When looking for your next dog, you have a few choices. You can contact a breeder, go to the pound or animal shelter, or find a breed-specific dog rescue organization in your area.
Breeders, like all things, come in good and bad varieties. First, you’ll have to pay for your puppy, ranging anywhere from $200-$5000, depending on breed. Second, just because you pay the highest price, it doesn’t mean you will get a good, healthy puppy. Lastly, many breeders have worse return policies than shelters.
The animal shelters are a popular option. Most are dogs who were lost, or in some cases, which in and of itself means that you do not know their history. In some cases, the dogs were given up by their owners, but oftentimes, it was for a reason the owners do not divulge to the shelters. The cost of acquiring a dog from a pound is usually very low ($30-$100, depending on municipality), but your chances of finding a purebred dog there is much lower, and finding a puppy is even harder. Most of the time, if shelters have puppies available, it’s because they took in a pregnant stray dog, which means the sire of that litter is probably a different breed from the dam – meaning, you have a mixed breed dog (mutt). The biggest drawback to owning a “mutt” is that there really is no way to predict what type of an adult dog it will turn out to be; even size is hard to predict. The dam may have been medium-sized, but 7 months later, you may find that your young dog is making most Great Danes look puny and need 2 hours of exercise per day. Everything about animal shelter dogs are unknown.
You do, however, get to pick and choose which dog you want, and the shelter will usually let you take that dog home for a nominal fee. That is the main perk and drawback of animal shelters because oftentimes, the family is the least suited of all to make that decision, especially if a 4 year old points and chooses which dog he/she thinks is the perfect dog.
Then there are the dog rescue organizations. As mentioned, dog rescues generally focus on “rescuing” particular breeds but considering many of them are “rescued” from the pounds a day or two prior to euthanasia, the same applies – history of the dog is often unknown. The greatest upside to adopting a dog from a dog rescue is that most are kept in foster homes until more is known about the dog. Good dog rescues will generally focus on that dog to learn as much about him to match the right family up with the dog by using “foster homes” that spend a considerable amount of time getting to know the dog.
Dog rescues, though, will generally not adopt out dogs to just anyone. Many have rigorous processes of getting to know you, your family and the living situation for the dog, so as to avoid having the dog becoming homeless again. There are questionnaires, and upon completing those, you and your family are usually invited to visit the dog at the foster home. When that is completed, the foster home or a volunteer coordinator from the dog rescue will visit your home to make sure it’s suitable for owning a dog. Then, a visit with the dog in tow will happen, to make sure that the dynamics between the dog and your family are just right. If and when all of this is completed and the result is satisfactory will the rescue organization adopt a dog to you.
Puppies are available at dog rescues more often than animal shelters, but keep in mind there is a long list of pre-screened homes waiting for that puppy. It’s best to get on that list early if your mind is set on getting only a puppy. Young or young adult dogs are readily available, though the exact age of the dog is sometimes unknown. Adult dogs are almost always available, and sometimes, mature dogs that need a calm home in which to live out their remaining years are available, and make the best pets. The final decision of which dog is most suited to your life, though, is made by the dog rescue.
Having said all that, the majority of dogs are homeless for two reasons. The first reason is that bad breeders produce awful puppies that naturally turn into awful dogs. As is the case with people, bad genes cannot be helped. The second reason is that owning a dog is not for everyone, and many, many unqualified homes attempt it, and eventually fail. With many breeders not taking back their own puppies or due to being ashamed of having to return the puppy – many homes will dump what may be a perfectly good dog to shelters. This second chance saves the life of the dog, and it’s not surprising that the dog rescue will go to all lengths to ensure that the dog’s next home is his/her last.