Where to Find Dogs for Sale

Mychelle Blake
Litter of puppies in animal shelter

So just where do you find dogs for sale? You have done the research, picked a breed, finished your homework and prepared your family for a new family member. You can find dogs for sale through breeders, rescue groups, SPCAs, and municipal shelters.

Dogs for Sale by Breeders

If you decide to use a breeder, be sure to use a reputable breeder. A good breeder will have the best interest of the dogs in mind and:

  • Educate you about the breed
  • Have no problem offering help and guidance to new owners
  • Interview you to find out if you're a good fit for the breed
  • Have you sign a contract

There are many types of dog breeders so if you're new to the dog world, it helps to understand the differences. Depending on the type of breeder, you may want to pass on purchasing available dogs.

Hobby and Show Breeders

These are breeders who are passionate about their breed choice and are involved in breeding to further the best qualities of the breed. In addition to being experts on their breed, they will usually be involved in dog show competitions which is called conformation. Many also compete with their dogs in sports such as agility, scent work, competitive obedience and more. The benefit to using a breeder like this is their intimate knowledge of the breed and their goal of producing high quality dogs with good temperaments.

Commercial Breeders

Also known as puppy mills, commercial breeders are large-scale operations that produce a large number of dogs, often from multiple breeds. The key motive with most puppy mills is profit and you're not likely to find a dog that has been socialized and cared for in a home with a goal of creating dogs with excellent temperaments and physical health. Buying a dog from a puppy mill isn't necessarily going to mean your dog will be a future problem, but you have a much higher chance of bringing home a dog who will develop behavior and medical problems.

"Accidental" and Backyard Breeders

Accidental breeders were not originally intending to breed their dog and their unsterilized dog became pregnant after interacting with a whole male dog. Backyard breeders are people who are breeding their dog to make money but who do not do the same amount of behavioral and medical care and testing that a hobby and show breeder would. While neither of these are ideal, this doesn't necessarily mean the dogs they produce will have medical or behavior issues. It does mean you should observe caution and ask to meet both dog parents, see where the puppies are being kept and do some research before making a decision.

How to Find Breeders

There are several ways to find dog breeders and depending on the breed you want, this can be easy or more difficult if you want something that's more obscure.

  • American Kennel Club (AKC) has a breeder directory on their website you can use to search by breeder and area.
  • United Kennel Club (UKC) also has a breeder directory on their website. UKC has less breeds recognized than AKC but you may find breeds through UKC that are not recognized by the AKC, such as the American Pit Bull Terrier.
  • National breed clubs will have websites listing all of their members, many of whom are breeders and competitors. You can find national breed clubs through the AKC website and UKC website.
  • There are many other smaller breed registries that have breeder listings. While AKC and UKC are the most reputable, if you're looking for a rare dog or a designer mix, you may need to look at these websites to find a breeder such as the Continental Kennel Club and the Designer Breed Registry
  • Another way to find breeders is to locate the kennel club that is closest to you. There are listings of clubs on the AKC and UKC websites, as well as through association sites for major dog sports like USDAA and NADAC. Check out the club's event calendar and go watch a show and talk to participants to ask for referrals.
  • Talk to your veterinarian and his or her staff. They probably know several local breeders and are likely to know more reputable ones if they're bringing the puppies and mom in for health checks and care.
  • Talk to other local pet professionals such as pet sitters, dog groomers, and dog trainers. They likely have a good idea of what breeders are around locally and what their reputations are.

How to Buy a Dog From a Breeder

Different breeders will have their own practices which may be minimal to extensive.

  • With a hobbyist/show breeder, expect to fill out an application form and to be asked many questions about your lifestyle.
  • They'll also require you to sign a contract which can stipulate that you return the dog to them in the event you cannot care for it.
  • On the other hand, backyard and commercial breeders will be more likely to sell the dog to you without any questions asked.
  • If you are looking to buy a puppy, many breeders will ask that you put down a deposit on a litter before it's been born and this will be included in the final asking price, or refunded if the sale does not go through.
  • Prices for dogs depend on the breed and the type of breeder, but expect to pay anywhere from a few hundred dollars to several thousand when using a breeder.

Find Dogs at Rescue Groups

If you are looking for a purebred dog but want to adopt instead of buy from a breeder, almost every dog breed has a rescue group.

  • Rescue groups are non-profit organizations that are privately run by volunteers. Some rescue groups focus on only one breed while others take in all breeds and mixed breeds.
  • Rescue groups are a great place to find adult dogs although many do have puppies as well.
  • Rescue groups do not "sell" dogs but rather usually have a lengthy application processes because they want to ensure that they are finding good homes for the dogs in their care.
  • Dogs from rescue groups are usually fully vetted, meaning that they have received all of their vaccinations, are micro-chipped and are spayed or neutered.
  • Many groups also perform heartworm tests and treatment if needed and dental cleanings.
Family adopting a dog from the animal shelter

How Rescue Groups Work

Many rescue groups do not have facilities and their dogs live in foster homes until adopted.

  • This system has a great advantage for potential adopters because foster parents can tell you about the personality and habits of their foster dogs.
  • The foster home system also means you'll know more about what kind of dog you are getting which is a plus if you have children.
  • Rescue groups are also very open to questions and concerns throughout the adoption process and are always willing to take a dog back from a family if things do not work out as planned.
  • Rescue groups will charge you an adoption fee and in some cases, a small application fee as well. Rescue group fees tend to be higher than that of an SPCA or shelter because their costs tend to be higher and they're less likely to receive grants or major funding.
  • Depending on the breed of dog the adoption fee can be several hundred dollars and fees tend to be highest for puppies and lowest for senior dogs and dogs with medical and behavioral issues.

How to Find Rescue Groups

Most rescue groups have their own website and many also make heavy use of Facebook pages to promote their dogs for adoption.

  • The Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet websites are excellent resources and you can search by breed, age and location to find dogs that are available.
  • You can also search based on your location to get a list of all the rescue groups in your area.
  • It's a good idea to check both Petfinder and individual rescue group sites for dogs as the group sites and Facebook pages may have more updated listings.
  • Rescue groups also hold "meet and greets" at pet supply and other retail stores as well as pet events at local parks. Check the groups' websites for upcoming event details.

SPCAs and Private Humane Societies

A Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) is usually a non-profit group dedicated to saving and rehoming pets of all different species and breeds.

  • Most SPCAs have a large volunteer base and some paid staff.
  • While there is a national ASPCA, local SPCAs are not affiliated with the national organization.
  • SPCAs take in stray and unwanted dogs, cats and other animals as space allows. Many market themselves as "no-kill" which means they will not euthanize a pet unless it has serious medical or behavioral issues.
  • SPCAs have buildings and facilities where you can visit dogs but may also have some animals in foster situations. They usually have operating hours when you can come visit which makes it sometimes easier than working with foster homes only where you must make an appointment.

How SPCAs Work

Most SPCAs have an application process which may or may not be as thorough as a rescue group's application process.

  • SPCAs vaccinate and spay/neuter their pets, although they may not have the resources to perform dental cleanings and heartworm tests.

  • SPCAs have an application process and while they're not usually as strict as a rescue group, there's still a chance they may refuse an adoption if they feel it's not a good choice for your lifestyle.

  • Like rescue groups, SPCAs will charge you an adoption fee with the rates usually based on the age of the dog. Puppies tend to have the highest price and seniors and special needs dogs the least.

  • An SPCA's fees will be a bit lower than a rescue group's and the average prices can range from $75 to $250.

  • You can find your local SPCA with a Google search or check on the Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet websites which will list them in their shelter and rescue search locators.

Municipal Shelters

A municipal shelter is similar to an SPCA in that a building exists for housing many types of animals. A municipal shelter is run by a city, county or state government agency.

  • Unlike an SPCA a municipal shelter are "open admission" which means they must take any animal brought to it, and it cannot turn down any animals, even when it runs out of space.
  • Because they are open admission, unless they have enough foster homes, a municipal shelter will need to euthanize to make room for more animals. Some shelters have rules about a minimum length of stay for all animals, which means the pets who have been there the longest will be put down first. Other shelters do not have this rule and will put down animals based on different criteria such as behavior or medical problems.
  • Municipal shelters are run by paid employees but may also volunteers working to help socialize the animals, meet with people who are looking to find a new pet, and to walk the dogs.
  • Depending on the shelter's budget, they will provide necessary vet care for animals in severe pain and discomfort, but may not be able to provide any serious vet care for issues beyond that.
  • Many shelters will provide vaccinations and some will provide spay and neuter services. Others may provide a voucher to have the sterilization done at a local veterinarian for a reduce fee.

How Municipal Shelters Work

Most shelters require that you fill out a very basic application form and pay a small fee of $75 to $150 on average to adopt a dog. Many wonderful animals wait in shelters for their new homes and if you've done your homework, consider visiting one. These shelters often get a bad rap because they are not "no-kill" and have limited resources.

  • Although a public shelter will usually not have an extensive adoption process, they may be able to give you advice on a particular dog you are interested.
  • Municipal shelters can vary widely with some having extensive staffing and facilities while others are poorly funded and staffed.
  • If you're looking for some hand-holding during the process, you may not find it at the municipal shelter in your area, but you shouldn't rule it out until you've visited it.
  • If you are brand new to dog ownership but really want to rescue a dog at a municipal shelter, consider having a dog knowledgeable friend go with you or contact local dog trainers. Many offer a service to help potential adopters find a new dog and would be delighted to assist you.
  • You can also find municipal shelters through the Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet websites, as well as doing a Google search. They may be listed under "animal control" in the city, county or state directory for your area.
Portrait of a happy family adopting a dog

Other Places to Find Dogs

There are several other ways to find a dog for sale or for adoption.

Pet Adoption Fairs

Not every area has pet adoption fairs but if you are lucky enough to live in one that does, this is a great way to see a lot of dogs up for adoption at once.

  • Pet adoption fairs are usually held in parks or other large facilities and feature several rescue groups and SPCAs at once.
  • They will bring a selection of their dogs that you can meet as well as have information about dogs that are in foster homes or are back at the shelter.
  • Each group is different but expect to fill out an application for dogs you meet at the fair and to go through the regular adoption process rather than taking the dog home straight from the event.
  • Some municipal shelters also participate in adoption fairs and they may be more lenient in their process as far as taking a dog home from the event, but be prepared to have to wait if the dog needs to be spayed or neutered first.
  • Check with local veterinary clinics as well. Many are willing to let owners who have dogs that need homes to place flyers in their lobbies and they may also know of clients who have a dog that needs a new home, or of a breeder that has an up-and-coming litter.

Pet Stores

Major pet chains such as PetSmart and Petco, as well as some independent pet stores, do not sell dogs in stores but prefer to hold adoption events where a designated rescue group can show dogs each week.

  • The benefit of this is that usually the store will include some sort of incentives if you adopt a dog there such as coupons for necessary dog supplies, grooming and training classes.
  • There are still small pet stores, some of which are independent and some are chains, which sell puppies in the store.
  • It is not advised to buy a dog in this way, as the majority of these obtain their dogs from puppy mills, and the puppies do not receive adequate socialization. Selling dogs in pet stores is now banned in several cities for this reason.

Social Media and the Internet

Since we use social media and Google for every part of our lives, it's not surprising that this can be a very useful way to find a dog.

  • Many cities and towns have Facebook groups dedicated to finding homes for pets and you can find listings of dogs up for adoption and for sale in these groups.
  • Websites such as Craig's List and the Facebook Marketplace have listings of local dogs for sale and for adoption.
  • Dogster magazine, which previously was Dog Fancy, has listings of breeders at the back of their magazine. You can find these listings in the digital editions if you're a subscriber.
  • Check out your local news stations to see if they have pet adoption segments and then "like" their Facebook pages to get notices of these TV segments.
  • If you love Reddit, most cities have a subreddit for locals and you can try posting there to see if anyone knows of dogs for sale or up for adoption.

Find the Right Dog For You

Whether you decide to go with a breeder, rescue group or shelter, it's important to do your homework and take your time. If you have your heart on a rare breed, you may find that going with a breeder is your best chance to find your dog but always be open to the possibility of adopting a dog as your new best friend may be sitting in a shelter or foster home waiting for you to come along.

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Where to Find Dogs for Sale