If you've already familiarized yourself with the animal shelter and purebred rescue groups, you may want to check out responsible professional breeders. To find them, talk with veterinarians, seek out local dog and cat clubs, or search the Internet. And be sure to read up on the breed you're considering before visiting a breeder. Thay way, you'll know what to look for and which questions to ask.
Look for a breeder who knows a lot about the breed and knows how to breed to reduce the likelihood of genetic defects. Puppies and kittens from professional breeders receive early socialization and training to make them better pets. Animals are often sold from a waiting list created before breeding even takes place.
Selling animals for economic gain is not the goal of responsible breeders; improving their animals, their bloodlines, and the breed is the primary incentive. To screen those purchasing their animals, professional breeders sell directly to potential buyers, not through an intermediary.
Unfortunately, not all breeders have the animals' and your best interests at heart. That's why it's essential to screen breeders by visiting their kennel and talking with people who have purchased animals from them. Breeders know that the traits of their particular breed may make them unsuitable for some pet owners and will not sell their animals to unsuitable homes. Responsible breeders sell pets with contracts requiring that the animals be spayed or neutered; educate buyers about the breed and responsible pet care; remain available after the sale for support; and take back pets who don't work out. Irresponsible breeders are out for a buck, caring little for the animal, you, or your new life together.
Be careful, too, of those who breed, sell, and promote "fad" and physically challenged breeds. Many of the brachycephalic (flat-faced) breeds, such as pugs and Persians, have breathing and eye problems, and sharpeis often suffer skin problems because of their multiple skin folds. Other breed standards, set by breed clubs for showing dogs in American Kennel Club competitions, may include ear cropping and tail docking. These surgeries, which cause pain and distress, are performed for cosmetic reasons and are neither medically indicated nor beneficial to the dog. A particular breed's propensity for genetic problems, or a breed standard that includes cosmetic surgery, are both good reasons to consider a different breed.