Thinking about a Christmas Puppy?

Baxter getting his Christmas photo taken at the Little Traverse Bay Humane Society. He was adopted from LTBHS in 2007.

When I was 3 years old, my parents gave me a present I’ll never forget. I woke up to find a tiny Boston Terrier puppy waiting for me under the tree. It was on that day that I fell in love with dogs, a love that I have to this day.

My parents were lucky. A friend had a pair of dogs that she occasionally bred and they were happy to share one of the puppies with my parents. But that was many years ago. Dog breeding has changed and through the internet and pet stores, millions of puppies are now sold every year.

So if you’re thinking of buying a Christmas puppy for your family, please let me take a moment and talk about how to go about that responsibly, and not support puppy mills.

The first option I ask everyone to consider is think about adopting from a shelter or breed rescue. My last four dogs came from rescue and they are just as perfect as the puppies I bought from a breeder. And before you say…. “my kids want a puppy,”  think about the responsibility of a puppy. Ask yourself, are you really ready to put your life on hold for 6-8 weeks? Puppies are babies. They need lots of training time. Potty training is a full time job for the first few weeks. A little older rescue dog is probably already potty trained. And, since they are more fully developed, you can really judge their personality and traits. And believe me, if your kids love dogs, they are not really going to care if it’s a puppy or a more mature dog. The kisses are all the same.

Shelters and breed rescues have puppies too. Both of the dogs I have now came from rescue and both were 6 months old when I got them. Still very much puppies.

But if you have your heart set on a puppy for under the tree, be very careful in selecting a breeder. It’s just a fact that pet store puppies come from puppy mills. No responsible breeder would ever let a third party take their babies and sell them. Pet store puppies come from commercial breeders where the mother dogs get no care, love or recreation. The puppies are often sick and can have poor breeding defects.

Those same puppy mills also have found the internet to be an easy way to sell puppies, most using deceptive practices. Why the deception? Because if people really knew how they treated the dogs in their care, they would be appalled.

Puppy mills sell through websites that are basically a clearing house for puppies. If a seller will ship a dog to you without allowing you to meet the mother or see how she is raised, you’re probably dealing with a puppy mill.  They are counting on you to fall in love with the photo they send you. As hard as it is, walk away. The only way to end cruelty is to stop supporting it.

So how do you find a puppy that is raised in a loving home? The breed club in your state is a good place to start. If you’re looking for a Golden Retriever, start with your state’s Golden Retriever breed club. Know a friend with a Golden Retriever, ask them for a recommendation. Talk to your vet. And then do your research. Interview the breeder, interview the breeder’s vet, other people who have bought puppies from the breeder and most importantly, check it out with your own eyes. How often does this breeder breed their dogs? Do they live in the house or in an outbuilding with many other dogs? Ask for heath certifications. If you feel any hesitation, walk away.

The only way to end cruelty is to stop buying from cruel breeders. And the worst thing that can happen to a family is to unwittingly buy a sick dog and then be faced with huge vet bills for the new puppy.  Most shelters and rescues make sure their dogs are healthy, neutered and up to date on vaccines before they are put up for adoption. So once again, rescue has many benefits.

Our local shelters are full of great dogs. So before you buy, stop in and visit. You’ll be happy you did!



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