Where to get a dog

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/newspaper ads/hand-me-down dogs

Reasons to adopt someone’s dog:

Black lab mix Ace sitting in Lindenwood ParkNote: 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.

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.


Note: 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. The 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 $2,000 on your puppy. You will also pay for vaccinations, spaying/neutering, microchipping, etc.

Dog rescues/shelters

Reasons to adopt a rescue dog:

Golden retriever mix and Irish setter mix playing in the snow1. 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

32 thoughts on “Where to get a dog”

  1. I’ve had dogs all of my life and have gotten most of them from the shelter. 11 years ago we found the most amazing dog in the shelter. She was a Samoyed and although I didn’t know much about the breed when we brought her home I fell in love. When she passed away I did try to find another in the shelter but they don’t end up there very often so I sought out a breeder. I’ve gotten two Samoyeds from her and love my dogs to death. I do feel a certain amount of guilt when I tell people I got them from a breeder, but she’s reputable, she raises healthy dogs, she doesn’t overbreed and she’s been in touch over the years to see how my dogs are doing and to make sure there aren’t any health issues. You can’t ask for much better than that.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I’ve never seen a Samoyed in rescue. I’m sure there is a rescue dedicated specifically to the breed, though. I’m sure you’ve looked into that, but if not, it would be a place to check out in the future.

  2. I think when I adopted Charlie we went too fast. I didn’t know anything about getting a dog or dogs at all. Honestly, Charlie’s energy did not fit in with our family because as soon as school started none of us had any time. It was a big help when I finally got him to bike and rollerblade with me. Sometimes he still doesn’t get on a walk until after it’s dark out.

    I think the best place to get a dog is a place like 4 Luv of Dog. It is time consuming, but you get to know the dog a lot before hand because of the foster home and can return him/her at any time if it isn’t working out.

    I’m not against shelters that just let you sign a paper and take the dog, but I don’t like how little time you have to spend with the dog, and when they check up on you, all they do is one phone call, asking you if the dog is okay.

    I am not against breeders… Good breeders, and I think if you go to a breeder you have to do a lot of research first. I plan to get one dog from a good breeder. (right now I want a great dane).

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      My boyfriend wants a greater Swiss mountain dog. If we ever do get one of these dogs, it will be from a breeder. You just don’t see these dogs in rescue. There is at least one greater Swiss mountain dog rescue, but it hardly ever has any dogs to take in. It has a waiting list of potential adopters. The breed is rare, and the breeders do a good job of selling the breed to good owners which eliminates the need for rescue. The breeders will also take the dogs back no matter how old the dogs are, no questions asked.

      I agree that rescues are a great place to get a dog. That’s the first place people should be looking.

  3. Yep – there is never a reason to adopt from a pet store. Period.

    I agree about the whole “rescue” thing. Some people want credit as you say for some heroic act. Other people are too judgmental of what others do. It all comes down to whether or not you can look ion the mirror and live without feeling guilty.

    We have several breed-specific rescue groups around here. I know that if I wanted another bloodhound I would start with the local bloodhound rescue group.

    But that’s me and what’s right for me.

  4. Wow, this post if full of valuable information if you are thinking about getting a dog or pup. I have had a dog most of my life and I guess they have all been pure breds. I must admit, a couple choices we made were probably made emotionally. We wanted a pup, we took a pup. Luckily, only in one instance did we really regret it and were unable to keep the dog. The main reason we wanted a pure bred each time was because we wanted to see the parents and we wanted to start from scratch, there’s something about bringing home a brand new pup unmarred by human touch yet. Maybe pups are easier to find now days at rescue places, I’m not sure. When dog shopping, just be ready and do your research.

  5. This is a great post. We found Kelly at a rescue shelter through Petfinders. But your post hits home because I have a friend who wanted to rescue a dog and none of the shelters would let her adopt because she couldn’t get a veterinarian’s reference they required because she’d never owned a dog before. She felt so guilty buying from a breeder. I’m sure this post will help her feel better!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      That is the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard – a rescue not allowing someone to adopt without a vet’s reference when they have no other pets! See, that’s the problem with certain rescues.

      1. Yeah, that is pretty ridiculous! How are you supposed to adopt your first dog if they won’t let you??! I think if you know about dogs, and how to act around them, seem well-informed and willing to learn from them, you should be allowed to adopt.
        Besides, there are people out there who have owned dogs in the past that I would rather NOT see own more dogs. I’m sure the inverse is true about some people who have never owned dogs before.

  6. Another great post Lindsay! I agree, it seems like everyone is pushing adoption. I think it’s great to adopt, but it’s not for everyone. Some people just aren’t ready to handle some of the problems that come with adopted dogs. For these people, a reputable breeder would be the best choice. I also agree with you on the pet store issue. One thing I do wish is that anyone selling a dog, giving a dog away or adopting a dog out should ask more questions of the potential owners. This would help prevent so many homeless dogs.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yes, but we do have to keep in mind that a lot of rescue dogs do not have any behavior problems. Sometimes adopting an adult dog from a shelter is easier for first-time dog owners who have no idea what they’re doing with training. It just has to be the right dog.

  7. My dog Roxanne is a yorkie/min pin mix.
    I can’t stand how all of the mutts they are mixing
    with yorkies are all of a sudden “designer”
    Because your expensive dog bred with another expensive dog
    does not mean the puppy it makes should be expensive.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I couldn’t agree with you more. The original “puggles,” for example, were obviously accidental litters. In other words, a MISTAKE. Now they are “designer dogs.”

  8. And they charge so damn much for those mutts!
    Nobody can afford them.
    It becomes a thing about money instead of
    finding a loving home.
    I’m so glad I found somewhere to vent 🙂
    All of the dogs at a pet store by my house come from
    puppy mills and they charge $180ish a month.
    for a dog.

  9. I have such specific goals for my dogs and their training that I can’t adopt dogs from shelters. I have to get them from reputable breeders that have bred their dogs for the specific purposes I have in mind.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yes, some people just can’t understand that concept. They think everyone should just go to a shelter. But sometimes people really do want a dog to perform specific work or tasks.

  10. We call our boxer mix Buda but my husband refers to him as middle of the road. Thats where we found him. He was obviously abandoned. He did not know when someone was going to come by and take him home. We were looking for a dog on petfinder and he was still a puppy when we found him. He was groomed and nails clipped. Had manners and did not have bad habits. He is a great dog. Kids crawl and wrestle with him but he knows his limits. Greatest find ever. I’m sure he is not unhappy about his spoiled life.

  11. Your description of your friends reaction of acting like they’d committed a crime for going to a breeder cracked me up. Today I had two friends ask if the dogs that they have qualified as “rescues”, because there was a cute little thing going around Facebook that you could put on your profile if you had a rescue dog. It made me chuckle because both of the dogs they were asking about never had gone to a shelter, or a rescue. They weren’t really adopted, and in the case of one, they got the dog from a friend that just didn’t have time for the dog anymore. I find it interesting that it’s considered such a popular thing to have a rescue dog. LOL

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      I used to call Ace a rescue because he was a courtesy posting on a rescue web site. But I don’t think that makes him a “rescue.” He’s more of a “hand-me-down” dog.

  12. I will always go to a rescue or shelter 1st. I am hoping to have a dog in the future when I have the time & space for one. I will consider a breeder if I am looking for a certain qualities in traits & have not found them through a rescue first.
    NEVER NEVER NEVER get a dog form a pet store. And for the dogs sake I feel so bad saying that! But I worked for a pet store – a large names franchise that is known for getting puppy mill puppies. I was their kennel person. I knew what it was going into it but at the time I was desperate for extra money. As these puppies kennel care taker I did everything in my power while I was there to make sure they had everything they needed, they were clean watered & fed properly. I refused to go out on the floor & sell them. I quit after 6 months because I just couldn’t take it anymore! When I had to take one of the puppies to the vet with pneumonia , (which was COMPLETELY preventable) that was the last straw! The horror story list I could tell you went on forever. Its not the puppies fault they were bred that was y or shipped there. So I do feel bad for them. I hope someday puppies mills will not exist!

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Yeah, I will always be looking at shelters and rescues and also just the dogs posted on Craigslist that nobody wants anymore. I may also buy from a breeder some day, although no plans to do this as of now.

  13. Ty Brown, you hit the nail on the head! The fact of the matter is there are people out there who still use thier dogs for their intended purpose and I love nothing more than when I see a Newfoundland performing water rescue or a Great Dane pulling a cart. I have one of each, I have a Labrador that is a true rescue, pulled from the pound, a product of a horrible home who beat the hell out of him, emotionally and physically. I also have a beautiful Vizsla who came form a breeder. I compete heavily with my dogs and I wanted a high performance dog who could move from venu to venu with no issues. I found a few breeds I was interested in and researched them for literally years. After two years I settled on a Vizsla and found an amazing breeder who has not only been a mentor but a wonderful friend. Just a reminder Lindsay, there are some breeders out there who will pay for the microchip, shots, registration, etc. as my breeder did. By aquiring my dog through a breeder I am lucky enough to be able to trace my dog’s pedigree back 30 years and I know exactly where she came from and what every dog in her lineage was like and how they performed in every venu. I have met her parents, her grandparents, and some of her cousins. She is exceeding my expectations and I couldn’t be happier with my choice.
    Now that being said, I have also taken my rescue and worked a multitude of issues out of him, got him into some obedience classes and have competed with him. He BLOWS my mind. I have taken a broken, fearful aggressive, and highly reactive dog and gave him enough confidence to be able to work and compete with the best dogs out there, pedigree or not. He is now a titled obedience dog and continues to perform competitively.
    Sometimes breeders are necessary, I just hope people spend time researching breeds and breeders to find a highly responsible individual who tries to improve their breed with each litter and follows their parent club’s code of ethics.
    As far as breed specific rescues, each breed recognized by the AKC has a parent club. Such as the Vizsla Club of America or the Doberman Pinscher Club of America, you get the idea. These parent clubs have a breed specific resuce group imbedded in them and are your best resource when it comes to rescuing the breed you want. Or they can refer you to a responsible breeder who is a member of the parent club and follows their code of eithics in your area. I would also be hesitent to buy from a breeder who has bred their bitch to a stud that has not had the proper health checks. Health checks on BOTH parents are key, not just the mother.

    1. Lindsay Stordahl

      Thank you so much for your comment and sharing that info. Sarah, I often think about how you have a beautiful rescue dog and a beautiful purebred dog from a breeder. I think that is wonderful. I completely understand why someone would want to buy a dog from a breeder. You explained all those reasons perfectly. I know you have helped a lot of people understand the value in purchasing a dog from a breeder without feeling guilty about it. Plus, you are an amazing foster mommy!

  14. I have been looking for a dog after my two German Sherpards died. Let’s say it takes a lot of recovery emotionally (years!) and finally I think I am ready for that unconditional, loving care again.
    I went to visit a lot of shelters. I worked at these places before when I was at college. Things are very different now. If you are looking for a dog, unless you are looking specifically for a “rescued” pit bull that has a fighting origin, or a chiwuawua, otherwise, you are entirely out of luck.
    The shelters do have a lot of cats though. For those who’d never have a cat, let’s say they can be more attached to you that a dog; although leaving one of them in the house with a sitter wouldn’t help if you want to travel can be a problem.
    One time I travel to Europe for vacation. The original plan was for two weeks, then my cat went on a hunger strike after the first week and I had no choice but to come home.
    So for all of you who are “would be” rescuers, be forewarned that they are more than a pet, definitely not a toy, so you should be prepared for some personal sacrifice as well.

  15. Lindsay Stordahl

    Sorry to hear about the loss of your two shepherds. I hope you are able to find the right, new dog for you, no matter where you obtain the dog.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *