Think carefully.  It’s quite a commitment.

Choosing a breed

If you have narrowed it down to a few breeds, research them and find out what types of health or behavior problems could be anticipated.

What type of upkeep is required?  Some breeds are what I call “high-maintenance” and require more grooming and hygiene care than others.   Some breeds require more exercise than others.  And some require intensive socialization/handling/training.

Speak with a number of people about your breed of choice.

Your veterinarian can tell you a lot about the type of health and behavior problems you might find in that breed.  A dog trainer might be a good source to ask.  Pet groomers and boarding kennel operators have some insight on upkeep and behavior issues as well.

Each breed has its own set of positive and negative characteristics.  A breeder’s opinion or a book or website about the breed is quite unlikely to say anything negative about the breed.  They love their breed!  Of course they put a positive spin on their attributes.

Generally, avoid the rare breeds, which have a smaller gene pool and are more likely to have physical or behavioral problems.  Likewise, breeds undergoing a fad surge in popularity, because they are churned out willy-nilly to feed a rapidly growing market.

Choosing a Reputable Seller

We’ve all heard of puppy mills.

In my opinion, the number one way to avoid puppy mills is to purchase an AKC registered dog from an individual who owns the dog’s dam and raised the litter on their own premises.

AKC breeders are held to higher standards than other registries as far as pedigree.  And if they have breeding bitches in quantity, they are subject to periodic inspection of their facilities by the AKC.

Buy directly from the breeder, not from a pet store or middleman.  Check out the breeder/seller.  Ask for references and check them.

Do not buy from a breeder who won’t let you come and tour their facilities.  I often hear of people buying puppies after seeing a picture on the Internet.  The seller offers to meet them at a rest area, a gas station or a restaurant parking lot to deliver the puppy.  This is a huge red flag.  They have something to hide—often dirty and crowded facilities, sick or malnourished animals.

Do not buy from someone who doesn’t have the AKC registration papers in hand.  A responsible breeder has them.  Period.

Beware of buying on the Internet, particularly if the dogs are being shipped from Kansas, Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio. Beware of buying a dog from a local pet store or individual with registration papers originating in “puppy mill states. ”

Many breeders administer their own dewormers and immunizations.  A really great breeder has the puppies examined by a veterinarian to screen for birth defects and illness before selling and can produce papers to prove this.  Most breeders offer guarantee provided you have the puppy examined by your vet within 2 or 3 days of purchase.  A good breeder will stand behind a puppy that develops an illness, especially something the pup was born with (which, by the way, may not show up for months).

Choosing a puppy

Meet the dam and sire.  Are they friendly, outgoing and well-behaved?  Behavior traits are very inheritable.  Avoid puppies with parents who are fearful, suspicious, cowering or growling.  Avoid puppies who hang back and are fearful.

Avoid being dazzled by pedigrees and show records.  Get a puppy because you like it, not because its family members have a list of accomplishments.

Avoid odd colors.  This sounds trivial, but in breeding selectively for rare colors and patterns, sometimes other qualities are lost or other negative health or behavior traits pop up.

Choose a puppy because you like it.  Observe the puppies at play with each other and with people.  Pick a puppy that is somewhat outgoing but maybe not the most dominant of the litter.  If the puppy has a minor flaw or health issue and you really like the puppy, consider it.  Something like a retained testicle or umbilical hernia can easily be addressed by your veterinarian at the time of neuter/spay.


  • Buy AKC puppy
  • See the facility, parents
  • Check references
  • Like the puppy you buy
  • Ask the opinion of vets, trainers


  • Buy from middleman or pet store
  • Buy from Jockey Lot
  • Buy from Someone who doesn’t invite you to see their dogs at their facility
  • Buy non-AKC breed organizations or no AKC papers in hand
  • Buy dogs with papers originating in puppy mill states
  •  Be dazzled by pedigrees
  • Buy from the Internet unless you physically go there and see the puppy


  • Breeds with sudden popularity surge
  • Rare Breeds
  • Rare colors or patterns