Where & How to Find Your Dream Dog

The trick to finding the right dog is to shop around and keep specific goals in mind. This is no easy task, since most dogs are adorable and difficult to resist. However, controlling the impulse to take home the first charming bundle of fur that captures your heart may save you much heartache later. Holding out for just the right dog is never a mistake—even when it seems that you may have passed up a good opportunity, another good opportunity always awaits!

The following are some great sources from which to find your dream dog:

Animal Shelters

The animal shelter is one source of dogs often overlooked by those seeking a specific breed. Many people do not realize that up to 25 percent of the dogs taken into shelters are purebreds, the majority of which are adults. The greatest fear people have about adopting a shelter dog is inheriting someone else's problem dog. However, the truth is that dogs are surrendered to shelters for many different reasons. Sometimes the owner can no longer keep the dog due to circumstances beyond her control; sometimes an owner dies; and sometimes an owner simply realizes that she has chosen the wrong dog for her lifestyle. Shelters also take in stray and abused animals who are there through no fault of their own.

At the same time, some dogs in shelters have serious behavior problems and require a special kind of pet parent or prevent them from being adopted altogether. Being homeless should not automatically disqualify a dog!

Getting a dog from a shelter has a number of advantages, the most obvious of which is the cost. Adoption fees are generally less than the price of a dog from any other source. Most shelters will have adult dogs altered and up to date on vaccinations before releasing them to a new home, thus eliminating many health care costs. Shelter dogs are often temperament-tested to facilitate their placement in the right homes, and this can be used to your advantage to get a dog with the right personality for you. Animal shelters also provide services and support in the form of free advice, reduced-fee obedience classes, and informative seminars to help new dog owners get off to a good start.

Breed Rescues

Like animal shelters, breed rescues take in unwanted, abused, and stray dogs. Because they specialize in a particular breed, they are an excellent source for those looking for a purebred dog. You can locate breed rescue organizations by contacting breed registries, such as the American Kennel Club (AKC), the national breed club, local animal shelters, or just by searching online.

These dogs, like shelter dogs, may have pre-existing health or behavior issues, but many are perfectly healthy, good dogs who simply lack a home. Breed rescues usually do thorough evaluations on their dogs and can advise you if a particular dog is a good match for your needs, wants, and lifestyle.

Adoption fees and contracts for breed rescues are similar to that of animal shelters. Although some breed rescues maintain kennels and operations similar to shelters, others are smaller, more loosely organized groups that provide foster homes for the dogs until they find their permanent home.


Breeders are another resource for a puppy or adult dog. In addition to the puppies they raise, reputable breeders often assist in rehoming an adult dog when the owner can no longer keep him.

Many people who show dogs also breed them, so dog shows are a good place to meet responsible breeders and see some of their dogs. National and local breed clubs can provide information on breeders in your area, and you can also check with veterinarians or search online to locate them.

Show- and Pet-Quality Dogs

If you are interested in showing and breeding your dog, a breeder is the only source you should consider. If you are new to the sport, seek advice and guidance from those more experienced, especially when choosing a show-quality puppy.

If you simply want a dog for companionship, breeders can be a good source of pet-quality dogs, too. Almost every litter of puppies includes a few individuals who do not meet the criteria of a show prospect—that is, some physical trait exists that deviates slightly from the breed standard. This trait may be as minor as eyes that are a bit too round or a coat color that has too much shading variation. These traits may make a dog ineligible to participate in dog shows, but they do not affect his health or his potential to be a wonderful pet.

Is My Breeder Reputable?

A breeder can be an excellent source of quality dogs, but it's important to know how to distinguish between those who are reputable and those who are not.

  • A reputable breeder concerns herself with producing the best possible pups of a breed . This involves selective breeding for the purpose of meeting the standards of a breed, attempting to produce the best temperaments possible, and breeding dogs who are free of inheritable health conditions.
  • Serious breeders will not breed dogs known to have genetic defects . They may have tests performed regularly on their dogs, and if they have done this, they should provide documentation to prospective buyers. They may also require buyers to notify them if any of the puppies develop hereditary problems so that they can attempt to eliminate the problem from their breeding lines.
  • Conscientious breeders understand the importance of early socialization for puppies and will not sell puppies younger than eight weeks old . Removing a puppy from his mother and littermates prior to this time deprives him of the opportunity to learn valuable social skills, which can cause behavioral or emotional problems later. At eight weeks old, the puppies should have already received at least one set of vaccinations and a deworming treatment. Documentation of vaccinations should be available and should include type, manufacturer, serial number, and inoculation dates. Selling puppies younger than eight weeks old or puppies lacking age-appropriate vaccinations is a red flag.
  • Breeders who care about the health of their puppies provide a clean, safe environment in which the puppies can thrive . Puppies who are dirty, smelly, or kept in unsanitary conditions aren't being treated properly and are prone to health problems. Avoid breeders who are not meticulous about their puppies' living conditions.

If you have determined that your prospective breeder is reputable, ask to see the parent dogs if they are available. This will give you an indication of the physical characteristics and temperament the puppies will inherit. Remember, puppies do not remain puppies very long, so it's nice to know what to expect as they get older.

Internet Sources

Technology has provided new options when finding the right dog, including the ability to locate and purchase them online. Breeders may offer the opportunity to purchase dogs online and deliver them or ship them directly to you. This method of selling and delivering dogs has its own advantages and disadvantages.

It has never been easier to locate the exact type of dog you're looking for. Regardless of your preferences, you can find precisely what you want anywhere in the country—or the world! Doing business online can be easy and efficient, and it provides more options than may be available locally. Nevertheless, some disadvantages must be considered. Buying a puppy isn't quite as simple as filling out an online order form. Evaluating the puppy or his parents in person is usually not practical or possible. Shipping a dog or puppy long distances can be stressful or traumatic for the animal, especially if he encounters delivery delays. In addition, if any sale contract disputes arise, they usually have to be settled in a court of law located within the breeder's state of residence.

Internet use has some strong points, however. Locating breeders, animal shelters, and breed rescues statewide and within surrounding states can expand the number of dogs you have to choose from. Contacting and communicating with these sources online is easy and inexpensive. For those who are willing to travel and see the dogs in person, there is a greater chance they will be able to locate just the right dog.

Excerpted from The Toy & Miniature Poodle (Terra Nova) © T.F.H. Publications, Inc. Used by Permission


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