How To Buy A Puppy

The first question when looking to adopt a dog is, why a dog? Are you looking for a companion animal? If so, both dogs and cats can provide affection and companionship.

If you do not have the time to dedicate to a dog, have limited physical abilities, and or energy, a cat or cats may be a better choice. Cats do better at tolerating social isolation when left alone for long periods of time, and when you provide them a clean litter box they are almost naturally housebroken.

The primary reason to get a dog is that you wish to share your life with a companion animal and are willing to commit to fulfilling the needs of the animal.  If you are set on getting a dog, your choice should be based on more than size or looks. First of all it should be based on compatibility.

Obtaining a purebred puppy from a responsible breeder is the most reliable way to predict the likely adult characteristics of a dog's looks, size, energy level and behavior.

Puppies need to be fed more often, given more frequent opportunities to eliminate in a proper area, need to receive several vaccinations until about 4 months of age, need to be handled more, socialized, and exposed to the world in a controlled manner to prevent the development of behavior problems.

If you choose a puppy, you must be prepared for the challenges of the juvenile period from 3 to 6 months, and the adolescence stage from about 6 months to up to 3 years in some breeds until they reach social maturity.

Adolescence is often considered the most difficult period of dog ownership, and the age at which many dogs are surrendered to animal shelters. Sadly, many dogs will never see their second birthday because many people apply permanent solutions to temporary problems by surrendering their dogs to animal shelters.

Primary Considerations

Energy Level

The first consideration should be getting a dog with a level of energy that matches the family. The dog's energy or activity level should be equal to or less than the family's. The level of energy should be considered within the context of the family's lifestyle and environment.


An important consideration is whether you can physically control the dog. A twenty pound active dog may be too much for some to handle.

If there are individuals in the house who have limited mobility size is a real consideration. Toy size dogs generally move quickly out of your way, whereas larger dogs often lay there and don't move when you are walking toward them which can result in tripping over them. A larger dog jumping up on people may be a serious problem in some households until they are trained.

Small children can easily injure a small dog by falling on them, or not treating them gently. It is also not unusual for a small dog to feel the need to defend themselves rather than running and hiding. 

Grooming Needs

Short hair dogs can often get by with a brushing once a week, while some long hair dogs can require daily brushing. All dogs shed, some very little, some a lot, and others year around.  Some dogs require professional grooming and clipping to keep their coats in good condition.

All dogs shed, but dogs with hair that is clipped, instead of fur are generally considered hypoallergenic. It is not the hair or fur that causes the allergic reactions, but rather the skin cells known as dander. This dander gets onto the dog's fur so dogs that shed frequently can result in more dander in the environment. Larger dogs will naturally have more dander just based on their size.

Strong-willed / Dominant

Published bred profiles that include comments like "unsuitable for inexperienced dog owners" , "needs consistent, determined owner", "requires experienced owners", and "requires experienced and authoritative owners", are not advised for the easy-going, permissive, and or first time dog owner. They will require more structure and time to accept your leadership. These dogs range in size from the toy to large breeds. These dogs require a 100% committed assertive leader. While most dog owners would not be a good match for these dogs, they can be great dogs for those who have the proper knowledge and necessary skills.

Good with Children

There is no set age where it is appropriate for children and dogs to be together. The child's age is arbitrary because the maturity of children varies.   Dogs and children should always be supervised when together.  Children must be taught to respect dogs and understand that they can be a playmate, but they are not a play thing.

Some dogs are uncomfortable around toddlers and young children. Dogs that are nervous, high energy, touch-sensitive, or have dominant tendencies are generally not a good match for younger children.

Dogs with a more independent nature may not tolerate much handling.

Herding breeds will have the tendency to chase children and are set off by the movement of bicycles, roller skates, etc... and are prone to nipping.

Scent hounds breeds generally would rather play hid-and-seek, and find a ball or toy rather than catch, chase or retrieve it.  

Guarding breeds and Terriers characteristically do not like to share. They can be taught to share and retrieve, but this is best done before 16-weeks of age. 

Breed Characteristics

It is important to understand what job the intended breed was designed for. It may be a high energy dog that was developed to herd, or to find and kill small rodents. It may be a guarding breed, or developed to assist humans with hunting, or just bred as a companion dog.

As part of your research, look up the breed standards and other descriptions of any dog you are considering.

Terms from breed standards:

"Dignified and aloof, with a certain keen fierceness"

“very resistant to fatigue”

"tends to show dominance to other dogs"

"wary of strangers"

"fearless and with well developed protective instinct"

"watchful of strangers and fearless toward aggressors"

"loyal and affectionate to those who earn his respect"

"distrustful of strangers"

“on the tip-toe of expectation at the slightest provocation”

If you have guests at your home regularly, you may not want a dog that is "distrustful of strangers". If you are easy going or permissive, a dog that is described as "loyal and affectionate to those who earn his respect" is probably not the right dog for you.

The two breed characteristics that have the highest predictive value are excitability and general activity level. Don't have expectations that this behavior will change.

It is important to remember that dogs are individuals and that there can be differences within a breed or even a litter.  The breed's bloodline, how the dog was raised, its early experiences and the environment all play a role in shaping behavior.

If you are set on getting a puppy, please download the breeder evaluation guide here

Please choose carefully; I've met many dogs who when they were adopted believed they were going to a home with their new best friend and companion. Sadly, many ended up with an address and an acquaintance. Others ended up at an animal shelter and were euthanized because of overcrowding. 

Reasons not to buy a puppy!

  1. Puppies require a greater commitment then that of adult dogs.

  2. You do not have the time to visit the breeder during the puppy's 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th week of age to evaluate the litter and the environment.

  3. You are unable to obtain your puppy between 7-8 weeks of age during the peak socialization period which is the best time for the puppy to form a bond with a new family.

  4. After 8-weeks of age you will need to put in extra work to build a good bond with your dog. The older the dog, the more time it will require. The primary reason to get a puppy from a breeder is to obtain the puppy between 7-8 weeks of age. If I could not obtain a puppy at that age, I would save my money and adopt from a shelter or rescue group.

  5. Most puppies that one would purchase are purebred or pedigree dogs. Why is that a problem? These "pure breeds" have had most of the genetic variety bred out of them through artificial selection which has contributed to numerous genetic disorders in purebreds.

  6. At the local shelter or rescue there is no shortage of great dogs, both pure bred and mixed breed, adults and puppies for a fraction of the price that I would be asked to pay someone who would be more than happy to sell me a puppy that may be no better then what I could find at a shelter or rescue.

  7. There is an abundance of dogs in shelters that are lacking a home and millions are euthanized every year due to over-crowding in the shelters.

If you are set on getting a puppy, please download the breeder evaluation guide here