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How To Find A Puppy

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After thinking long and hard you’ve finally decided to take the plunge and get a puppy, but now you’re wondering how to find a puppy that is perfect for you.  I started the very same journey over 7 years ago an during that time I have had the opportunity to bring home many different puppies and today I’d like to go over how I’d proceed if I had to find a puppy for me.

If you’ve been following the blog for a while then you probably already know a little bit about my background.  My first dog, Linus was rescued from the Carson Animal Shelter as a puppy.  After Linus I volunteered at a local animal rescue and fostered over a dozen puppies of various breeds.  Finally, after fostering for over a year I began raising guide dog puppies for Guide Dogs of America and I’m currently raising my fourth puppy, Apache – a Golden Retriever.

So those are my credentials as of today and after much experience in the puppy world here’s what I would do and consider when confronted with the question “How To Find A Puppy

How To Find A Puppy

Australian Shepherd Mix Puppy - Linus
Yep, that’s our first puppy, Linus

The journey started for me over 7 years ago.  I had always wanted a puppy of my own, but I never really felt like I had the time to take care of one.  That all changed on my 32nd birthday.  That was the day that my girlfriend stopped by the house and took me to several local dog breeders and told me that she wanted to get me a puppy for my birthday.  I didn’t actually find a puppy that day, but it put  the idea in my head and made me actually think long and hard about the process of finding and taking care of a puppy.   After much reading, research, and thought, approximately 1 month later I was able to find me a puppy through PetFinder.com, an Australian Shepherd mix we named Linus.

The story doesn’t just end there.  As I mentioned I’ve gone through the process of raising a puppy many times over since I brought home Linus.  I’d like to share with you the different ways I’ve learned you can go about finding a puppy that is perfect for you.

Adopt A Puppy

This is what I did with my first puppy Linus.  At the time I was contemplating buying a puppy from a local breeder, but for some reason it didn’t sit right with me and I felt like I should adopt a puppy instead.  If you live in the United States probably the best way to find a puppy for adoption is to check out the Petfinder.com website.  Petfinder.com has a great search engine with many filters that makes it easy to find a puppy near you.  Many animal rescues and animal shelters list their available puppies on Petfinder.com with pictures and detailed information about the puppies.  In fact, I found Linus through the Petfinder.com search engine.

I found Linus at one of our local animal shelters.  However, if I were to adopt a puppy tomorrow I believe I would try and go through a local rescue versus a shelter.  What’s the difference and why would you go to a rescue versus a shelter?

Shelters are typically buildings that contain multiple kennels or dog runs as well as catteries that can house many unhomed animals at a time. Some municipalities operate their own shelters but many shelters operate as 501c3 non-profit organizations and are subsidized by contracts with local municipalities. These contracts provide for incoming animals picked up by local municipal animal control officers to be housed and managed by the shelter. Shelters typically offer pet lost and found services, adoption services, low cost veterinary care services, and animal surrender intake services for the communities in which they are located.

  • Animal Rescue – animal rescues take on the expenses and receive most of their funding through charitable donations.  A good example of an animal rescue is the Cuddly Canines Rescue I volunteered with a few years back  Here’s a good definition from the Recycled Dog:

Rescue groups were created by necessity with the intention of pulling animals targeted for euthanization from shelters in order to give them substantially more time to find a new home. Rescue groups typically operate as 501c3 non-profit organizations staffed primarily by volunteers.

Now to answer the question of why animal rescue versus shelter?  This is merely personal choice.  I rescued Linus from the Carson Animal Shelter and rescued several puppies from Riverside Animal County Services as a volunteer foster.  I then adopted out those puppies to loving families.  After those experiences here’s what I found:

  • Rescuing from an animal shelter is much cheaper…initially…it cost me $37 to rescue Linus from the Carson Animal Shelter.  However, he was infested with fleas, worms, and mites.  He was anemic.  He had a stomach infection.  The total for his first vet bill was well over $300.  As well as a follow up vet bill hovering around $200.  Finally to get him neutered was another $300.  Finally there were follow up vaccinations that probably ran somewhere in the neighborhood of $100 The total first months cost were close to $1,000!
  • Rescuing from an animal rescue can be cheaper even though the initial expense is higher.  At Cuddly Canines I had to keep each puppy for at least 14 days to screen them for health issues.  I gave all the pups in my care flea and worm medication and checked for mites.  I started them on their vaccination series and had them spayed/neutered before they went home with their new families.  The initial adoption fee from the Cuddly Canines Rescue was $300.   After adoption you have to complete the vaccination series which might cost an additional $100.  All in all the total first months cost should be under $500 from a rescue.

After experiencing both Rescues and Shelters I’ve found that the rescue with an initial adoption fee of around $300 can still be less expensive then going with an animal shelter’s $37 adoption fee in the long run.  The other advantage is that you do not have to deal with the gross parasites like fleas, ticks, mites, and worms.  And if the rescue is similar to Cuddly Canines then any other diseases have been identified during the 14 day period in foster care.   Believe me when I tell you these are huge advantages after going through all the early medical issues with Linus.

So if I were to adopt a puppy today I would try and find a nice animal rescue and work with them to find a puppy.  Make sure you do your research and find a good reputable Animal Rescue like Cuddly Canines before adopting a puppy.

Foster A Puppy

As I mentioned before I was a guide dog puppy raiser I fostered puppies for a local animal rescue called Cuddly Canines.  If you ever have a chance I highly recommend fostering for a local animal rescue.

Now you might be wondering, but why is fostering a puppy listed in this article about “how to find a puppy“?

Simple, fostering a puppy is a great way to find a puppy.  As volunteers at the local animal rescue I fostered dozens of puppies.  As a foster I got to see all the different personalities.  This would have been a perfect chance to match the perfect puppy personality with my lifestyle if I so chose.  In the end I never adopted any of the puppies I fostered, but as I mentioned it is a perfect opportunity to test drive a puppy without committing to keeping him for his lifetime.

German Shepherd Labrador Retriever Mix - Blondie
One of Our Adorable Foster Puppies, Blondie!

Raise A Puppy

I’m currently a guide dog puppy raiser for the organization Guide Dogs of America.  Raising a guide dog puppy is a huge commitment.  As a puppy raiser I receive a puppy from the guide dog  school when the pup is 7 weeks of age.  I then raise, train, and socialize the puppy until he is 18 months of age.  At that time I return him to the school where he starts formal training for 6 months.  Finally at around 2 1/2 years of age he is matched with a visually impaired person and together they become a guide dog team.

That’s how it works when everything is perfect.  However, everything is not always perfect.  My first guide dog puppy in training, Stetson went all the way through the first 2 months of formal training and then he was dropped from the program when he was just under 2 years of age.  Once a puppy is dropped from the program he is considered a career changed puppy and the original puppy raiser is given the first option to adopt him.  In Stetson’s case I adopted him after he was career changed.  If the puppy raiser does not adopt the puppy then he enters the guide dog adoption program.  There is currently a 6 year wait list for these puppies and our school is not currently accepting new applications.

If I were to consider adopting another puppy I would probably just adopt one of my career changed guide dog puppies like I did with Stetson.  After all, I already took him through all the training and socialization.

Puppy raising is something your may never consider when you’re trying to find a puppy.  However, long ago I decided puppy raising was something I wanted to do to give back to the community and it resulted in me finding a wonderful black Labrador Retriever puppy named Stetson!

Black Labrador Retriever Puppy - Stetson
My first guide dog puppy, Stetson!

Buy A Puppy

Way back in the early days, when I first started looking for a puppy I considered buying a puppy from a local breeder (I never considered buying a puppy from the pet store mainly because of all the horror stories I had heard about pet stores and puppy mills).  However, I soon decided it was a much better idea to rescue a puppy from my local animal shelter.  However, this is not for everyone and some may still want to purchase a puppy from a breeder.  By the way, there are breed specific rescues that often times have puppies so please check for a breed specific rescue in you’re area at Petfinder.com.

If you do decide to buy a puppy from a breeder make sure you find a reputable dog breeder.  While I am not very experienced in this area I did receive some pointers when I was trying to find my first puppy.

  • As I mentioned check for breed specific rescues at Petfinder.com and see if they have any puppies available.
  • Ask your veterinarian if he can recommend a good breeder.
  • Ask your local dog trainer if he can recommend a good breeder.
  • Email the American Kennel Club and ask for the parent club of the breed your interested in.  Ask that club about good breeders in your area.
  • Talk to friends and family and see if they have any information.
  • If your in Southern California try visiting the Orange County Pet Expo and talk to the different breed specific exhibitors at the show.
  • Attend a dog show and talk to some of the dog breeders.

Of course once you find a few breeders that you think are reputable your job is not done.  You now have to evaluate all of these dog breeders with questions, observations, document inspections, and more.  However, I’m going to save dog breeder evaluation for another post.

Wow!  That was kind of a long post!  I guess in 7 years time I gathered quite a bit of information on how to find a puppy.  Hopefully this helps you out a little bit when the time comes for you to find a puppy.

So how about you?  What did you do the first time you tried to find a puppy?  Did you adopt a puppy, foster a puppy, raise a puppy, buy a puppy, all of the above, or none of the above?  I’d love to hear what you did when it came time to find the perfect puppy.  Tell us about it in the comment section below.

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  1. @jan, I’ve been raising guide dog puppies for the past 5 years and I usually pickup the pups at around 7-8 weeks of age. However, my latest puppy in training was re-homed because he got to big for his original puppy raiser. Apache is a large Golden Retriever and he was 11 months when I brought him home. Although I like the 7 week old puppies it sure was nice to skip all of those early stages of puppyhood. Apache is already crate trained so no crying in the crate at 2am. He’s already been through several dog obedience training classes and is very good with his obedience. I could get used to raising these older puppies!

  2. All of my current dogs were dogs that needed to be re-homed for one reason or other when they were 2-4 years old. I don’t think i have the patience anymore for a puppy so I just enjoy the pups I read about in blogs online.

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