Pet Corner: A new dog for the new year? Choose wisely!

So — you have decided you are ready to get a new dog, but how do you make sure you get a healthy one? First, you need to decide whether you want a specific breed; a puppy or an adult, a young adult or a senior dog; a rescue or one from a breeder.

Even if you want a purebred, if you simply want it for pet/companion purposes, you can still do a rescue. Most purebred clubs have numerous rescues for their breed. To find these breed rescues, go to the American Kennel Club website, at, and click on the individual breed to get to their “parent club” website. There you can navigate through to find their breed rescue sites. Most of them will have pictures and descriptions of the dogs they currently have for adoption.

You can also read about the specific breed characteristics to make sure this truly is the breed for you. You can even download their adoption forms to find out if your family is an appropriate match for their suggested or required qualifications for adoption.

Another way to rescue purebreds is to contact an AKC breeder to find out if they have any retired or “take-back” dogs currently. A “take-back” dog is one that a breeder has taken back from a previous sale.

Responsible breeders have as part of their contract that they will always take back one of their puppies/dogs that was previously placed into another home. They never want one of their puppies to ever, ever go into a rescue, shelter or pound, etc. So, once they take these dogs/puppies back, they will often look to rehome them.

If you want a purebred puppy, the best place to look is also on the breed parent club websites. They will often have puppies available from members of their clubs listed on their websites. They will also take your information and pass it on to some of the breeders who may have upcoming litters.

Some local all-breed clubs will also have breeder referral groups. The Mispillion Kennel Club in Milford has one of these breeder referral services. If you go to, you can click on “breeder referral” and find several phone numbers to use to get into contact. You can also find a copy of their weekly ad in The Guide, which lists the phone numbers.

Once you decide on the breed you want and contact a breeder, make sure they are a good breeder. Even AKC breeders are not always good and responsible breeders. You want to first make sure they do all of the general health clearances recommended by their breed club on both of the parents. You want to make sure they have a puppy contract.

You also want to ask if they have any health guarantees on their puppies. Most breeders do not, but some will. (This alone will not make or break a deal, though.) You want to ask if you can talk to some of their previous puppy owners. Many will not give you those people’s phone numbers but will contact them personally and have them contact you.

You want to make sure they have a take-back policy. You also want the breeder to “interview” you. They should be asking you even more questions about you, your family, your household environment, etc., than you are asking them about their puppies/dogs. You want to feel like you have been interrogated.

The reasons the breeder does this is to make sure you understand the responsibility of owning this specific breed of dog. They want to make sure you are a good home for one of their puppies. They want to know you are prepared for this breed of dog, so that you will be less likely to be sending it back to them.

They also want to pair the right individual puppy with your family. Each puppy has its own individual personality and traits. Some are more active, while others are calmer. Some are more dominant, while others are more submissive. Matching the right puppy to the right person takes an experienced person. Getting the right breed but the wrong puppy can make for a very unhappy owner.

One of the most important things to never do is to buy from a store or anywhere where you cannot talk to the individual breeder. Also, if they are willing to sell to just anyone that has the right dollar figure, do not buy from them. If they are not interrogating you, they are just in it for the money, not for the betterment of the breed.

If they are not doing health clearances, they do not really care about the producing healthy puppies. There are numerous genetic issues in each breed, and responsible breeders want to try their best to make sure they are not increasing these health issues. They want to try to reduce or eliminate these health issues for their breed. Performing health clearances on the parents does not guarantee that these puppies will not have genetic health issues, but it does help to reduce the likelihood.

So, there is a lot involved in locating the right dog for the right person/family. It is not a job to be taken lightly or on an impulse. It could take weeks or even months to find that right match. And it is important to make sure you are matched with just the right puppy for your lifestyle. Getting the wrong dog could prove to be disastrous.

So, make sure to do some research, even if you are doing a rescue from a shelter. You want to make sure it is the right breed or mixed-breed for you, and you want to make sure that it is the correct individual puppy/dog for you.

Shelters do not always ask all of the important questions to correctly match you up, so you will need to do more of the research and questioning needed to find that right match. If you do not know all of the questions to ask, find a dog trainer, breeder or other dog knowledgeable person that will help you with that search.

So, take your time. Don’t act on impulse. Ask lots of questions. And, most of all, remember to never buy from anyplace that is selling multiple breeds, mixed-breeds or so called “designer” breeds of dogs/puppies. Designer breeds are nothing more than mixed breeds of dogs.

Places that are selling multiple breeds of dogs are nothing more than puppy mills. They may be cleaner or nicer than the puppy mills you see reported on TV, but they are puppy mills, and if people continue to buy from them, they will continue to produce puppies. It is a supply-and-demand thing. If the demand ceases, the supply will no longer be needed, and they will eventually cease to operate.

Cheryl Loveland is a dog groomer, pet-sitter, dog trainer and fosterer for many unwanted animals. She does rescue work for all types of animals and has owned or fostered most types of domestic animals and many wild ones. She currently resides with her bloodhound, which she has shown in conformation and is currently training for search-and-rescue work. Also residing with her are a bichon frisée, two cats and two birds. She welcomes comments, questions and suggestions for future articles at Remember, she is not an expert: she offers her opinions and suggestions from her experience and research.