Picking The Perfect Pup: Where Do You Look?

Where To Get Your Dog

Local Dog Shelters

Shelter dogs have been surrendered for all sorts of reasons. Lately, there are many dogs given up when a family member has been unemployed long-term and could no longer afford to keep the dog. Some are strays. Others were given up because someone was allergic. Still others have tales of abuse. But they have one thing in common: they all want to be good dogs. Your local shelter is a great place to start your search for the perfect pup.

Local Rescue Groups

Rescue groups come in two types: breed-specific and all-breeds. These groups are generally non-profit and volunteer-run and very passionate about finding forever homes for their dogs. Where do they get dogs? Most often, a rescue group pulls dogs from high-kill shelters when their time runs out. Some of these dogs are local and others are transported from shelters in areas where there are more dogs than adopters. Rescue groups usually place a dog in a foster home and can get a pretty good picture of a dog’s personality before it is adopted. Local rescues usually have their own websites, but nearly all of them list their dogs on Petfinder.com.

What breeds are best for you? Check out our Breed Tendencies page.


Buying a dog from a breeder doesn’t guarantee good health or temperament.  Reputable breeders will test their dogs to minimize the chance of genetic defects in their puppies, but there’s no guarantee of perfect health.

Signs of a good breeder:

  • Specialize in one or maybe two breeds
  • Does tests to ensure breeding dogs do not have genetic defects
  • Has very few litters a year (often has a waiting list for puppies)
  • Invites you to tour their facility and meet the puppies and mom dog
  • Will interview you at length before selling you a puppy
  • Will not let puppies go home before 8 weeks of age (sometimes 10 or 12!)

Click here for more on how to distinguish a real breeder from a puppy mill.


Classified Ad / Craigslist

You may run into a cute face and a “free to good owner” or “small adoption fee” listing.  Buyer beware. The vast majority of these postings (especially for young dogs) are puppy mills, backyard breeders, or scammers. While you may find a super adult dog this way, remember you’re depending on the previous owner’s honesty.  Ask to see the dog’s vet records and if you can, bring the dog for a check-up at your vet before you commit.

Pet Store

No, no, no. That puppy in the window is cute and you want to take him home. But that puppy’s mother lives in a puppy mill. She’ll never get snuggles or walks or play fetch. She’ll only interact with other dogs when it’s time to get pregnant again. When she’s outlived her ability to pop out puppies, if she’s lucky, she’ll be dumped at a shelter. If she’s lucky. It’s sad, but true. The only way we can stop puppy mills from operating is to stop shopping at stores that sell puppies.

Next Up…

You’re meeting a dog… how does that work? What do you look for? Click here to continue.