Updated: Feb 3
This is Scout, a CKC registered German Shorthaired Pointer. He's my first dog. Ever. That's pretty crazy for someone who works with dogs for a living eh?
Luckily for me it's my partner's 4th GSP and I also work for this wonderful company with amazing colleagues who are always there to answer my dumb and sometimes borderline obscene questions. If you've ever had an intact male dog you know what I’m talking about...
Now I’m not going to beat around the bush. I've got a pretty good-looking dog. We didn't bring him home because he was the best looking pup out of the bunch, but somehow we ended up with a pretty handsome not-so-little-anymore devil.
Because of this, I've had a lot of people ask me "where did you get your dog from?!?". I always tell them, because I LOVE bragging about my breeder! To me, they are basically the best things since Santa Claus, giving out wonderful wriggly crazy bundles of joy to all the deserving girls and boys.
BUT it wasn't chance that I just happened to stumble upon this amazing person; my partner and I picked them. We spent months combing the Internet researching different breeders. We knew from the beginning we wanted a GSP, so we started there. We found all of the breeders within a drivable distance, (8 hours) and looked closely at each and every single one. We contacted them, asked questions (more then just “how much does one of your puppies cost?”), and looked at their dogs and at dogs they've bred. We weren’t looking at how cute or pretty their dogs were, though the look and composition of a dog obviously isn't something to be ignored. We were looking at how they breed, how often, what types of health checks they did, what type of environment were the puppies raised in, and on and on.
This is a crucial step that a lot of people do not take into consideration. Now, I'm not saying you have to go purebred. There are some amazing rescues and rehoming agencies that are doing fantastic work rehabilitating and rehoming loving dogs of all shapes and sizes. Aside from puppy mills and organizations that are illegally removing dogs from foreign countries, selling them off as "rescues", where you get your dog from is your own business and is highly dependent on what you are looking for in a dog. My dog is a working dog, and a competitive confirmation show dog, so CKC was the way to go for us.
What I am saying is: research and ask questions about where you're getting your dog. This is equally as important as deciding which puppy/dog you are going to bring home. This decision is not a light one, and needs to be made well before picking out your pup. Ask yourself; where is your dog coming from and why.
Puppy Mills, though not as visible in recent years now that you can't just walk down to your local PetSmart and pick out a puppy, are still a very real problem. They've simply moved from the windows of the Pet Store to the screens of our computers, via Kijiji, Craigslist, and other similar buying and selling sites. I see the advertisements all the time. "Purebred chocolate lab puppies - $400" or "Champion Show Line Havanese puppies - ONLY 2 LEFT - $250!”
Now obviously there is an argument for the fact that these dogs need loving, caring homes just as any other dog. HOWEVER, how can we expect to stop these puppy mill type breeders if we keep buying their dogs? They are able to keep "raising" dogs on-mass in often desolate conditions because we keep them in business by continuing to give them our money. The puppies often come to their new home riddled with worms or parasites, and without crucial vaccinations. More often then not they have been separated from their mother and siblings weeks to early, leading to all kinds of behavioral issues as they grow up; separation anxiety, nervous peeing, food aggression, leash aggression, poor socialization skills, biting/nipping issues, destructive tendencies, dominance issues, confidence and independence issues, and the list goes on. The parents of these puppies are often kept in confined spaces, getting little to no attention and companionship from their human caretakers, except for breeding time.
Unfortunately we are humans and we are cheap. Why we would we pay $1800 dollars for a CKC registered dog from a reputable breeder when we can get the "same thing" for $300? Raising a dog costs money; whether it is a newborn puppy or a dog in need of a new home, purchasing a dog costs money. Vet bills, proper food, toys, and dog beds; all of those things that are crucial to a dog having a loving and comfortable life cost money. If someone is selling a dog for leagues cheaper then everyone else, it is because they have cheaped out on something, and cheated this dog of a better life.
So yes, we should all be "shopping" for our dogs. We should be asking questions of the people who are breeding them, rescuing them, and rehoming them. We should be taking into consideration multiple breeders or organizations and comparing not just their costs, but how they operate, how they raise and find homes for their dogs.
What are they most concerned about?
Informing you about the costs associated with purchasing the dog or getting to know the type of life and home you offer a potential four-legged family member?
Most good breeders/rescue organizations have some sort of application process whereby you have to prove that you are fit to raise this dog and provide it a good home. If someone is willing to just give you a dog, no questions asked except for how you are going to pay, steer clear! They obviously do not care about this dog and the life it will live after its out of their hands, and so likely do not care very much for the dogs they are currently raising/looking after either.
If you are going to purebred route, does the dog come with papers?
If someone is selling a purebred dog without papers claiming they have CKC registered parents, this is simply a lie. Under the Canada Animal Pedigree Act, it is illegal to sell a dog labeled as purebred without registration papers for the puppy (and cannot charge extra for the papers). Hold on, let me say that again for the people in the back: it is illegal to sell a dog labeled as purebred without registration papers for the puppy. So if someone is claiming to be selling purebred puppies, just without papers because its cheaper for the purchaser, the dogs either are not purebred, or this "breeder" is up to something fishy.
In addition, all CKC breeders are required to provide registration paperwork by 6 months from the date of sale. If you are purchasing a CKC registered dog, you are entitled to that documentation, plain and simple.
What type of environment do the dogs live in?
If you're buying from a breeder, ask to visit their home and the puppies before you give any sort of payment. Be conscious of when the breeder invites you to meet the puppies, as multiple strange humans should not handle newborn dogs until around 4 weeks. Not only is this to prevent general health concerns but to also maintain the sanity of the mother. That being said every breeder is different, but I would definitely be concerned if someone is letting everybody and their sisters come fondle and handle 2-week-old puppies.
If you are adopting a dog form a rescue/rehoming organization, you are allowed to ask to see the home as well. Just because you are adopting and not purchasing a dog does not mean you have to just accept anything they give you. Are the dogs living in a foster home, or a large facility. Are they given access to outdoors and human interaction for playtime and learning?
In the case of Rescues and Rehoming organizations, what type of training and activities do they do with the pups?
Is this an organization that simply acts as a middleman for dogs that need rehoming or do they provide training? Are they working with these dogs on any particular issues they might have? If its the former that’s completely fine, but be conscious that you should be also looking into dog training in addition to the cost of your new family member. Adopting a dog means that dog comes with a little bit of history, sometimes good but sometimes bad, and thats okay. It simply means we need to predict this and do everything we can for the dog to help them work through their history with their new family.
For the latter, does the style of training they are currently using match with your current family dynamics and abilities? There are many different training styles, make sure this is a methodology that you are confident you will be able to continue once the dog is home with you. Training is a life-long process for dogs, no matter their origins.
When do they normally send the dogs home with their new family?
As I mentioned earlier, a tell tale sign of an irresponsible breeder is when they are willing to part with their puppies. New born dogs should stay with their mothers and siblings till at least 8 weeks. And I know, the waiting process is hard, and the dogs are so darn cute and adorable, but this is a crucially important step. Dogs that are removed from their mothers and siblings too early more often then not are subject to a litany of issues that can crop up at any time during their life. This includes but is not limited to; separation anxiety, nervous peeing, food aggression, leash aggression, poor socialization skills, biting/nipping issues, destructive tendencies, dominance issues, confidence and independence issues, etc.
The same waiting game goes for rescue and rehoming organizations. Application processes and waiting periods are there for a reason; to ensure that any adoption is not only the perfect fit for the new family but also the dog. So yes, it might take a couple weeks after you've submitted an application to hear anything back. You might also be asked for information even after that application, or if the organization can meet you and/or visit your home. These are all steps have been deemed important in order to ensure the best quality of life for a dog, and that they aren't simply being adopted because someone saw a cute picture on Facebook.
Now this list is no where near extensive. And some of these questions may not even pertain to you when it comes time to add a new four-legged family member into your home. By no means do I consider myself to be an expert on any of the subject matter mentioned here! What i'm simply trying to get across is that as a community, we need to be doing more when it comes time to get a dog. We need to look past the cute fuzzy faces and wrinkly noses, and get down to the nitty gritty details of how dogs are being bought, sold, adopted, and rescued. Getting a dog shouldn't be as easy as buying an old couch off of kijiji. It should take time and effort. 15 to life. Not to when they aren't cute anymore or have too much energy.
I seriously commend all of the breeders and rescue/rehoming agencies out there that work day in and day out to make sure that their dogs are going to the best possible homes out there. Its not an easy job. But the world, my dogs world, and so many other countless dog's and family's worlds are better places because of what you do.