How to Buy a Healthy Dog

A dog is a man's best friend. Unfortunately, some breeders and pet stores treat their dogs like their worst enemies. Some dogs are raised in inhumane breeding facilities known as puppy mills, where they are denied the care and attention they need to survive and thrive. Dogs raised in these puppy mills are predisposed to health and behavioral problems. If you buy a puppy mill dog, you might have to watch your new puppy suffer from a genetic health problem. Surgery and medicine for your puppy could cost thousands - if the problem is curable at all. Save yourself the financial and emotional hardship and buy a healthy dog.

Never buy a new dog on a whim. Owning a dog is a huge responsibility; make sure you can give a dog the time and attention he needs. Consider matching a dog's needs to your lifestyle. You might like the idea of owning a long-haired show dog, but do you have the time and money to dedicate to your dog's grooming regimen? Is your small apartment large enough for a huge Newfoundland? Can a little Yorkie keep up with you on your fast morning runs? Talk to a breeder before settling on a type of breed. To find a breeder, visit a local dog show or contact your local Kennel Club.

Pet stores, breeding facilities, and local kennels all sell dogs - but not all should. Reputable breeders rarely advertise on the Internet or in the newspaper. If you find a breeder online, be wary of any claims he makes regarding the health of his pets. One of the best ways to find a respected breeder is through word-of-mouth - ask trusted friends and family for recommendations. Once you have a list of breeders, arrange a visit to tour the facilities. If the breeder provides a clean home for her dogs, she should have no objections to your wandering around. Puppies should live inside the home as part of the family; dogs should never be kept in confining cages. The dogs should have easy access to fresh water, and premium dog food should fill the bowls at mealtime. At the end of your tour, ask for the facility's references. Follow up with the other owners and find out if their dogs have any illnesses or behavioral problems.

Spend some time playing with your potential new pet. A dog that acts shy or fearful may have behavioral problems that could prove costly to fix. Oftentimes, this type of behavior stems from neglect, a possible clue that the dog comes from a puppy mill. If the puppy seems too tired to play, he could have underlying health problems. You can also ask to see the parents of the puppy. If you detect a health issue with one of the parents, be aware that the problem may be genetic.

If the facility questions your love of dogs, don't be offended - take this as a good sign. Responsible breeders want to send their dogs to loving homes. If a breeder shows no interest in the size of your home or the temperament of your children, consider it a warning sign.

Make sure the facility offers you all of the dog's necessary health information, including the vaccination history and veterinarian records. If you are buying a purebred dog, the seller should hand over the certificate of registration confirming the purebred status. These papers, however, do not guarantee a dog's health; you will still need to bring your new dog to the veterinarian for a complete checkup.

A breeder should offer a written guarantee of your new pet's health. If your dog develops a health condition after a set number of days, the breeder will offer compensation for veterinary bills. If the breeder offers a return policy, ask about time limits. Before leaving the facility, make sure the sales receipt includes the following information: final price, date of purchase, your name and the name of the seller, and a description of the dog. Keep the receipt in a safe place in case your new dog gets sick.

If all dog owners followed the above advice, puppy mills would cease to exist. Another way to shut down these inhumane breeding facilities is to rethink buying a puppy altogether - consider adoption. Breed-specific rescue groups and animal shelters have hundreds of dogs just waiting for a new home. According to the Humane Society of the United States, one out of every four shelter dogs is a purebred. The other three dogs are happy and healthy mixed-breeds. Whether you adopt or buy, do your research to make sure you are bringing home a healthy puppy. You want your new best friend to live a long life.

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