Buying a Puppy from a Pet Store
Pet stores get a very bad rap, and sometimes it's deserved. When a store purchases puppies for resale, it has to find breeders who are willing to sell puppies cheaply enough that they can be marked up and resold for a profit.
A reputable breeder is unlikely to sell puppies to a pet store. So the pet store then contacts resale breeders who often breed many dogs simultaneously to meet the demands of the pet store. The resale breeders often stretch both themselves and their breeding dogs to the limit, and many of the facilities, called puppy mills, are understaffed.
The result of these conditions is puppies who don’t get proper care or socialization with humans. They may also be sickly, because messes aren’t cleaned up immediately at the puppy mill, water isn’t changed regularly, and bacteria isn’t checked and can quickly spread from puppy to puppy.
More mindful breeders who choose to send their puppies out for resale don’t usually send the pet stores the best of their litters. The puppies they send are usually undersized or of poor conformation, from an ankle joint that’s out of place to an undershot jaw. Resale breeders aren’t likely to spend money to ensure their breeding dogs are free from genetic defects.
Transportation issues and puppy stress
The puppies’ situation can be made even worse by the transportation and housing at pet stores. Puppies are separated from their mothers and siblings and shipped, bused, or trucked to various locations around the country. If the puppies are lucky enough to arrive at a good pet shop, they’re welcomed and may have an easier transition. In other shops, they’re simply plopped into a cage for display. The pups then endure hundreds of touches from people milling in and out.
Many puppies buckle under the strain and get so sick that they must be destroyed. Others become manic and unpredictable and suffer from the pressures of early stress, which can cause them to become sporadically aggressive. Luckily, other pups pull through with remarkably mellow temperaments.
Asking questions at the pet store
Some pet stores are significantly better than others, so if you’re considering the pet-store option, spend a little extra time finding out more about a specific store’s reputation.
In addition to doing some outside research, ask the following questions at the store you’re considering:
Where does the pet store get its puppies, and how are the puppies transported there?
Can you speak to the puppy’s breeder?
Has a local veterinarian had contact with the pet store’s puppies? If so, research the vet online and try to speak to him about his opinion of their condition.
You can also gauge the quality of a pet store by the staff’s friendliness toward the puppies, their knowledge of individual breeds, their interest in your situation, and their willingness to let you communicate with the puppies’ original breeders.