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Writing  by Dr. Sarah J. Cutler

Pining for a pup and don’t know where to turn? Here are some helpful tips & resources.

Did you know that in 2022 New York became the sixth state in the U.S. to prohibit the sale of puppies in pet stores?  This was great news for those of us in the canine community because most pet stores acquire puppies from breeding facilities known as “puppy mills.” These businesses are notorious for their poorly managed buildings and pet care.  

While many of us are used to buying items online for convenience, we all recognize that there can be pitfalls, whether you are purchasing a piece of furniture, groceries, appliances or a live animal. Even seasoned “dog people” will sometimes fall down the rabbit hole of looking at the oodles of pups available online.  

Online research shows it’s faster to buy a puppy online and have it shipped immediately than to send flowers. There are no screening processes, no applications, or seemingly any regulations at all for these transactions. That’s a scary thought.

“If you buy a puppy online, it’s very likely you’re getting scammed,” says John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Stop Puppy Mills campaign. “Even if you get the puppy you ordered, it may have come from a puppy mill, and they won’t show you the deplorable conditions they’re kept in. If you are buying a puppy from a breeder, make sure you meet the breeder, meet the mother dog and see where she lives.”

What’s a prospective puppy parent to do?

As a future dog owner, you should set realistic expectations for yourself and your family, and understand that providing a home for ANY dog, no matter their age or where they are from, is an enormous responsibility. 

Remember, your new family member will likely be with you for eight to 14 years, so take the time to make the right decision.

Personal contact with a breeder or local rescue organization is best. Only engage with individuals who are transparent and open about where they care for the dogs, and they should encourage you to visit in person. A responsible breeder or rescue group will be picky about who purchases/adopts their dogs – they will have an application process and ask for references.  

Selecting your new pet should be a joint effort between you and the breeder or organization. Their expertise will help guide you to the dog that will best fit with your lifestyle. When it’s time to sign that final paperwork, it’s a good sign if they ask you to sign a contract that you will return the dog to them if, for whatever reason, he or she cannot stay in your home.

Adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue organization is saving a life, which can be incredibly rewarding.  But keep in mind that some rescue dogs have been bounced around from one home to the next, from one geographic region to the next, and many have been kept in cages for prolonged periods of time. Amazingly, many rescues are resilient and can jump into a new environment without missing a beat. Others, however, will need some time, patience and support to adjust. 

Plus, by not buying a puppy from a pet store or online, you are helping reduce the number of puppy mills.  

For help with adopting pets from animal shelters or rescue groups, and how to find a responsible breeder, visit the Humane Society of the United States’ website.

Understand the care involved

Prior to purchasing or adopting your new canine, you should have a basic understanding of what training and veterinary care could be required throughout their life. 

If you’re deciding between a purebred and a mixed breed dog, know that mixed breed dogs are less disease prone. In fact, a 2018 study published by The American Veterinary Medical Association found that even though mix-breeds were more likely to carry genes that can cause disease, purebreds were more at risk for becoming affected by a genetic disease. 

But the best way to understand what’s to come is to speak with experts, including certified dog trainers, certified behavior consultants, veterinarians, veterinary technicians and veterinary behaviorists who can give pre-purchase or pre-adoption advice. These experts can offer guidance on where and what kind of dog would meet your expectations, as well as how much veterinary care your new pet might need. 

Building a trusting relationship with your vet team will be one of the most valuable assets in the wellbeing of your new family member. It’s never too early to start that process.

To learn about financial and medical considerations for the life of a dog, go to the American Animal Hospital Association’s (AAHA) website.

Find your vet (& trainer) before you find your pet

When looking for professional guidance for puppy training, rescuing a shelter dog, or bringing home a dog of any age, it’s essential to do your homework.  

For vet care, begin by looking for practices that are AAHA accredited. This means they have met or exceeded stringent quality standards that encompass all aspects of veterinary medicine.

When it comes to training, get yourself up to speed on the most effective and compassionate training and behavioral approaches that are science-based, and learn why punishment-based training is outdated. While not a requirement, speaking with a trainer and possibly lining up a few sessions before acquiring your new pup can help everyone (humans and pets) adjust to their new life.

Trainers and behaviorists with these credentials will uphold the standards set out by the American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior (AVSAB): 

  • Certification Council for Professional Dog Trainers (CCPDT)
  • Certified Training Partner from Karen Pryor Academy (CTP from KPA)
  • International Association of Animal Behavior (IAABC)

Additional lifestyle and pet care considerations 

There are a few other important things to consider before bringing a new canine into your home, including:


If you are thinking of a dog who will need a lifetime of grooming, it’s good to check in with a local grooming business to find out cost and frequency. 


If you travel a lot, look into what arrangements you will need to make to bring your newest addition with you or to be taken care of by someone else. 

Small children:

If you have small children in the home or will have small children visit, spend time on 

It’s essential that you educate yourself on “dogs and children” and that you learn how to “read dog.”

This article was published in the September/October edition of Katonah Connect.

Other resources:

For tips on general dog care, enrichment, dogs & babies, grooming, nutrition, common illnesses, behavior, and bite prevention, visit the ASPCA website. 

To create a fear-free and happy home, take advantage of, which provides free online education to veterinary professionals, pet professionals, animal welfare communities and pet owners. There are podcasts, videos and articles that include tips to help you with travel & safety, activities & enrichment, training & grooming, veterinary care, new pets, senior pets and so much more.

Consider the ASPCA position statement regarding pet guardianship versus pet ownership. This shift is “to better reflect humans’ relationship with and responsibility toward companion animals, and to recognize animals as separate and unique entities deserving of protection and respect. By viewing animals as more than mere property, the focus shifts from the ownership interest in the animal to what is in the best interest of that individual animal.”

Dr. Sarah J. Cutler

Sarah J. Cutler is a veterinarian with a special interest in behavioral medicine.  Upon graduation, she took an oath to “first do no harm,” which is a guiding principle in her practice.  Sarah combines her scientific background with her respect for cats and dogs to help humans live in health and harmony with their pets. “I’m passionate about following safe practices for our pets and understanding where to find trusted professional resources,” she says.