How do you find a great dog for your family?

In last week’s blog, I shared some information with you about the growing problem of puppy mills. Over two million puppies are so sold each year from puppy mills in the United States. Two million puppies. Everyone says they do not want to support puppy mills but yet… they are buying puppies at an alarming rate. And most of the time, it’s because they do not connect the dots. So what do you do to insure you’re not supporting bad breeders?

The joy of adding a puppy to your family is like no other. But finding the right breeder takes a little time and patience. Puppies should not be an impulse item. It’s a purchase that requires a 12-15- year commitment on your part, so think it through before making any decision about adding a dog to your household.

To help you through the decision, here are five steps to finding the right dog for your family.

  • Do you really want a puppy? Puppies are highly over rated. They are adorable but they are also babies and require almost the same amount of time and attention as a human baby during their first three-four months. And in eight-10 months, they are a full-grown dog. So ask yourself….do you have the time to dedicate to potty training and taking your puppy out at 3 a.m.? Do you have the time to teach your dog manners and rules so they are a happy and well mannered dog? If not, then consider adopting an older dog. Shelters and breed rescues are full of dogs that you can judge their size, temperament and energy level. Once you get past the puppy cuteness, those really are the important traits of a dog you want to be a lifelong family member.
  • If your heart is set on a puppy, then do a true evaluation of your family. Know what kind of dog fits your lifestyle and make sure you pick the breed that fits. Buying a working dog like a Husky just because you think they are cute and not taking into account the dog’s need for a great deal of exercise will only make you and the dog unhappy. Do your research before you choose a breed and make sure that your family is compatible.
  • Once you know what type of breed you’re looking for, search the shelters and rescue websites in your area. There are many mixed breed puppies that will meet your needs. For example, a Lab mix puppy will usually have most of the same qualities as a full blooded Lab puppy. is a website that is used by shelters and rescue groups. It’s a great way to search for dogs within your area. There are thousands of purebred dogs and puppies waiting in rescue for a forever home.
  • If adopting from a shelter or rescue isn’t an option, then research breeders very carefully. Ask your vet and anyone you know with the type of dog you want for recommendations. Reach out to the breed club in your state for recommendations. Almost all breed clubs have a list of breeders that are breeding to further the health of the breed, not for profit. They are a great place to ask questions and get referrals.
  • Before you commit to buying a dog from a breeder, do your homework. If a breeder has multiple litters available, chances are they are a puppy mill. If a breeder will not let you see how the mother dog lives and meet her, chances are they are a puppy mill. If a breeder will drop-ship a dog to you without meeting you, chances are they are a puppy mill. If a breeder has a USDA license, they are a puppy mill. Only large-scale commercial breeders need a USDA license.

A good breeder cares about their puppies  forever homes. They usually have a waiting list because their puppies are in demand. They will make you sign a contract and provide proof of heath testing. If a breeder isn’t concerned about the future of the puppy – only the money – walk away.

Finding a new puppy can take time. But by making the right choice, you are protecting yourself and helping end the demand for puppy mill dogs. Puppy mill puppies are poorly bred without regard to the health of the mother or father, thus passing on disease and congenital defects to their offspring. And that can mean heartbreak and huge vet bills for you in the future. As hard as it is, treat buying a puppy like the biggest purchase you’ll ever make. Don’t fall for the first cute face you see. Support good breeders and the many shelters and rescue groups that work tirelessly to place their dogs in good homes.

If we all make better choices, you will have a happy and healthy dog that is perfect for your family. And the puppy miller will have lost one more buyer.

You can learn more about puppy mills at


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