying a puppy from a pet store.
10. After the puppy goes home
Once you take the puppy home from the pet store they do not generally care what happens to the puppy. Most pet shops do not care if the dog is left to run loose and kill livestock, or if it dies of liver disease at one year old. If you have a training problem they will often be unable or unwilling to give you training advice. Most do not care if you take your dog home and breed it continually. Responsible breeders are more than people who sell puppies, they will also be good friends to you and your puppy. They care what happens to their puppies once they are sold. Almost all good breeders sell on spay/neuter contracts or limited registration. This practice enables breeders to keep dogs that are not breeding quality out of the breeding population and also monitor what happens to their puppies in their new homes. Some breeders sell show quality puppies on co-ownership, so that they retain a portion of the dog's ownership, for better control of what happens to their dog later in it's life. If you have a health or training problem a good breeder will generally be able to offer you advice and help you through the ordeal. Most reputable breeder care about each of their puppies' futures and will be concerned about their welfare. They care not only about their own dogs, but also the impact their dogs will make on the breed as a whole.
So please next time you are looking for a new puppy to buy do your research buy attending American Kennel Club sanctioned shows, talking to many breeders, requiring proof of genetic tests and hip and elbow x-rays and request to see one or both of the parents of your new puppy. The pet store is the worst place to buy a puppy and as long as there is a market for pet store puppies other dogs will be condemned to death by mass breeding only so that a few people can make some money with no thought of their "products" welfare. This is not to say that a good pet has never come out of a pet store, as many have, but for each that has many more have not. Remember when you buy a puppy you are adding another member to your family, not just another piece of furniture that can be disposed of at the smallest whim, and you are responsible for every piece of extra baggage that puppy comes with. Why take the risks when so many reputable breeders are there to guide you along the way of your dogs development?
So please next time you are looking for a new puppy to buy, do your research. One of the best steps toward becoming an educated puppy buyer and dog owner is to attending American Kennel Club sanctioned shows and carefully researching each breed that you are interested in. Once you decide what breed of dog you would like to add to your household, talk to many breeders. Good breeders can inform you about genetic diseases common in the breed you want and are generally happy to share their knowledge. When you are ready to buy a puppy from a particular planned litter ask the breeder for proof of genetic tests specific to the breed and request to see one or both of the parents of your new puppy. A common excuse for buying a puppy from a pet store is that you do not plan to show your puppy, you just want a companion.
Out of each litter that a reputable breeder produces there is a good chance that at least a portion of the puppies in each litter will not be show quality, but would make outstanding pets. Not every puppy that a breeder produces is destined for stardom in the show ring, but might well be the next shining star in your household. Please pass up the next puppy you see in the pet store and contact breed organizations. They will be able to match you with a responsible breeder that will help you add a well adjusted and healthy new canine member to your family. Other positive alternatives are adopting a dog from your local humane society or adopting a rescue dog from various rescue organizations located throughout the United States. Every breed of dog registered by the AKC has at least one rescue organization that will take in dogs of that breed and places them in new loving homes. There are endless numbers of dogs of all shapes, sizes, ages and personalities in need of a new loving home. When you obtain a dog from one of these organizations you are more than saving that dogs life. You are also sparing a female dog in some puppy mill from being condemned to produce yet another litter for pet shop sales. So please be rational and thoughtful when you go to get your next dog and help prevent irresponsible pet ownership. A pet store is generally the worst place to buy a puppy. As long as there is a market for pet store puppies, other dogs will be condemned to death by mass breeding only so that a few people can make some money, often with no thought of the welfare of their "product." This is not to say that a good pet has never come out of a pet store, as many have. For each that has, though, many others have not. Remember, when you buy a puppy, you are adding another member to your family, not just another piece of furniture that can be disposed of at the smallest whim. You would not have a child without careful research and planning for the child's future ten or fifteen years down the road. Your new dog should be no different. Adding a dog to the family is a long term commitment and responsibility that should be taken seriously and only acted upon after careful consideration and research.
Return to Animals in Print 4 Sep 2001 Issue
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