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Where to Get a Dog [2021]

Where is the best place to get a dog?

Friends of mine recently bought a puppy. When I asked where they got her, the husband avoided eye contact and said “… we went to a breeder …”

It was like he had committed a crime.

Why are people so ashamed to say they bought a dog from a breeder?!

One of the first questions dog owners ask when they meet a new dog or puppy is “Where did you get him?”

If you go to a dog park, that is the third question you will hear.

What’s his name? How old? Where did you get him?

Dog owners love to share the stories of how they “rescued” their dogs, and it seems like all dogs are “rescues” these days.

It’s enough to make me want to run out and buy an 8-week-old schnoodle.

Apparently Ace is a “rescue” just because I adopted him from his previous owner. He never spent a day in the pound. He never went to a shelter or a rescue group. He was just re-homed from one woman to another. I’m not a hero for adopting him. I just wanted a cool dog.

But most people want some kind of credit for “rescuing.” Apparently if I buy my dog from some creeper on Craigslist, that makes my dog a “rescue.” If a farm dog has pups and I get one, then that dog would also be a “rescue.”

I even had a guy tell me he “rescued” a puppy from a pet shop in Fargo. This “rescued” pup had a price tag of $500. “He’d been in there way too long.”

Right … I guess it didn’t occur to him that his designer mutt was ridiculously overpriced.

Of course, I’m 100 percent behind dog rescues and shelters. I prefer to adopt my animals rather than buy them because there are so many without homes. But there are other perfectly acceptable ways to obtain dogs.

It’s your decision how you want to get yours.

Where should I adopt/buy a dog?

Here are a few options:

Craigslist – adopting directly from previous owner

Reasons to adopt someone’s dog:

This is how I adopted my mutt Ace. The process was very stress free and simple. His owner had him listed on a local adoption site.

I called her and went through my list of questions: Is he housebroken? Good with cats? Kennel trained? Vocal? High energy? She also asked me a few questions since she sincerely wanted her dog to go to a good home.

Black lab mix Ace sitting in Lindenwood Park

1. Most of these dogs are well behaved.

The majority of dogs you see advertised on Craigslist or in the newspaper are perfectly well behaved. People re-home dogs due to lifestyle changes that have nothing to do with the dog (new baby, divorce, new job, new spouse).

These dogs know how to act appropriately in a home environment. They have spent a lot of time in their crates and are therefore kennel trained and housebroken. Many have lived with cats, dogs and children. Some have even been through obedience classes.

2. Most of these dogs have already been spayed or neutered and are current on shots.

3. If the dog is full grown, you will be able to see his true personality and size.

4. You can get a really great dog for little or no money.

I paid nothing for Ace. Most people will request a “re-homing fee” of $50 to $100. They aren’t trying to make a profit off the dog. They just want to make sure he goes to a good home.

Check out my post on why I’m against re-homing fees.

5. There are no adoption contracts to fill out.

Sometimes shelters go overboard with adoption fees, references, home visits and adoption regulations.

The process is time consuming and stressful. When I adopted Ace, it was nice that I didn’t have to sign a form saying I would never allow him off leash or that I would allow a rescue volunteer to come check on him at any time.

Reasons not to adopt someone’s dog:

1. There’s a chance the individual will not disclose information about the dog.

He might leave out a few details about aggression. He might not tell you about certain medical problems the dog has. Make sure to ask for vet records, and make sure to observe the dog around other animals. Ask a lot of questions.

2. At the last minute, the original owner might decide she can’t part with the dog after all.

I’ve heard of this happening a lot. And there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. Don’t get too attached to the dog you are interested in until it is a done deal. Be careful about giving out your personal information such as your address unless you want the previous owner stopping by to check on her “little boy.”

3. The original owner may want constant updates on “her” dog.

This can get old really fast. You may be interested in my post on whether or not to stay in contact with your dog’s previous owner.


There are good breeders and bad breeders. A good breeder does not always have puppies available. There will likely be a waiting list. A good breeder will ask potential buyers a lot of questions and will require references.

Reasons to buy a puppy from a breeder:

1. There’s something appealing about raising a dog from the very beginning.

It’s not much different than people wanting to have children of their own. No one criticizes parents for having a baby, but that same couple will get an earful if they go out and buy a goldendoodle puppy!

2. You can meet the puppy’s parents.

Meeting a puppy’s parents will give you a good idea what your puppy will look like and how big he will get. It will also give you some idea of what his personality and temperament might be.

3. You can always contact the breeder with any questions throughout the dog’s life.

A good breeder will have all kinds of advice on nutrition, health, training, exercise and grooming for your particular breed. They are happy to answer your questions.

4. A good breeder cares about the health of the mother and her puppies.

The mother will not be bred over and over. If any genetic issues come up, she will never be bred again. The puppies and their mom live in a warm, clean environment with plenty of room to play and explore. Once they are old enough, the puppies get to play outside. T

he puppies are never sold before they are ready to leave their mom, and they are nearly housetrained by the time they go to their new homes. In their short lives, they have already had good experiences socializing with people and dogs.

For more information on buying from a breeder, check out my post on reasons to buy a dog from a breeder.

Reasons not to buy a puppy from a breeder:

1. You can’t get a puppy immediately.

It’s not easy to find a good breeder. Once you find one, you might be on a waiting list for at least six months. If you want a certain breed, you might have to drive to another state. Most people do not have this kind of patience, which is why pet shops stay in business.

2. You will pay a high price.

Healthy, purebred puppies from quality breeders are not cheap. Depending on the breed you are interested in, plan on spending anywhere from $200 to $5,000+ on your puppy. You will also pay for vaccinations, spaying/neutering, microchipping, etc.

Dog rescues/shelters

Golden retriever mix and Irish setter mix playing in the snow

Reasons to adopt a rescue dog:

1. You really are saving a life.

You are saving the life of two dogs – the dog you adopt and the dog that is pulled from the pound to take his place at the shelter.

2. The majority of dogs that end up in shelters are friendly and healthy.

The sick, poorly bred, aggressive and out of control dogs just don’t make it out of the pounds as easily.

3. Many shelter dogs have had some training.

Most rescue dogs will already be housebroken and will have some concept of basic commands like sit and stay. It’s nice to adopt a dog that is past the puppy stage. 

Housetraining, crate training and obedience training all take a lot of time. Puppies also chew everything, and they have endless amounts of energy.

4. The dog’s personality and size are usually clear.

When you adopt an adult dog, what you see is what you get.

5. You can adopt the dog at a very reasonable price.

The adoption fee (usually $150 to $500) is nothing compared to what the shelter has likely spent on that dog by bailing him out of the pound, boarding him at a shelter or kennel, feeding him, vaccinating him and neutering him.

6. Purebred dogs need adopting, too.

When I go to adoption events, people are always shocked to see purebred huskies, Pomeranians, springer spaniels, etc., up for adoption. It shouldn’t be such a shock. Lots of purebred dogs are abandoned. Rescue groups are set up for practically every breed.

You may also be interested in my post on reasons to adopt a shelter dog.

Reasons not to adopt a rescue dog:

1. Some shelters are too eager to adopt out the dogs.

Shelters desperately want to save more dogs from the pounds. They can’t rescue more dogs until they adopt out the dogs they have.

So, if you are feeling rushed or pressured by the shelter or if a dog sounds too good to be true, take a step back. Wait a few days. Ask a lot of questions. There is no such thing as a perfect dog. Before you adopt a dog, make sure the shelter will take the dog back if for any reason it doesn’t work out.

2. You are cleaning up someone else’s mistakes.

Shelter dogs tend to come with their fair share of “issues.” Separation anxiety seems to be more common in shelter dogs than in dogs that have never spent time in a shelter. Some have not been well socialized around other pets and have dog-aggression issues. Some have so much energy they do not know how to relax.

3. Your choices for adopting a puppy are limited.

Most shelter dogs are still young but past that adorable puppy stage. There are puppies that end up in shelters, but they may not be the breed you are hoping for.

Pet shops

Reasons to buy a puppy from a pet shop:

If you get a pup from a pet shop, you don’t have to deal with the sometimes ridiculous requirements that rescues/shelters and breeders put in place. You can just go out and get a dog.

Reasons not to buy a puppy from a pet shop:

1. You are funding dog abuse.

I can’t even begin to describe the torture that goes on in puppy mills. The staff at the pet shop will tell you they get the puppies from “local breeders.” Puppy mills are breeders!

2. Pet shop puppies are incredibly difficult to housetrain.

Because they have never lived outside of a cage, it’s natural for pet shop puppies to poop and pee in their kennels. They are unfazed by sleeping in their own poop, playing with their poop and even eating their poop. It’s difficult to break these habits.

3. Puppies from pet shops are likely to have many health problems.

Good breeders will not breed dogs with health problems, but puppy mills and pet shops do not care about the health of their puppies. Many are even inbred. All puppies are cute, and all puppies sell. A puppy mill’s goal is to produce as many puppies as possible because that means more money.

4. You do not get to meet the puppy’s parents.

5. Your puppy will be overpriced, plus you will also have to pay for vaccinations, spaying/neutering, etc.

Other ways to get a dog

Of course, there are other ways to obtain dogs. You might find and keep a stray. You might buy a pup from your neighbor dog’s “accidental” litter. You might receive a puppy as a gift or inherit your great aunt’s Pomeranian. There are endless scenarios for acquiring them.

What advice do you have for someone planning on getting a dog?

Leo the adopted purebred Boston terrier Fargo

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