I adopted Ralph last year through a rescue organization, and while it should have been a simple process, it wasn’t. I had several adoptions fall through and the timing was off. I was certain I wanted a pug, but with stringent adoption policies and no car during a Chicago winter, it was a bit of a struggle to get the right dog, but when I did, it was worth it! I actually volunteered with a rescue who need a foster home for Mr. Ralphiekins and after two months I knew he was truly home!
- Decide what you want in a dog. Are you going for looks, where a mutt/mix would do just fine, or do you want more measurable traits that are typically found in a purebred? Are you fine with the “luck of the draw” or do you want a cute puppy you can get from a breeder that has predictability?
- Decide if you really want a puppy. Many dogs are given up for adoption or resold while they are still really young. Adopting a dog over a year old might be a better bet if want a companion but not the energy and destructive tendencies of a pup.
- Decide why you really want a dog. Do you want a show dog? Do you just want someone to take to the park? Do you want a mellow mutt that will just hang out while you work on the computer? Do you want a dog that’s great for jogging? Do your research beyond just looks and see what kinds of personality you’d like. Go beyond looks- a Pug and a Boston Terrier are both similarly adorable, but Boston’s are notorious for being high energy. Know the traits before you decide.
Knowing these questions will help you decide if you want to buy from a breeder or shelter adopt. Even if you’re adopting, you CAN find purebreds at a shelter- it just takes more patience.
What to know about breeders:
- Know Where to Look. You can look on Ebay Classifieds, do a quick net search or go to a pet store. But buyer beware! Just because a person has a litter of puppies doesn’t mean they are REAL breeders! Nor does it ensure they are healthy dogs, or they are “worth” the sometimes exorbitant prices faux-“breeders” charge. I spoke to a man in the city who was breeding pugs to pay his tuition…ya, that sounds legit.
- Decide what you want the dog for, and how much you’re willing to pay. Unless you’re breeding or showing, you don’t HAVE to pay hundreds or thousands for a dog. For the average person who wants an animal companion, you can find a dog that is healthy, bred ethically and is affordable.
- Your puppy will have more expenses on top of the purchase price. Veterinary care may/may not be included in the purhcase price. Tack on at least $300-400 to the price of your puppy for vet care, training, supplies and carpet spray.
- Decide if you have the time (and patience) for a puppy. Breeders may or may not have trained or socialized the puppy. The younger they are, the more time you’ll need with them. If you get grossed out by poo or pissed off by pee on the carpet, you CANNOT handle a puppy. Know there will be accidents, be prepared with lots of paper towels.
What to know about shelters:
Shelters are amazing! Even if you want a purebred, (or an adorable mixed breed) you can find whatever you’re looking for. Here are some of the perks:
- You can find puppies at shelters. Many people give up young puppies because they can’t afford it or didn’t anticipate the time and cost of a young dog and weren’t well informed by the person who sold it to them.
- You can save a LOT of money on a dog if you go the shelter route. All rescue dogs will already have had their shots, been fixed and
- You can save a LOT of time if you go the shelter route. Many dogs at shelters have had at least some basic training and socialization depending on their age. You can avoid some behavioral problems if the dogs are already well acquainted with people and other dogs, and potty training can sometimes be just a matter of “fine tuning” instead of starting from scratch.
- You can feel darn good about adopting a shelter dog. These volunteers aren’t in it for the money and fame- they just want to help and aren’t going to charge you a boatload to do so.
Searching for a specific breed to adopt?
- Google local rescues for your breed or do a search on Petfinder.com.
- When you find a dog, put the application in IMMEDIATELY. Certain dogs go FAST. Most shelters choose homes on a first-come-first-served basis, not necessarily your love or familiarity with the breed, or the offer of “bribe money.”
- Each shelter is going to be different in the application process and what it charges. Depending on the breed, age of the dog and any special medical attention it has needed could affect the price. You can get an older dog (fully vetted and past that annoying chew-on-everything puppy phase) for $50-150, on up to $350-600. A french bulldog rescue in my area charges $350-600 for their dogs, but you might find a similar frenchie on petfinder.com for $250!
- Diligence will pay off. If you don’t end up with the first dog you apply for, keep trying! You will find the right one, and I hope I do!