Why you shouldn't buy that doggie in the window
When you buy a puppy from a pet store, you’re spending a lot of money for a dog whose parents you know nothing about. Have both parents had their hips and elbows x-rayed for dysplasia? Have the parents been tested for PRA, which causes blindness? Tests are expensive, but responsible breeders do them because their goal is to produce healthy pups. What’s the pet store’s goal? If they say “healthy pups,” ask them for proof.
2. THAT GUARANTEE ISN'T WORTH WHAT YOU THINK IT IS
Pet stores make a big deal about their “lifetime guarantees”. But ask them what happens when you need $800 to correct crippling hip dysplasia in your six-month-old chocolate Lab puppy. The guarantee requires you to give the puppy back so they can put it to sleep, which is cheaper for them. Then they give you another puppy, one who might also develop dysplasia. A guarantee like that is worse than no guarantee at all.
Pet stores want you to think “CKC papers” equals healthy puppies. It doesn’t. The only thing CKC registration means is that both parents are purebred and CKC registered. The mother (dam) could be a truly awful example of the breed — or worse, suffering from disease or illness — and the puppies can still be registered. A responsible breeder will of course register her puppies if the breed is one recognized by the CKC, but that’s only the beginning.
4. GOOD LUCK WITH HOUSEBREAKING
The puppies you see in the pet-store window have spent their lives in cages. They’ve never seen grass, or dirt, and they’ve certainly never seen carpeting. They’ve been forced to eliminate in the same place where they sleep and eat. A responsible breeder keeps the puppies very clean, and makes sure they have separate elimination areas. By the time they’re ready to go home, well-bred puppies are often well on the way to being housebroken..
5. HOW ABOUT SOCIALIZATION?
Imagine buying a puppy that has never been inside a house before! The doorbell, the vacuum cleaner, the dishwasher — those things can be terrifying to a puppy who has never seen them. What about neighborhood kids, riding in the car, or just walking on a leash? A responsible breeder exposes her puppies to all kinds of new situations, and makes sure they are confident, happy puppies when they go off to their new homes.
Plus, when you go to a breeder you generally have more than one puppy from which to choose. A responsible breeder temperament-tests her puppies to find out which ones are outgoing or shy or dominant. Then she matches up owners to make sure that active puppies go to active homes, and that a shy puppy ends up in a home that’s just right for it. If you’re going to spend all that money, it makes sense to look at several examples of the breed and then pick a dog that’s right for you.
6. WHAT WILL THAT PUPPY LOOK LIKE WHEN IT GROWS UP?
When you buy a puppy from a responsible breeder, you can usually meet the mother and see pictures or video of the father (sire). You can discuss with the breeder the faults each parent possesses (maybe the mother has an over bite, or the father is a little taller than the standard). You can’t predict exactly what the puppy will turn out like, but you’ll know what to expect, and you’ll know that your purebred puppy will resemble his breed. Why spend so much money on a pet store puppy without even knowing what the parents look like?
For the money that pet stores want you to spend, you’d expect a lot more. Think about all the things responsible breeders do that pet stores don’t: They choose the parents based on health and temperament issues; they pay for expensive tests to make sure both sire and dam are free from disease or illness; they raise the puppies with an eye toward getting them housebroken and socialized; and they help make sure the right puppies go to the right homes. A responsible breeder never breeds just to make money, and their prices are usually lower than in pet stores. Save some money and get a better quality puppy at the same time.
8. WHAT DO THEY KNOW ABOUT THE BREED?
Pet stores can tell you a little about the breeds they sell. And they can point you to a rack of generic breed books. That’s it. A responsible breeder will be a wealth of information about the breed you’re interested in. She’ll be able to tell you about unique breed characteristics, ways to get involved in activities your dog might be suited for, and most importantly, she knows what specific health issues to watch out for.
9. DO YOU WANT TO SUPPORT THE PUPPY MILLS?
How do you know most pet shop pups come from puppy mills? Because no responsible breeder would ever sell their puppies to a pet store, for two reasons:
1. Responsible breeders care about the puppies they produce, and want them to go to very carefully selected homes.
2. Keeping track of litters is an essential part of responsible breeding. If two puppies from a certain litter die from liver failure at a young age, the breeder knows there’s a problem in the line and will not breed the parents again. What does that say about the breeders of pet shop pups?
10. WHAT'S THAT PEDIGREE WORTH?
Pet stores make a big deal out of their pedigrees, which is interesting because they just contain a bunch of names. Can the pet shop tell you how long the puppy’s grandparents lived, and what they died of? How many of the parents littermates are still alive? How long do dogs in this pedigree usually live? A responsible breeder can answer all of those questions. You get not just a pedigree, but all of the important information behind the pedigree.