What an exciting time. You have decided to adopt a puppy and bring it into your home. That decision made, you now need to find the best shelter or breeder from which to choose your little bundle of fluff. At first glance, this may appear easy but, as you start to see how many are out there, some guidance might be necessary. This is an important decision as you will, be opening your home to this puppy for the duration of its life. Below are some pointers to help you make your selection:

Specific breed or not: First off, decide if you would like a specific breed, or if you are happy with whatever it may be, mixed breed or otherwise.  If your choice is for a specific breed, do you want to rescue or not? The kennel club organization is the best place to go for a pedigree puppy from a reputable breeder. However still do your due diligence as in some countries no checks are done on the breeders. If you decided to rescue, there are many organisations that have been set up for the specific purpose of rescuing individual breeds.  This is not to say that those who rescue dogs in general, do not often have a pedigree dog at their facility but, if you are looking for a wider choice within the breed, a specialist shelter might be your best choice. They will have a vast understanding of the breed’s temperament, requirements, health, etc.

Can you visit the premises: A well run shelter or breeder will be more than happy to allow you to visit their facilities, view the dogs and see how they are housed. If they are not prepared to allow visits, one would wonder why. Sadly, many are run better than others and it’s important to differentiate between possible puppy mills, hoarding environments and a dedicated, well run animal rescue organization or breeder.

Can you meet the puppy: If the shelter or breeder is happy to receive visits, you would, no doubt, be able to meet the dog you are interested in, or view all the animals that they have available for adoption. If they are not happy for you to do so (unless there is a particular good reason) this would constitute a red flag. Even puppies in foster care are normally available for viewing.

Separate areas: For the health and safety of all animals in their care, well run organisations would have defined areas for puppies, nursing mother dogs and adult dogs. This would ensure that any puppies at the facility are kept safe and do not suffer unnecessary trauma before moving to their forever home. An ideal setup is where the litter and mom are raised in a home environment. A good breeder will offer this but you may have to compromise in this getting a puppy from a shelter, however sometimes a litter and mom are fostered out to someone’s home. This is highly recommended.

Enrichment: The really good facilities will try to provide as much physical, mental and personal enrichment as possible. This would include walks, game time and physical love and attention. Obviously this is a challenge in shelters with multiple animals but, with a huge amount of dedication, they do their best to ensure the animals are as well adjusted as can be expected under the circumstances. It also allows them to get to know their individual personalities, needs and energy levels. This assists them in finding the perfect match for you.

Knowledge of their puppies: This leads off the previous point. You want to try and find a shelter or breeder that knows each of the animals at their facility. You want the owners, staff and volunteers to have a genuine love for the animals and this will show in their knowledge of each one. They will have spent time with them, getting to know their personalities, quirks, fears, likes and dislikes. Again, this helps them to match them to the perfect home. By in large, the people running and working in shelters are such dedicated animal lovers that they would instinctively know if a particular one is a good fit for your circumstances, experience and lifestyle. It is something you need to establish with breeders to differentiate between a breeder only breeding for money or a breeder who has the puppies best interest at heart.

Do they want to know about you: These organisations put an immense amount of time, dedication, funding and love into each puppy. As such, they would want to know about you, your home and your lifestyle, in order to ensure a good fit for the puppy you select. They are going to want to ensure that all of the dogs’ needs are met and that they are safe. They will also want to do their utmost to ensure that the animal will remain with you and not find itself in a shelter or back to the breeder. It would not serve their goal, for example, to match a highly active, energy junkie puppy, to an elderly, sedate household, where it would receive limited exercise. In this case, they would be looking for an active, busy environment, where the dog would receive plenty of physical and mental activity. By the same token, if someone is a fitness fanatic and would like to run with their dog, a lapdog would be unlikely to fit the bill. Don’t be offended by the questions they ask. Remember, that want to find the best match possible.

Review the organisations policies: You can normally find this information on their website or social media sites. Each organisation has their own policies regarding items such as adoption fees, adoption requirements, spaying and neutering of adopted animals, vaccinations and home visits to see the environment the puppy will live in. Some will also stipulate that, if for any reason, you are unable to keep the animal, you must return it to them. These are all important items for them to ensure the wellbeing of the animals and, in the case of spaying and neutering, to ensure that additional unwanted animals do not find themselves in need of their service. Read through their policies and make sure you are happy to abide by any of their requirements.

Organisation details: The good animal rescue organisations and breeders will have a telephone number, physical address and, usually, a Facebook page and website. Their internet presence would normally list their adoption process and requirements, as well as any registration details.  The more transparent they are, the more comfortable you can feel about adopting from them.

Please remember that, the more times a puppy or dog is moved, the more anxious they become and the higher the chances are that they develop behavioural problems. Please don’t feel bad if you are asked a myriad of questions and if the breeder or shelter wishes to perform a home check. It is only by doing so that they can limit unfortunate occurrences of animals either returning to their care, or being given to someone else. Neither of these scenarios are beneficial to the mental wellbeing of the animal in question.

Trust your instincts. You will be having this puppy for around 12 years and need to get this part right.

In the next installment, we will cover the types of questions a shelter or breeder are likely to ask you when adopting, what they would be looking for if they do a home-check, as well as questions that you should be asking the shelter or breeder.