By the term 'adoption', I am referring to going to a rescue organization or an animal control facility and paying a small fee to adopt an animal who doesn't have a home.
This can apply to purebreds (fun fact: 25% of all shelter dogs are purebred!), mutts, and dogs of all ages, breeds, size, and color.
Adoption is a great route for most people to go. Most organizations will have the animal altered, up to date on vaccinations, and micro chipped. Adoption fees can range from $30-200, but it still works out being the cheapest option to go when you factor in the medical care the animal received while with the organization.
When you adopt an animal - you are taking a truly homeless animal and giving it a home. Dogs are left at shelters for various reasons - some with no reason at all! Don't buy into the myth that a dog is in a shelter because it is a 'bad' dog - they get dropped off because the owner was moving, the dog was too hyper, the dog wasn't hyper enough, the dog was the wrong color for the furniture, someone in the family gets pregnant, and so on and so on.
When looking to adopt a dog - the sky is the limit. There are breed specific organizations that can place a dog with you if you need a purebred, and there are places to go if you need a mutt. There are always puppies available - and remember, when you adopt - you're saving a life.
When going to an organization to rescue a dog, here are a few things to help you find the right dog.
- Look at the adults! You'll know how large they are going to be, coat length, and you will be able to tell a lot more about their personality. A lot of them often have good manners and may have some training - and my personal favorite: adults are usually housebroken!
- Big, black dogs are always the last to get picked. If you're able to take a large dog - take a look! There is nothing wrong with them other than the color of their coat.
- Let the organization help you pick one out. A lot of them have spent some time getting to know the dogs and will be able to help you find one with the personality you are looking for.
- Personality over appearance! Unless you are looking for certain characteristics in a dog (size, type of coat, breed), look for a dog that has a shining personality instead of finding one that is the cutest. Dogs will good personalities will be friendly, eager to see you, and will be a joy to have and to train. It does no good to adopt the prettiest dog there if he doesn't like you!
- Patience. Don't feel like you HAVE to take one the first time you visit if no one speaks out to you. It's much better to take your time and adopt the RIGHT dog.
I'm not going to tell you that buying a dog is an evil deed - it's not. However, too many people take it upon themselves to throw a male and female dog together to get puppies.
When buying a dog it is VERY important to research. Once you know what breed you want to purchase - look around and research breeders. If it is an AKC registered breed, start by looking at the accredited breeders listed by the AKC. Find out if a breeder does health checks on the parents, if they can provide titles on the dogs, if the dog can perform the function it was bred to do, and why they are breeding.
A lot of people find two dogs of the same breed (or worse, just mix two random ones!) and breed them together knowing someone will buy them. This often leads to dogs with genetic defects that are being carried on with no regards to the animal. German Shepherds, for example, are notoriously ridden with hip displaysia because so many people don't bother to get the hips x-rayed on both parents, or look at previous generations. These are not the breeders you want.
When looking for a breeder there a lot of things to look for:
- What age is the breeder letting the puppies go? Good breeders usually hang onto their pups until 12 weeks of age, sometimes a little later. The few extra weeks allows the pups to learn more from their mother and helps them become better companions in the long run.
- Why are they breeding? If the answer is anything other than that they are breeding quality dogs to furthur improve the breed - don't buy from them.
- If you are buying a dog for a function, have the parents proven that they can perform it? If you are looking into buying a Border Collie puppy - can the parents herd? Whether the parents can perform the task the dog was bred for is a good indicator of whether or not the puppy will be able to.
- Is the dog registered? Asking to see the pedigree of the parents is a good indication of seeing how careful the breeders have been. If the breeder tells you the puppies can not be registered - don't buy from them.
- What is the asking price? Backyard breeders tend to sell their dogs for eye-catching prices of $1-200. They aren't providing proper medical care and are feeding the bare minimum so they can make as much money as they can off a litter. Good breeders will often ask for $500-1000; and sometimes much more depending on the parents. It seems like a high amount to pay, and seems like the breeder stands to make a fortune - but good breeders rarely profit off a litter. They spend a lot of their own money to ensure the litters they bring into the world are wanted, healthy, and very high-quality.
- How much of the puppies' health does the breeder take care of? A bad breeder will hand you a puppy at 6 weeks and expect you to handle everything. Good breeders care about their puppies and often will handle the first one or two sets of puppy shots, deworm them, and ensure that they have been examined by a vet before they go home with you.
- Support. Good breeders want their dogs in forever homes, and will be happy to help you! If a breeder does not want to be contacted by you or seems uninterested in what happens to the puppy - do not buy from them! The breeder can be an invaluable source later if problems should arise.
- Where are the puppies born, and how are the parents treated? If you go to visit the puppies and the breeder refuses to let you see them - do NOT buy! Good breeders will be happy to introduce you to both parents (and in some cases, grandparents!) and show you where the puppies were born, where they are kept and how they are being raised. If you run into a breeder that wants to hide the puppies conditions, run. The parents of the puppies should be well mannered examples of the breed. If they are aggressive towards you or seem overly fearful, it may be an indication that they are not properly cared for.