I shouldn’t even need to say this … but don’t ever buy a puppy online.
First of all, you’re exposing yourself to scams. Unfortunately, internet fraud is very, very common, and people are not above making a buck by offering nonexistent puppies for sale to gullible people, lured in with adorable puppy photos. Read more in this Washington Post article, “How much is that doggy on the website.”
A law passed a few years ago attempted to crack down on internet puppy sales by requiring that seller have a physical location where buyers could see and pick up the puppies, but that’s hard to enforce.
A second problem with puppy purchases is, of course, the likelihood of purchasing a puppy mill puppy. This is terrible for so many reasons, among them: It feeds a business model that is based on mistreating dogs; the breeding dogs are often not only mistreated, they are unhealthy and could pass genetic, temperamental, and other flaws on to their puppies; and the puppies’ first weeks are spent in unhealthy, frightening, and damaging conditions. This makes everything from house training to manners and socialization far more challenging and sets up new puppy owners for a lot of unnecessary challenges and, often, failure.
One way to avoid puppy mill puppies is not purchasing online. Another is not purchasing at pet stores. If the risk of puppy mill puppies isn’t enough to convince you, consider that you and your family could also get sick. Another Washington Post article (shout out here to the best newspaper in America!) has more: “People are getting sick from a bacterial disease — and pet-store puppies might be to blame.”
Where should you get a puppy?
If you are particular about getting a specific breed, look for a reputable breeder. Good signs include:
- Very thorough interview before breeder will even consider selling you a puppy
- Breeder will not ship puppy to you; you must pick up the puppy in person
- Breeder does not breed huge numbers of litters
- Breeder insists on taking puppy back if you change your mind
- Breeder knows where “her” dogs are; all of them, even older puppies whelped years ago
- Breeder can prove that genetic and health checks are done on all breeding dogs
- Even better — you know dogs who came from this breeder
If you’re less attached to getting a purebred puppy, look at breed rescue and other shelters and rescues in your area. The plus: you will meet your dog before taking him home. The minus: no guarantees on breeding, health, temperament, or early experiences. These dogs could come with a lot of baggage. Then again, so can a well-bred puppy. Don’t believe me? Read The Education of Will for a harrowing example.
The bottom line is, there are no guarantees, but choosing your puppy carefully is an essential first step. Relationships are hard, even when they’re with adorable four-footed fuzzballs.