You go into a pet shop and see the cutest puppy, and make a sudden decision to buy him. He’s expensive, but he comes with “papers” showing he’s a purebred.
“You have to pay to get quality,” you tell yourself. But you didn’t know you would keep on paying and paying and paying!
The clerk may assure you that your puppy came from a loving breeder. But it is far more likely the puppy is from a puppy mill, where the dogs live in small, dirty cages stacked in rows.
Some of these dogs descend from generations of dogs that have never walked on grass. None are tested for inherited diseases. They receive no medical care. The adult dogs are bred repeatedly from an early age, regardless of their physical condition, until they die.
Pet Shop Puppies Often Have Health Problems
That cute $2,000 pet shop puppy could end up costing you $20,000 before he’s a year old, with thousands more still awaiting you, assuming he even survives. His first few vet visits could reveal a lifelong problem such as hip dysplasia (dislocating hips) or patellar luxation (slipping kneecaps) which require expensive surgery.
Oh, and that pedigree you got with your pup? Probably fake. In fact, he might not even be purebred.
If you want a puppy, don’t buy from a store, but be aware that some puppy mills sell directly to the public. Those with small breeds can produce a lot of puppies in a garage or shed.
If you look for a purebred puppy in the classifieds, beware of someone offering a variety of mixed breeds and purebreds for sale. That can mean someone is breeding only for profit and taking shortcuts to save money.
For one owner’s experience, read about Abigail, a Golden Retriever. Sadly, her story is all too common with puppy mill dogs.
Plan Ahead When Buying A Dog
Don’t buy on impulse! Research different breeds and pick some you like. Before you choose a breed or a breeder, learn about inherited health or temperament issues in those breeds and what genetic tests the dogs should have before being bred. Become an educated buyer!
Good breeders will show you a Canadian or American Kennel Club (or, for some breeds, a United Kennel Club) registration certificate and a four-generation pedigree for your puppy, The parents will have certified health clearances from organizations such as OptiGen, the Canine Eye Registration Foundation (CERF), the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (OFA) or a veterinary college. Often the breeder’s adult dogs will be champions or have working titles.
Showing dogs to various titles and testing them for genetic diseases costs a lot of money. Surprisingly, quality, healthy pups from a reputable breeder will cost about the same as, or even substantially less than, a pet store pup. Since some inherited problems can surface even from healthy stock, most breeders offer a guarantee of refund or replacement if the puppy develops an inherited health defect, and often will take back the dog if you can no longer keep him.
Good breeders will want to know all about you before trusting you with one of their precious pups, so be ready to be asked a lot of questions.
By the way, in Canada, the Livestock Pedigree Act requires that any dog represented as purebred must come with its Canadian Kennel Club registration certificate at no additional cost. Canada’s Guide To Dogs (available online) has excellent information for puppy buyers.
Adopt A Dog From A Rescue Group or Breeder
If you decide not to get a puppy, consider a retired show dog. Many breeders offer older dogs as pets at a nominal charge, and while the dog may be a few years old, you will get a healthy, quality pet that is already trained and eager to join your family.
You could adopt a dog from a breed rescue group or animal shelter. Ironically, that’s where many of those puppy mill dogs eventually end up. But if you want to save a puppy mill dog, avoid the pet store and adopt instead to help break the cycle of puppy mills producing puppies for the pet trade.