So, you've made the decision to bring a dog into the family! Congratulations! This is a very exciting time, committing to having a companion that's going to love you and look up to you throughout their life. It can also be a bit daunting - where do you start the search for your perfect puppy?
You can get a dog or a puppy from breeders or shelters and there is no way anyone can claim that one is better than the other. You will need to decide what is right for you, taking into consideration the type of dog you want, the age and location. And, having a look at the pros and cons of going down each route, which is what we're here to help with!
Buying from a breeder has been the default for getting a puppy, and finding a good, responsible breeder is the key here.
You know what you are getting. If you buy from a responsible breeder, you will be able to see your puppy's parents and siblings and that will give you an idea of how the pup is going to turn out. You will, more or less, know what to expect from the dog you're choosing.
You can train your puppy as it grows. Because responsible breeders sell their puppies as soon as it is safe to do so, the pups are still learning and taking everything in, and haven't formed a solid personality yet. When you take them home with you straight from the mother, you will become the one they look to, and to learn new things from and their character will be formed from that.
The puppy will already be social. If you get a puppy from a responsible breeder, the puppy and its siblings are often house-trained. And, they will have had enough time and space to grow and play together, showing they are capable of forming bonds and being socially aware.
Good breeders will have solid litters. Now, if you are looking to buy from a breeder you know to be knowledgeable about breeding then the litter they have should have few issues. Good breeders are able to ensure their litters have as little issues as possible, which means these pup are less likely to have health or behaviour issues later in life.
Beware of dodgy breeders. This is highly important as there are a lot of breeders out there who aren't reputable, responsible or have any idea about breeding genetics. Breeders like these contribute to the overpopulation problem, as some don't realize the cost of keeping the litter healthy after the birth and want to get rid of the puppies as soon as possible, even if it means abandoning the pups. If they keep the litter, they may look after them poorly and not to the proper breeding standards, so you are risking getting an unhealthy pup as well as encouraging bad breeding.
You are responsible for training. Although puppies from breeders are probably going to be house-trained, they are going to need a lot of work with all the other training. It is a lot of work looking after a puppy straight from the litter.
Will be expensive. A dog from a good breeder will cost quite a bit. This is to cover the breeder's costs for after birth care and for profit, which is understandable when you are buying a pup from a healthy, well looked after litter, but it will be a lot more expensive than getting a pup from a shelter.
You'll be responsible for puppy vet visits. As the puppy will be coming straight from the litter, it will be up to you to take the puppy straight to the local vets for vaccinations, top-ups and checks, and even to arrange de-sexing your pup.
If you are leaning more towards getting a puppy from a breeder, please look into them in detail, and try not to go online and go through dodgy proceedings. For example, please don't buy a puppy from Trade Me or local facebook selling groups. Responsible breeding is vital to stop the overpopulation of canines, and to reduce the number of dogs that end up at shelters in the first place. We hate seeing dog suffering and being put down as a result of accidental or improper breeding.
Top tips for finding a responsible breeder:
Check the New Zealand Kennel Club website. NZKC registered breeders must follow certain strict standards which ensure the best interests of the mum and her pups. They will be required to do all the relevant health checks and tests on the parents before breeding. If you're looking for a mixed breed, such as a Labradoodle, these won't be listed on the NZKC site and you will need to make sure you ask the breeder the right questions regarding health checks etc. Be very wary of anybody using phrases in their ads like 'purebred Labradoodles' - of course, there is no such thing. Don't just go for 'cute'. Often irresponsible breeders rely on the cute factor of 'designer dogs' to make money. Don't allow them to.
Visit the litter. When you visit the litter, the pups should be with their mother. If you cannot see the mother when you visit, this is a huge red flag. The father being present may also be a red flag and a sign of in-breeding - most responsible breeder will use a stud from another breeder to ensure this does not happen.
Do not buy a puppy if you're unable to visit the litter. It is common in our area for people to buy online and have the puppy flown down without ever having met it. "But we were sent photos" is something we hear all too often. It's easy to go online and find a photo of a puppy in a matter of seconds, and it means nothing. Make the journey yourself before making a decision.
Make a note of the conditions the litter are living in. If they're outside in a pen, your puppy is not likely to come to you house trained. Most responsible breeders will house their litters inside where they can keep a proper eye on them, and where they can become used to the day-to-day of household life.
Watch out for puppy mills/puppy farms. This is where a female dog is bred year after year until she can no longer. It's exploitative and cruel, and buying from these people perpetuates the problem. This can be your neighbourhood 'backyard breeder' or an even larger operation.
Do not buy from pet stores. We get it - it can be hard to resist those cute faces while you're shopping, but buying a puppy from a pet store is not responsible. They've been taken away from their litter and placed in a situation which is so unlike anything they'll experience again in life. This means they will not get the correct social development they need with their new family.
Trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right, there's a good chance it isn't. Keep looking. Choosing your puppy is an important decision and not one that should be made lightly!
Let's start with saying that shelter dogs can be great, they can be as loving, caring, beautiful and healthy as a dog from a breeder.
You'll be saving a life. So many dumped puppies and adult dog really need a home and you will be giving a pup a good life with a loving family.
Your puppy/dog will most likely be spayed or neutered. In most shelters, they arrange for their puppies to be de-sexed because of the nature of the environment, but also to prevent further unwanted breeding and abandoned pups. That's one vet cost you won't have to worry about, and if you get lucky, the shelter may sort out the puppies' first lot of vaccinations too (this would depend on the shelter, and the age of the puppy).
Not as expensive as breeders. You would only have to pay the shelter's adoption fees that enables them to continue saving these pups' lives. The rest of the expenses are ones that come with owning a puppy, whether you adopt or buy from a breeder.
Can be matched to a puppy. As puppies from shelter can be a little older when you adopt them, the staff may be able to advise you on their personalities and match you to one that would suit your family best.
You can still get a purebred. Not all shelter pups are cross-breeds, and even then, there's nothing really wrong with that. It is untrue that shelter pups and dogs are all mutts and have behavioural issues. But, if you're after a certain breed, there is still a chance of finding a pedigree in a shelter.
Pup might be a bit nervous. It's possible that puppies at a shelter have gone through a traumatic experience and are consequently sensitive or stressed. An adopted pup could require a little more patience whilst they take their time settling in, and getting over their first horrible few days/weeks of their life.
You might not know the exact breed of your dog. As mentioned in the "Pros'' it is possible to get a purebred puppy from a shelter, but a lot of litters end up at shelters because of accidental breeding and irresponsible breeders which means more cross-breeds than purebreds. And since a dog can be of a line of multiple different breeds, you might get one and it isn't obvious which breed it is.
Rescue dogs can be hard work. You might never really know what they've been through previously, which can make training difficult. You should make sure you have the time and money to invest in training - it can be a long road but it's so rewarding.
Consider your situation carefully. The last thing we want for a rescue dog is for it to end up at a shelter because it's adopter didn't think it through properly. Imagine being dumped not once, but twice? If you have babies or young children, think carefully. Your rescue dog might not be used to be around small people, which means risk all round. It's not fair to put a dog in a situation where they might not feel comfortable and to put it at risk of euthanasia. We recommend waiting until children are at an age where they can understand when to give a dog space before you consider adopting.
For more information on adopting puppies (or older dogs), you can follow these links: