If you’re looking for a dog, then you’ve almost certainly thought about a pet store. You may even have decided to get a dog after interacting with a puppy on a whim when shopping. Pet stores are also popping up in some malls across the country, making it easier to look for your new best friend.
Buying a dog from a pet store is not an everyday occurrence, and many people adopt pets from breeders or shelters. So, what’s it like to buy a dog, and what are the things you need to know before purchase?
What are the pros and cons of buying from a pet store?
Pros: You get to play with the puppy before you buy. Often can place a hold on a puppy without a deposit while you decide to buy. Financing options are available. Product and merchandise discounts are available. The staff will know your puppy.
Cons: Higher cost. The puppy may have come from a puppy mill. Feels like being at a used car dealership. The staff may not have the breed-specific knowledge you need to make an informed decision.
Now we will dive deep into the pros and cons of buying from a pet store.
How To Choose A Pet Store
Before you consider buying a puppy from a pet store, do your research. Look up online reviews and check Facebook to see if there are any common complaints from customers. You will also want to check the puppies yourself to see if they have any signs of being sick. If you notice a puppies coat is duller than it should be or their eyes don’t seem so bright, check some other stores. You should also avoid any pet stores that aren’t able to give you much health information about their dogs.
A good pet store will have clean cages and active pups. You will also want to adopt from stores that make you feel out an adoption contract instead of just letting you pay and walk out. A good store should be clean, organized, and attentive to the dog’s needs.
Why You Should Buy From A Pet Store
Looking for a purebred dog can be a hassle. Most breeds can be hard to find, and when you do find a breeder, they almost always want an upfront deposit. Leaving an upfront deposit with someone you don’t know leaves some first-time dog owners feeling a little uneasy if they can’t visit the breeder.
A pet store cuts out the waiting and has the dog ready for purchase right then and there. You don’t have to wait for your puppy to be born or reach a proper age to be picked up. Just fill out the required paperwork, pick some toys, and pay.
You Get To Play With The Puppy
Most pet stores will also allow you to interact with the puppies in small play areas. This way, you can get an idea of the dog’s personality and see if their right for you.
When Emily and I bought Bella, our Boston Terrier, we bought her from a breeder a couple of hours away from our home. We did not get an opportunity to play with Bella before we purchased her. We literally met the breeder at her kid’s baseball or soccer game (I can’t recall the sport) and bought Bella right then. It would have been different at a pet store where we would have been able to play with her first.
Place A Hold On The Puppy
If you let the staff know you are seriously looking to buy a dog, some pet stores will even hold your selected pet for a short amount of time until you make your decision. Holding your puppy gives you enough time to talk with the rest of your family or come back for a second visit with the dog before bringing it home.
Many pet stores will offer financing opportunities to approved buyers. Making monthly payments can help offset the cost of your dream breed. Although I would not recommend financing a dog. You want your new puppy to be a blessing, not a financial curse.
Product & Merchandise Discounts
Some pet stores may provide you with discounts on needed products with the adoption of your new pet. An additional discount can help you get stocked up on necessities for cheap.
The Staff Knows Your Dog And The Breeder
Best of all, many of the sales associates have spent time with the dogs. Staff knowledge can give you an edge when looking for a calmer puppy or an adventurous one. The staff can also let you know if they’re expecting new puppies, especially if there is a breed you want.
The Downsides To A Pet Store
There are a few downsides you will want to consider before adopting a dog from a pet store. For starters, it’s common for stores to charge much more for a dog than the actual breeder will. Because a pet store is a middle man between you and a breeder, this can lead to a considerable price hike or convenience fee for being able to get your dog from the store.
In truth, buying from a breeder can save you hundreds when it comes to popular breeds that the stores know will be in demand. While credit options are available, some stores will have huge interest rates.
You would be surprised at how much some breeders and pet stores charge for Boston Terriers. Check out my article on, “How Much Do Boston Terriers Cost,” to get a good idea on the cost before you go shopping.
Also, you will need to check where the puppies come from to verify you aren’t receiving a puppy bred in a mill. A puppy mill is a commercial dog breeding operation where profits are more of a concern than the wellbeing of the dog.
Feels Like A Used Car Dealership
If your going to a store that deals in selling puppies then be prepared for sales tactics. Many stores that thrive on puppy sales will try to get you to interact with the dog quickly. You are more likely to get attached by actually holding or playing with the puppy.
Many stores will also run the occasional “sale” which reduces the puppies price. Generally, these prices are still hundreds of dollars above what you would pay for a breeder.
Lack of Dog Breed Specific Knowledge
Additionally, you will need to do your research on breeds. While associates do handle the puppies, the breeds that most stores sale change regularly.
Can You Return A Dog?
If the puppy you got isn’t the right fit for your home, can you return it? This question is a little harder to answer since every pet store is going to have different policies. Generally, the answer is yes; you can return the puppy.
Returning a puppy, of course, usually comes with some incredibly strict guidelines you have to follow to return a dog and get your money back successfully. Guidelines are for the puppies protection and the stores.
Most pet stores will accept a puppy for return within an established timeframe. You generally have between 48 hours to two weeks depending on the store to return the dog. If the pet is found to have been injured, then you probably won’t receive a refund. Many stores will also only give you a partial refund. The return fee is because of the examination costs a puppy may have to go through to go back on the market for sale. Typically expect to only get a total of 75% of your payment amount back.
Keep in mind that most stores will have a manager determining the legitimacy of your return. For issues like surprise allergies, most managers will be cooperative in the return process. If your puppy gets sick after bringing it home, then look into your health guarantee to access what can be done to cover the cost of medical expenses before considering a return.
NOTE: My sister in law bought her first dog in college. She decided after a day of having the dog, she made a wrong decision and wanted to take it back. To her surprise at this particular pet store, all sales are final. The pet store did not offer a return policy. Be sure to ask about the return policy no matter how set you are on buying a puppy…it is good to know.
Health Guarantees Are A Must
I can’t stress this enough, but you should only purchase a puppy that has had a health check and comes with a guarantee. Almost all reputable pet stores will have a health guarantee for their puppies. They should also give you the dog’s shots record and tests that the puppy has received.
Health guarantees can help cover medical expenses that occur within a few days of your purchase. While uncommon, some dogs do develop stress-related ailments when in pet stores.
Stores that don’t offer health guarantees can’t be held to any legal liabilities. Lack of purchase insurance sends off red flags as most puppies are examined before being sent to the store. Always ask associates about the extent of their health checks get a feel for the store’s commitment to animal safety and customer satisfaction. Many reputable pet stores have insurance plans in place to cover any issues that may arise.
Alternative Buying Options: Rescues, Shelters, and Breeders
If you don’t like the idea of buying from a pet store or want to save some money, there are always other options available. From adoption shelters to AKC (American Kennel Club) breeders, there are tons of ways to meet your new best friend.
If you know what breed you’re looking for, then even a quick Google search can pull up tons of reputable breeders located all over the world — looking to save money? You can check out special adoption events that offer reduced rates one dogs young and old.
Rescues & Shelters
First off, the cheapest way to find a dog is by looking at local shelters and ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) centers. It’s surprising how many breeds of puppies come into shelters. Many shelters have a set fee that includes spay/neuter, microchips, and age-appropriate shots.
You can take home a new puppy for as little as $150 at some locations. This also gives you the advantage of visiting with the dog to see how well you interact. Many shelters have online listings you can browse to get an idea of available breeds. The site Petfinder is also an excellent tool when searching for shelters as it can tell you which location has your selected breed.
If you want a complete list of Boston Terrier Rescues in America check out this page I put together, Boston Terrier Rescues in the U.S. & Canada.
If you want a guaranteed pure breed dog, then breeders may be the way to go. The AKC page has a list of registered breeders for every breed. It can be an excellent resource for finding puppies that will soon be available or are already ready to find a home.
Additionally, many breeders have webpages available that can give you information about their kennel. Websites can be a great way to browse through breeders you like without committing to a consultation.
Be aware that to hold your selected puppy a deposit of half the cost of the dog usually has to be made in advance. Most breeders will even include spay/neuter services and the puppies first shots in the price.
Deciding to buy a dog is not an easy one. A puppy is a long term commitment of at a minimum of 10 years depending on the breed. However, where you buy your next dog should be a little easier now. There is no right place to purchase a dog.
Just know, a pet store offers some great protections when buying a new puppy. These protections include health guarantees, return policies, no deposit required, and on-site same-day purchase.
The drawbacks of purchasing from a pet store include typically higher cost, lack of dog breed-specific knowledge among staff, and the pet store possibly bought their dog from a puppy mill.
After reading this article, what is your decision? Will you buy a dog from a pet store? Please let me know by leaving a comment below.