Shelters: Sadly, there are many more homeless animals than homes willing to take them. For lots of reasons, wonderful animals end up in shelters, and you may just find your soul-pooch by visiting one. Even if you’ve got your heart set on a particular breed, don’t rule out adoption. “If you’re looking for a purebred and are patient, you can usually find him in a shelter,” says SPCA Executive Director Shannon Laukhuf. Breed-specific rescue groups in and around the county are another good source; a quick Google search will yield many options.
Pet Stores: Buyer Beware! Buying a dog from a pet store is rarely a good idea. Animal-welfare groups warn against buying puppies in pet stores because many sell “puppy mill” dogs. Puppy mills crowd dogs in cages with unsanitary conditions, providing minimal (if any) veterinary care and socialization. Puppies are removed from their mothers and littermates prematurely, often resulting in behavioral problems and anxiety. Female dogs are bred repeatedly, with no time to recover between litters. These puppies are often fearful of strangers and other dogs, and, warns the ASPCA, more prone to health problems.
Breeders: Just because a breeder has a beautiful website and adorable puppies doesn’t mean he or she is reputable. Anyone can put two dogs together to produce a litter. But “backyard breeders” are generally not the best sources for a pup.
Trustworthy breeders care not only about their own litters but about the welfare of the breed as a whole. A good breeder will have nothing to hide, will welcome and answer questions and supply you with references. He or she will also ask you sign a contract that spells out the terms of your agreement, including how you plan to care for the dog. “Most reputable breeders are very cautious,” says Sherman. “They want to know where their dogs are going.”