By Sandy Modell
For those of you who don’t remember the singer Patti Page, she recorded the song “The Doggie in the Window.” It was a No. 1 hit in 1953 and sold over a million copies. It played on the radio for years.
Over sixty years later, some pet shops still, unfortunately, sell puppies in the window. And now, in the era of internet shopping, one can buy a puppy online and have it shipped directly to your front porch. How convenient is that?!
My recommendation: DON’T do it! Unlike puppies from experienced and reputable breeders, those sold in stores and on the internet are not bred for health or temperament. In fact, many of these puppies arrive with severe health problems and/or behavioral issues. Fear and aggression are the two most troublesome issues that I have dealt with in these situations.
Reputable breeders would never ship their puppies to a new owner, even if the breeder knew that owner. Under no circumstances would a reputable breeder consign a puppy to an unknown buyer. However, “back yard breeders” and puppy mills, and the internet will do so. A puppy mill is a large-scale breeding operation that produces large numbers of puppies for profit. The formal definition does not tell you that most puppy mills are inhumane in their treatment of breeding dogs and puppies and are horrendous places in which to bring a puppy into this world. The mother can be sickly too, passing on a myriad of health issues, worms, giardia, etc., to her litter. Pennsylvania and the mid-west have many puppy mills. Virginia became the third state
in the nation to restrict where pet stores can acquire puppies and Maryland outright banned the operation of puppy mills completely. Unfortunately, they still exist in large numbers.
So, how and where do you get a puppy and what do you look for?
1. Find a responsible breeder and visit the premises
Responsible breeders provide a clean, loving and healthy environment for their canine companions, one that they will be proud to show you. You should never buy a puppy without seeing for yourself where the dog and its parents were raised and housed. Check out the national breed websites–many list breeder referrals. Talk to a positive training company that offers pre-pet planning and selection, like Wholistic Hound Academy.
Be aware: AKC and other types of registration papers only tell you who a puppy’s parents were, not how its parents were treated by that breeder. Ask whether the breeder provided puppy enrichment activities before they turned 8 weeks old. Acclimating puppies to their environments: going up and down objects, making positive associations with scary things and body handling are just a few. Remember, good breeders do not sell dogs on Craigslist. They generally don’t need to look for buyers—they already have a solid reputation and usually have a waiting list.
2. Don’t believe promises that puppies are “home raised” or “family raised”
Many puppy millers pose as small family breeders online and in newspaper and magazine ads, including some Amish farms in Pennsylvania. In almost all cases, operations who sell puppies via the Internet use legitimate-looking ads or websites that make it look like the dogs came from somewhere happy and beautiful–claims that are all too often far from true. Avoid the temptation to “rescue” a puppy mill dog by buying them. It will only ensure the viability of these businesses.
3. Consider adoption
Adopting a dog who needs a home can be one of the best things you’ll ever do. There are numerous animal shelters and rescue groups in our area. Many can make wonderful pets. There may be a great puppy or dog waiting for you there. Remember, that many of these dogs have unknown backgrounds or come from rural areas and even other countries. Some are more resilient than others in adapting to our bustling urban environment. Ask whether the dog has been screened for sociability and general behavior. Is the dog you’re looking at wriggly and soft eyed or timid and nervous? Timid and nervous dogs often require additional work with a professional trainer in the areas of desensitization and counter-conditioning to the scary things in the world around them.
Buying or adopting a puppy or dog is a lifelong commitment to that animal for at least 12-15 years. Healthy and enriched puppies have a greater chance at living a long life and being adaptable and social canine companions in your home and in the neighborhood.
Sandy Modell, CPDT-KA, is the Founder and CEO of Wholistic Hound Academy, Alexandria’s premier canine training and learning center — offering pre-pet planning and selection services and classes and private lessons in puppy training, adult dog manners, behavior modification, agility, dog sports and canine fitness and conditioning. Classes starting soon! Visit www.wholistichound.com to enroll in our programs, and like us on Facebook.com/wholistichound.