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Home > Dogs > Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store: Why It’s a Bad Idea

Buying a Puppy From a Pet Store: Why It’s a Bad Idea

greyhound puppy dog lying outdoors

Over 65 million American households have at least one dog,1 and over two-thirds of owners obtained them from a source other than a pet store.2 Of course, much depends on the experience you want to have with your pup. An avid hunter might prefer going to a breeder who specializes in raising gun dogs. Others consider adoption the wisest choice. However, some people may find the puppy in the pet store window irresistible.

First and foremost, it’s imperative to understand that owning a dog, no matter where you obtained it, is a big responsibility. It’s a financial and time commitment that no one should take lightly. Nevertheless, there are many reasons to avoid buying pet store puppies.


The Ugly Side of Business

We must address the elephant in the room first. Pet stores are businesses striving to make a profit. That in itself isn’t wrong. It’s the economic engine that fuels the economy. However, when it involves live animals, it’s worth scrutiny. Businesses need products to make money. That means more puppies to sell. Pregnancy and lactation are physically demanding for dogs, and it’s essential not to rush this process.

Unfortunately, some pet stores and unscrupulous breeders dismiss this recommendation. That led to the formation of puppy mills. The premise was that sellers could keep breeding their pups to ensure a steady supply to meet the growing demand. However, it often comes at a price to the females not given sufficient recovery time between litters and puppies lacking essential care.

puppies inside cage
Image Credit: Savicic, Shutterstock

Puppy Care

The other issue was separating the pups from their mothers and littermates too soon. Doing so before 8 weeks old sets the stage for adverse behavioral and physical consequences. Many are behind the reasons some people may relinquish a pet to a shelter, creating a vicious and inhumane cycle.

Remember that often, these puppies are traveling far distances in a crate and then going straight to a cage—alone. To be fair, isolation is probably wise, given the stress the animal has endured and the risk of disease. Nevertheless, the change is stark and abrupt. It’s hard to imagine how terrifying it would be for a young puppy accustomed to the companionship of their littermates.

This concern extends to the care that the animals receive from the pet store staff. We don’t want to paint with such a broad stroke to imply these team members don’t care about the puppies. Undoubtedly, many grow attached to them. However, it’s worthwhile questioning the routine tests such puppies get and whether they’re kept up to date on vaccinations and deworming.

Health Guarantees

Most reputable breeders, whether it’s fish or a puppy, offer a health guarantee. Nonetheless, it’s worth looking at the fine print. A pup going from a breeder to a shop to a new home in a short span of time has undergone a severe amount of stress for a young animal. They’ve undoubtedly been exposed to disease or other health concerns. Some may have a longer incubation period than a guarantee covers.

Other issues exist with basic care, such as eating. Puppies should be fed three to four times daily to support growth and development. A stressed animal may be reluctant to eat, further increasing their risk for health problems. Selling a puppy to a new pet owner requires an experienced and knowledgeable staff member to relay this information, which may not always be the case.

Health guarantees may cover immediate issues. However, they may not address other things that may occur down the road, such as congenital or hereditary disorders. Many breeds are predisposed to specific conditions. Pre-breeding health screenings and genetic testing may identify some to prevent them from passing on to the puppies. Responsible breeders take this precaution.

The takeaway is that the source of the puppies matters for the health and welfare of these animals. Pet stores may not have the same stake in the game. Fortunately, organizations like the Best Friends Animal Society have stepped up to advocate for humane pet sale laws to curtail such operations.

labrador puppy in the arms of a vet
Image Credit: Ilike, Shutterstock


Better Alternatives

Other sources can provide pups with a better start in life that starts with the care of the mother and extends to her offspring. It also involves people who understand the responsibility of raising dogs. These individuals put the quality of care first for the puppies’ well-being. They also offer prospective pet owners a more informed and better way to choose a puppy.

Shelters and Rescue Animals

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, an estimated 3.1 million dogs enter shelters each year. Approximately 12.5%, or 390,000, don’t leave these facilities and are euthanized. Luckily, adoptions have increased, giving two million dogs a chance at finding a better life in a forever home. Therefore, we encourage you to start your search for a pet at these organizations.

Many of these animals are spayed or neutered before they leave. Most will also microchip the dog. It’s worth noting that roughly 810,000 pups are reunited with their owners because of identification and other methods.

two women at an animal shelter
Image Credit: hedgehog94, Shutterstock


We need to distinguish between responsible and backyard breeders. The latter are rife with the same problems as pet store puppies. Reputable sellers care about their animals and will go the extra mile to ensure they get a good home. Don’t be surprised if you must interview for this role. These individuals typically do the recommended health screenings and offer a health guarantee.

The red flags of a problematic breeder include the following:
  • Puppies available year-round
  • Many different designer dogs are available
  • Lack of vaccinations, deworming, or a health guarantee

These are often signs of an individual in it for the money and not for the welfare of the dogs. Most reputable breeders give their females a rest between litters. The designer-dog fad has produced many inappropriate crossings that have even led the man behind the craze to regret his actions.


Final Thoughts

Sadly, pet store puppies often start life on shaky ground if they’re the product of unscrupulous commercial breeding operations. Quantity over quality is the order of the day for some of these sellers. However, a pet store still isn’t a wise place to buy a pet. The confined environment can’t replace the love and attention they’d receive from a rescue organization or reputable breeder.

We suggest looking for a puppy in need of a home at these places. After all, man’s best friend deserves everything we can give our loyal companions.

Featured Image Credit: Kate Grishakova, Shutterstock

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