Finding a Puppy


Finding a Puppy

The following Is reprinted here from my Facebook page where I discussed sources of puppies. It was originally posted over many days, and is compiled here for easier reference.


These pictures were given to me by a friend you lives in CT. She had adopted Miss Fidget from a southern animal shelter. She was in bad shape when the shelter got her and unfortunately little was done to help her. When a foster took her out of the shelter,  she finally got some treatment for the worms and fleas,  and was soon sent to CT.


Soon after arriving in CT she was diagnosed with Distemper and despite treatment passed away a short time later. When our friend gave me these pictures she requested that I try to educate people about how and where to adopt puppies from. 

This is a disease we should NEVER see in this or any developed country. There is an excellent vaccine available that is close to 100% effective. However it must be given to the puppy before they are exposed to the virus. Once they are vaccinated and go on to have puppies, the mother will pass on immunity to her puppies, which can last for several months. This allows the next generation of puppies time to be vaccinated.

Over the next few days I will discuss how and where to look for puppies so that the chances of getting a tragedy of this nature in your family is minimized.


Looking for puppy and wondering how to avoid the problems for Miss Fidget. Unfortunately there are no absolute guarantees that you will get a healthy pup wherever you look. However there are places that are better than others. 

If you are looking to adopt a particular breed then look on line to find the breed rescue that is in your area. Most breeds have a rescue group and will probably have one close to your home. Then you can arrange a visit with the foster parents and see the dog in a home environment. You can see how it interacts with the foster family and strangers (You are a stranger at first)

The foster system is good but has limitations. They try to find pets that have ended up in a town shelter for one reason or another, they also get pets from people who approach them to find a new home for their pet. (Moving to a new apartment that does not allow pets, going to assisted living etc).

The foster family then has time to see if the pet is healthy and can do some basic medical care. They will often have the pet for some weeks so that diseases that are in the early stage will show up and can be treated. They are funded by donations and will often have arrangements with local animal hospitals to get reduced fee treatments and some vaccines. The foster family will only have a small number of pets as they are in their home, so space is limited. This means spread of disease is limited, compared to a shelter that can house hundreds of pets.

One of the more important factors in this system is minimizing stress on young pups. Local is always better as pups don't have to be shipped hundreds of miles. I see too many pups that have been rescued by a group in one state and shipped to a large city area to find new homes. These pups are shipped in groups and it puts a lot of stress on young immune systems. All it takes is one pup that is sick in the group, and then all the pups will be sick in the next week.

More on looking for new puppy. 

At this point I like to remind people that as the holiday season is approaching that gifting someone with a puppy is not a good idea. It should be a considered family plan when and if a puppy in the house is the correct thing. With the new pup considerable expense comes along, feeding, veterinary services, training, not to mention the possible molding that may need replacing in the house, before puppy is done teething.

One of the best places to get a new pup is directly from the home of the breeder. By "Breeder" I mean any place that the pups were born and raised by their mother. Many people don't consider themselves breeders, just because their dog happened to have pups.

Home raised pups are great, they are usually part of the family and are used to being handled by anyone in the family. I have seen many households that were raising pups and all the children get involved in the process. Finding these gems can be difficult. It is often "Word of mouth" advertising. 

What to look for in these home raised pups. They should be at least six weeks old so that they are fully weaned. They should have been checked by a veterinarian and given their first set of vaccines and worming. When you go visit them, they will probably be running around the living room, or maybe confined to a smaller area as they are not yet house trained. Don't be put off by some odor in the house, but the house should not stink! Keeping up with six or more un house trained pups is a full time job.

These pups will usually be very interactive with new people in the house, and be willing to come and play with you or your children. You should also be able to see the mother and possibly the father, beware if the owner won't let you see the mother.

"Breeder scams" to be aware of: Some people will actually be brokers for puppies. What this means is that they are in fact selling pups that would usually be sold through a pet store. They are probably from a "Puppy mill" and have been subjected to all the stresses associated with those pups, many of them are or will become ill as result.

If you go to a "Home breeder" and the owner has several different breeds of puppy in the house, they are probably a broker. If they don't have the mother available to visit with you, they are probably a broker. If they tell you that the mother is “Away at a show” they are a broker. (No breeder in their right mind would show a dog six weeks after whelping, as their coat is at its worst). My advise is to leave right away, as they are obviously dishonest, and will not stand behind their pups.


Looking for a Puppy

Next I will talk about getting puppies from the local animal shelters. There are several types of "Shelters" some are run by municipalities and these include the town pound. Others are run by non profits and they set their own rules for the pets they will accept, and often have strict rules for adopting.

Town shelters serve a great need by getting abandoned pets off the street, and giving them some basic medical care as well as food and shelter. Because of their mandate to accept all pets brought to them or collected from the streets, they have problems controlling diseases. They do not bring pets into the shelter from outside the area, so the travel stresses I mentioned in other posts is not a problem. They also will rarely have young puppies, however they can have very acceptable pets available for adoption, at a very minimal fee. They will usually insist on spaying / neutering the pet, which is essential for their part in population control.

Unfortunately most town shelters will have some time limit that they can hold a pet for adoption, before it is euthanized. They will also have to remove pets by euthanasia that are too sick or injured, as they don't have the resources to treat everything. The other problem with looking in a shelter is the population of pets is often made up of "Problem pets" these are pets that have been surrendered because they are aggressive, not house trained, or not allowed in the housing situation of the prior owner.

The other type of shelter is the non profit "No Kill Shelter". These organizations do a wonderful job of accepting pets for adoption and holding them until they find a home. Because they keep all pets for an unlimited time, they are much more restrictive about what they will accept. They will examine pets before they agree to adopt them and will reject them for many reasons. These reasons include being too old, sick, aggressive, or otherwise un-adoptable.

They will frequently have puppies (Usually mixed breed) and there is a reasonable chance that when you get a puppy there it will be healthy. They will have had some veterinary care and basic vaccines, and worming as well as neutering.

This is the type of shelter I recommend to search for a new pet. You may find the puppy of the type you are looking for, more often you will find something that speaks to your heart, and you know you can give it a good home. You should expect to be asked for a donation, as they are privately funded and rely on these donations. You will also very likely have to provide some references, usually from your veterinarian.

Some people will say they want to save a pet from the shelter, thats great if you find the pet you can live with for the next ten or more years. However I will point out that if you take a pet from a no kill shelter, you are saving another pet that otherwise would have to go into the town shelter.

Some of the non profit shelters have recently started importing pets from other areas. This may have started as a rescue effort after natural disasters such as Katrina that displaced so many people that their pets were abandoned, and were shipped to other urban areas. This was a great humanitarian effort that saved many pets, however some of the shelters decided that this was such a great publicity stunt that they are now regularly importing pups from all over the country. This has all the problems of stress to these young pups, with questionable immune states, and so illness enters the shelter. There are plenty of pets in the local area that importing from long distances is not necessary and is in fact harmful to the imported pups as well as the rest of the shelter occupants.


My least favorite place to recommend people to look for a puppy is a pet store.

I have seen many puppies that are purchased from pet stores only to spend the next weeks getting over the diseases they picked up at the store or in transit to the store.

Pet stores are the outlet of choice for all of the horror story puppy mills everyone has heard about. The pups are typically bred in horrible conditions and vaccinated too young and too often, before they are shipped across country, to the store. At the store they are immediately placed in cages on the sales floor, where they can infect other pups in the store.

These pups will likely never have seen a veterinarian, but all the vaccines are done by the workers in the kennel. I have regularly seen pups with vaccine records that indicate that they have been vaccinated weekly. I can only assume that the owner of the kennel in some misguided attempt, reads the directions of three weeks between vaccines, then thinking that weekly must be better!! In fact the puppies immune system is so overwhelmed by the amount of vaccine that they are not able to respond.

Many years ago I had a contract with a pet store to visit and check the pups regularly. I gave the store owners advise on trying to isolate the new pups for the first week after arrival. This would allow the diseases caught in transit to show and be treated before they infect the other pups in the store. For the brief period that they agreed to do this, the disease level was very low, but then they resorted to their old ways, and the illness increased.


OK now you have acquired your new puppy, what next.

Make sure to get ALL the paperwork from the store / shelter / breeder. It may look like a bunch of code to you but it is a list of the vaccines and other treatments the puppy has received already. Some stores will have "Their vet" do all the vaccines. You are under no obligation to go to any particular vet. Many times the store vet will indicate that the pup has had all its shots, when if fact they mean it has had all the shots that are included in the original deal. Some breeders and stores will include the cost of the next vaccine with the purchase price, and tell you to bring the pup back to them. This is an illegal act call practicing without a license unless there is a licenses veterinarian there. Once you have purchased the pup it is no longer OK for anyone other than the licensed vet to charge for medical advise or give any treatments. 

Beware of the store that has the "Puppy package" of their most expensive food and multiple supplements that they insist you "Need". I am never surprised by the pup that has diarrhea when it goes home because it has had a sudden change from a regular or possibly inferior puppy food to the premium food the store tells you they have been feeding the pup.

Bring the pup to the vet of your choice, who you have either known for some time, or have good recommendations for. Let them check the pup and see what shots have already been given and listen to the advice on the vaccines that are recommended for the area you live in. They will also give you advice on house training and when to socialize the pup.

There are many things to consider in different areas of the country, from the need for Heart worm preventatives, to the type of diseases seen in the area, that can be vaccinated against. Your local vet will know best what protection you and your puppy need.

I love doing home visits for new puppy wellness checks, and I regularly spend a lot of time with the owners and see where the pup is going to live. We discuss the needs of the pup, from feeding to vaccines and house training and many other topics.