Puppies. They are adorable, irresistible and tons of fun. When you want a puppy, you want a puppy right now! But there are some serious considerations to make when choosing your new puppy in order to do so ethically. Don’t rush to purchase the first cute puppy you see on the internet; ask yourself some hard questions first.

            Question 1: Am I ready to care for a puppy? Puppies are a lot of work and the veterinary care in their first year can be costly. Multiple vaccine booster visits, spay or neuter, and heartworm, flea and tick prevention adds up. Other costs include a crate, leash/collar/harness, toys and food. Your puppy’s purchase price is not just the cost of your dog. Puppies also require multiple trips outside throughout the day, obedience training and play time. If you aren’t ready for a large financial and time commitment, you aren’t ready for a puppy.

            Question 2: Do I need this specific breed? Knowing what you can expect from your dog due to specific breed characteristics can be very helpful in pairing you and your family up with the right dog for your lifestyle. However, it is important to know both the upsides and the downsides of specific pure breed dogs. Certain breeds can come with behavioral and health challenges so know what you are getting into.

            Question 3: Do I need my new dog to be a puppy? Adult dogs can become excellent pets, often with less work at home and a lower initial cost. When well placed, adult dogs can adjust quickly to their new home and generally have a lot of love to give. If you feel drawn to a particular breed, there are breed-specific rescue organizations out there you can work with to find the right dog for you.

            Question 4: Am I supporting a Puppy Mill with this purchase? Puppy Mills are commercial breeding facilities where puppies are produced with very little thought to the health and comfort of the parents. These breeding animals are often kept in deplorable conditions, and their only purpose is to produce puppies to sell. The puppies are sold through brokers, pet stores or online businesses. Some Puppy Mill red flags include businesses that sell multiple breeds, those that don’t allow you to meet the parents, and puppies that are shipped from another state through a broker or pet store.  

            Question 5: What is my breeder’s motivation? Not all breeders are irresponsible! Some are true advocates of the breed they love, carefully selecting breeding stock, screening for heritable diseases, and limiting the number of litters per year to make sure all puppies find appropriate homes. When you buy a puppy, you should get to meet the breeder, the parents and the puppies (note: there will likely be some limitations here in the time of Covid). Responsible breeders are open about their breeding practices and work toward the betterment of their chosen breed.

            In summary, conscientious pet ownership begins with some self-reflection about what you are really looking for in a dog. With research, patience and forethought, you can find the right dog for you, whether you purchase a puppy from a responsible breeder, rescue a puppy from a shelter or adopt an adult dog. The most important part is making an educated decision that puts the best interest of all dogs at the forefront.