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Its time for a new puppy?

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So you want to get a dog, great. There are many benefits to having a dog, including lower stress levels, lower blood pressure, and unconditional love. Now that you've made the decision to get a dog, where do you go to get one? There are lots of places to look. Some are better than others, each has its benefits and each has its downfalls. I'll list the 4 major sources that most people go to get their new family member. The pet store in the mall, the animal shelter, the rescue, and the breeder.
First I'll talk about the four major sources, and their benefits and their downfalls.
The Pet store in the mall has lots of cute furry and friendly puppies, and you can get it today, right now! It is also one of the most well socialized puppies you could possibly imagine. Sounds great so far right? The pet store is the last possible source you want to go to for a puppy. Yes it is a well socialized dog, it must be after being handled and played with by all these strange people right? It probably is, and that's a great reason to look here, the problem comes in where these dogs come from. They come from high numbers breeders, some may be puppy mills, all of them are USDA licensed facilities. Just because it is licensed by the United States Government however, does not mean it is a good place to find your next pet. These high numbers facilities breed many different breeds, they do not do genetic testing on their breeding stock, so you may end up with a puppy that will not only cost you a lot of money up front, it will cost you a lot of money down the line because of its heart problems, or hip dysplasia, or a myriad of other genetic problems that can occur but are easily avoided by testing your breeding stock.
The second source listed is the animal shelter. These dogs are usually older, and are usually mix breeds. They were most likely a stray or were dropped off by previous owners that didn't want them or couldn't take care of them any longer. Most of them have behavioral issues that you will need to work on as statistically that was why they were brought to the shelter in the first place, and statistically it was probably house training that was the issue.
The third source is the animal rescue. These are dedicated people who have decided to spend their spare time and money finding homes for unwanted pets. Some of them were taken out of shelters to make room, some were given directly to the rescue from owners who couldn't care for them or didn't want them any longer, and some were imported from unknown sources out of state, usually high kill shelters down south. They can tell you a little about the dogs they have, but unless there is an evaluation period they might not know much about them other than where they came from. Just like in all things, there are good rescues and there are bad rescues. Try to find the one that requires the dogs be fostered for a period of time before being placed. These are the ones that will know more about the dog and can help find one that will fit in your situation. If they adopt a lot of dogs in a very short period of time then you probably want to avoid them as they don't know much about the animals they are taking in, and are basically a home based animal shelter. If they don't require references and have an application process then you probably want to avoid them as well. Just because they don't require you to have a fenced in yard, doesn't mean they are a bad rescue, some will have certain requirements but most of the good ones will work with you to find an appropriate dog for you to take home. If they aren't working with you and refuse to adopt to you because you once bred a litter of puppies, or your current dog is intact, or you don't have a fenced in yard and they are implacable, then go find another rescue, because they obviously don’t care enough about finding the animals a home to work with you.
Finally we come to the breeder. There are good breeders as well as bad breeders. If this is where you want to go, expect there to be an interview, don't expect a puppy immediately. The good breeder will ask you questions, they want to know who is taking their puppies home. Just because the breeder doesn't have show champions doesn't mean they are a bad breeder either. They might have obedience titles, or herding titles, or tracking titles or any other competitive sport. Some might not have titles at all on their dogs. This does not mean they are a bad breeder. You want to find someone who spends time looking at their breeding stock, they do not always use the same sire and dam, They don't usually own the sire all the time but will use other people's dogs as the father, so don't expect dad to be on premises. Mom should definitely be there though. They do genetic testing, they know their dogs pedigree's and can tell you about the dogs on them. These are the breeders looking to improve their chosen breed. They probably only breed one or two breeds of dogs, if they breed lots of different breeds that is your hint to not only walk away, but run away. Numbers of litters don't usually matter here, but where the litters are raised is. If they are out in a kennel then you don't want their dogs, if they are raised in the home, that’s the sign of a good breeder. If they do not want you to come to their home to look at a puppy and meet mom, maybe dad, and see their breeding facilities, then you don't want to go to them, find someone else to buy your dog from.
So now you know a little about the different types of places you can get a new dog. Now you need to ask yourself some questions. Assuming you are truly ready for a dog.
First and most important, Do you have kids? Yes? Then you need to go to a breeder. The safety of your children should always be your first priority and you need to KNOW what you are getting in terms of temperament and health. A responsible breeder can tell you that and will guarantee your dog, just be honest with them about what your lifestyle is, and what you need. Keep in mind if they tell you a specific breed is not for you, they probably know what they are talking about. The up front cost may be a little more, but it wont be as expensive as a puppy store dog, and may or may not be more expensive than a shelter or rescue dog.
Next ask yourself do you want an adult or a puppy. Puppies must be house broken, they definitely need training, and they need lots of it for a very long time. If you do not have time for a puppy then you can ask a breeder for a retired breeding or show dog, you can go to a rescue and find a new family member, or you can go to the shelter and pick up a dog that needs a home, the puppy store is again, not the choice for you.
Do you have the time and money to deal with health problems? If the answer is definitely not, then you will once again, want to find a breeder. A shelter won't know anything about the dogs they have, a rescue will know a little more but can't be sure about anything except the dogs immediate health concerns. A puppy store dog can end up costing you a small fortune if they end up with a genetic disorder. A responsible breeder will know what health concerns to watch out for, will have made an active effort to not have those problems, and will have a guarantee that if the dog does have those problems something will happen, either you can give them the dog back and get a new one, or possibly get your purchase price back.
Do you want a specific breed? If no, then by all means go to a shelter or an all breed rescue. If you do then you will want to find a breeder or a breed specific rescue. Find out the national club of the breed you are interested in, they usually will have connections to breed rescues all over the country and can connect you with them. If there are no breed rescues for the breed you want and there are either no breeders near you, or none with any puppies available in the foreseeable future then you can try the puppy store in the mall, but chances are they won't have what you are looking for either, you may have to choose another breed, or simply wait for the right puppy to come along.
There are lots of other questions to ask yourself to help make your decision on where to go. Remember this is the dog you will have for the next 8 to 18 years, depending on the breed and health of the dog you get. Don't make your decision lightly, remember that all dogs will need training and veterinary care. If you can't afford the up front cost of a puppy then you probably aren't in a position to give one a home. The up front cost of a new dog is the lowest expense you will have over the course of its life. Good luck in finding your new family member.

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