Buying a puppy seems like a simple process. Puppies are available from private individuals, pet stores, shelters and online sellers.
But where you get your puppy can determine whether you have a good experience or a bad one. A study published in the May 15, 2013, issue of the Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association found that puppies obtained from pet stores were significantly more aggressive and fearful than those obtained from noncommercial breeders and were more likely to develop separation anxiety.
Buying a puppy from an online seller is also risky. Internet scams abound.
French bulldog breeder Carol Gravestock in Durham, Ontario, Canada, recently received a phone call from a family conned by an unscrupulous online puppy seller. The sophisticated setup referred the buyers to the website of an existing breeder and used photos of a real, available puppy from that breeder’s website. They gave the buyers a cellphone number to call, claiming to be out of the country and unable to answer the phone at their home. The buyers sent a deposit and transport fee, and then received a call saying the seller needed more money for shipping fees. At that point, Gravestock says, the buyers realized something was wrong.
“They contacted the airline – no reservation. They finally contacted the real breeder associated with the website, who had no idea what they were talking about. The funds are gone, the actual puppy is not available, the family is devastated and feeling stupid.”
This type of scam – and others – occurs in every breed, not just French bulldogs. Sometimes the dogs are touted as being from “rescues” or “shelters.”
To protect yourself, avoid buying a puppy sight unseen from online sellers. Be wary if you’re told that the person is out of the country and available only by cellphone or email.
“Google it,” Gravestock says. “Nine times out of 10, that phone number or email address will come up across multiple sites, sometimes with warnings attached.”
Other red flags include puppies offered for unusually low prices or sellers who ask you to wire money or send it by Western Union.
Health is another consideration. No matter what you’ve been told, purebred, cross-bred (hybrid) and mixed-breed dogs can all fall prey to genetic diseases. Both of a puppy’s parents should be at least 2 years old and free of hereditary health problems such as hip dysplasia, heart conditions, deafness or eye disease. Reputable breeders will tell you upfront about possible health problems in the breed and what they’ve done to reduce the risk.
Confirm that a pup’s sire (father) and dam (mother) have appropriate health certifications by looking them up on the website of the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals (ofa.org) or the Canine Health Information Center (caninehealthinfo.org).
Meeting a puppy’s parents, or at least the mother, is a plus. When you purchase a puppy sight unseen, it’s impossible to know what the parents are like or whether the pup was raised in a home environment with plenty of human attention and socialization to normal life experiences. But if the parents have nice temperaments and aren’t shy or aggressive, it’s likely that your new puppy will share those positive traits.
When you want a specific type of dog, seeking a knowledgeable breeder and meeting his or her dogs in person is the best way to find a puppy. Benefits include early house-training and socialization of pups and up-to-date health clearances on the parents.
Finding the right puppy from the right breeder doesn’t offer instant gratification, but it’s a safer, smarter way to go. Just remember that good things come to those who wait.
Pet Connection is produced by a team of pet-care experts headed by veterinarian Dr. Marty Becker and Kim Campbell Thornton, author of many pet-care books. The two are affiliated with Vetstreet.com.