By Janis Huskey

After you have chosen the breed that best suits your family, you can begin looking at breeders or shelters.  I encourage you to check with your local shelters to see if there is a match for your family as most of these shelter dogs will be put to death if they are not adopted.  Often these make the best pets even though and especially if they are a mixed breed dog. 

If you want a small dog and you are looking at a puppy in a shelter, look at his paws.  If they are big, you’re probably going to have a big boy!  Small breed dogs typically stop growing in size around 9 months and at about 4 months you can imagine their size doubled and that is approximately their full grown size.

If you have not found the dog/pup of your dreams at the shelter, then you can begin to look for a reputable breeder.

ABSOLUTELY I WOULD NOT BUY A PUPPY FROM A PET STORE.  You would probably be promoting a puppy mill or back yard breeder without even knowing it.  I would not take that chance if I were you.  In addition, you will be paying entirely too much for the QUALITY of dog you take home. 

Spend a little time looking for breeders that you can talk to and who are knowledgeable about their breed and will give you plenty of information to help you decide.  You should also be able to see pictures of the puppies as they grow and of the parents of the litter.  If you are close, visit and see the parents in person.  If you are not nearby, then buying online is a great way to find your puppy if you follow these guidelines – See the article “How to Safely Buy an Excellent Puppy Online”

References are a must and it will be very reassuring to talk to others who have purchased a puppy from the breeder you are considering.

Ask about the parents’ personalities and size because the puppies WILL reflect their parents.   Ask about the health issues that are common to that breed, but go online and do your research as well.  Ask if either of the parents have these issues.

Go with your instinct as you talk to the breeder.

Ask how long they have been raising dogs.  Ask about a health guarantee and what it includes. Ask to see a copy of it before your deposit or purchase.  IF THEY DO NOT OFFER A HEALTH GUARANTEE, I WOULD THANK THEM FOR THEIR TIME AND SAY GOODBYE.  Ask about pedigree and registry.  Are there any champions in this litter’s past 4-6 generations?  Do they ever show their dogs or are they working toward that in the future?  Are the parents registered with AKC?  This in my opinion is the best and oldest registry for many reasons.  ASK about testing.  Have the parents had any testing to rule out eye, ear, or joint problems that may affect that breed?

Your breeder doesn’t have to have all of the answers and their puppies can be healthy and a good representative of the breed without all of these things in place, but by asking the questions, you will get a feel for the type of breeder you are dealing with and if they are truly trying to create healthy, near standard, excellent quality puppies or if they are just tossing a male and female together to get some puppy money.

Spend more – This one may hurt but here goes.  Be willing to spend more for quality.  You will have a budgeted amount you are willing to spend, I’m sure, but it would be worth it to save up a little more or wait a little longer and get an excellent dog from a great breeder rather than save a few hundred dollars on just some puppy online or from a back yard.  This will pay off in personality, intelligence, ease of training, adaptability of the puppy, and possibly life-long health. In the end it could save you lots of heartache and vet bills.  In the long run, it will probably save you money to spend more for a quality dog from a highly recommended breeder.  A puppy of excellent quality may even cost you twice as much or more than puppies in your hometown newspaper or local online ads but it really can be worth it if you do your research and choose wisely.

Remember, you are adopting a family member. The quality of puppy you choose will directly affect your family for many years.  The difference in your choice could mean a beloved dog that dies of cancer at age 5 or lives to be a healthy 18 year old family member.  Good breeding is that important!  Choose wisely.