It’s unbelievably cute, it’s desperate, it looks so lonely, and it just went on sale—I’ll take that doggy in the window! Is this happening to you? If you’re deliberating over a pet store pup, let me fill you in on the facts and then you can make your own decision.
First, you have to know about puppy mills. Not every pet store gets their pups from puppy mills, but some do, so it’s best to be informed. Puppy mills are farms that breed dogs for profit, like chickens.
If you haven’t seen the pictures, let me tell you, they’d break your heart—cage on top of the cage, row upon row, dogs getting little human contact and poor care…a pupomatic factory.
Somewhere down the line, there is a price to pay for this neglect and it usually lands in the lap of the puppy buyer. Stress takes its toll on these little creatures; they often grow up to be nervous or distrustful. If you have a choice—pet store or breeder—you know where I’d place my vote.
If you find a pet store you’d like to buy a pup from, insist that the store prove that the puppy came from a breeder. Then call that breeder and ask the same questions.
Avoid buying any puppy who looks sickly, acts nervous or afraid, or can’t calm down after a half-hour of interaction. If you find a dog, please check for tags, notify the police, and call all local shelters to make sure she isn’t lost. You’d want someone else to do it for you.
A Trip to the Shelter
Going to the shelter or checking the classifieds to find a dog can be depressing. These are faces you may see in your soup for a while, so prepare yourself. You may see some dogs with limp tails and soulful expressions.
There is a lot of love at animal shelters, so it’s not the worst-case scenario, but it’s still no fun for a dog who would much rather be curled up at someone’s feet. No matter what, though, resist the temptation to take them all with you. Most dogs coming into a new home suffer from shelter shock and will need all your love and understanding to pull through.
Don’t let all this talk scare you from your decision to rescue a dog from a shelter. It’s the noblest of acts. I found the sweetest dog I’ve known at a shelter in Michigan and have never regretted it.
Abandonment isn’t fun; abandoned dogs typically experience shelter shock. Sometimes it’s for the best that the dog has a chance to find new owners, especially if he suffered from abuse or neglect, but a stay in the shelter is still hard on a dog’s spirit.
If you adopt a dog from a shelter, count on having a behavior problem or two to iron out. Dogs who have spent any time at the shelter may need a refresher in the house manners department! The staff can give you an idea of what to expect, but as the dog adjusts to you, more of his personality will emerge.
But it is important you go to the shelter prepared. Here are some things to keep in mind:
What physical and personality traits are you looking for? Small or big? Pup or dog? Calm or energetic? Make a list before you go and check with the kennel workers, who can be quite helpful and can guide you to puppies or dogs that fit your criteria.
Try to find out each candidate’s history. Most dogs end up at the shelter with an excuse that their owners were “moving” or have “allergies,” but there’s usually more to it that that. If a dog has been neglected or abused in any way, it may have behavioral problems you’ll need to be prepared to cope with.
If you have children (or plan to have them), determine whether a dog likes them before bringing him home. Either bring your kids with you to the shelter to meet the dog or borrow some?
If you have other pets at home, try to determine whether or not your candidate will be accepting of them. Ask the shelter personnel if the dog was in a home with other pets or if he has had any exposure to other animals an the shelter.
Has the dog’s health been checked? Are there any conditions (such as epilepsy or hip dysplasia) you should know about?
Walk the dog. Commune with him. Look into his eyes. Does it click? Is it love at first sight? I do believe in fairy “tails” (where dogs are concerned anyway)!