Advice on buying a dog.

Me and my wife decided to buy a maltese dog.

I visited some dog related forums but I got confused. According to the advice there, I must avoid pet shops because these puppies are raised in horrible conditions, often are sick and have a high probability of dying early.

My best option is to buy from a reputable breeder but still not before checking the pedigree and inspecting the puppy’s parents.

Here’s the problem: I have absolutely no idea how to spot a fake pedigree, or one that belongs to another dog. I also have no idea what to look for on the dog’s parents.

The other problem is that the people on these forums seem to me only marginally saner than those on breastfeeding forums.

So I am asking the dopers for advice. :slight_smile:

I suggest going to a rescue place (the pound) and playing with a few. Pick the one you like best. I like slightly older dogs, in the 2-4 age range, because sometimes they were already house trained by previous owners and they aren’t wild puppies.

I second that you should never buy from a pet store. Honestly, the best option is to go to your local animal shelter and adopt a dog from there. I mean, is there a reason you specifically choose a maltese? Have you researched the breed and looked into the grooming requirements as well as what diseases they’re genetically prone to have? How much is the average price through a breeder? Those are just a few things you need to research and know.

If you do all that and still decide a maltese is the dog for you, then I would recommend finding a breed rescue organization. People who run breed specific rescues usually know the breed inside and out and are keen on making sure the dogs are matched with the best families. Breeders should really be your last choice. You need to know what questions to ask according to the breed, what to look for when you look at the parents (both parents should ideally be on site), what to look for in the puppy, and what to look for in the paperwork. You also need to research the breeder themselves. There are good ones and bad ones and it behooves you to know which is which. It’s not easy, to say the least but that’s the sort of things you need to know if you are set on getting a purebred dog from a breeder.

The pet stores around here have dogs and cats for sale that are rescues - do your local pet stores not do the same thing?

I second the rescue organization, too - it always blows my mind that there are so many purebred animals in rescue situations. I realize there is a lot of debate on this, but have you considered getting a dog that is mostly Maltese, but not a purebred? In my opinion, I think mutts are generally more healthy than purebreds - I don’t think there’s a breed available now that doesn’t have known, pernicious health problems.

I second checking out the breed enough to know what medical problems and other issues (i.e. sociability) they may be prone to. Then you’ll have good questions to ask breeders (for some breeds, x-rays to check for things like hip dysplasia are important). Unless you’re planning future puppies or a show career, the pedigree probably isn’t something you need to worry about.

And yes, stay away from pet shops. Some of them get dogs from puppy mills, and aside from associated health problems in the pups, you don’t want to encourage maltreatment of parent animals.

Where do you live? If you post where you live we can probably point you towards some rescue agencies in your area that have Maltese or Malti-mixes. You could also try looking on http://www.petfinder.com to find specific dogs in your area. The nice thing about rescue dogs is that they are usually being cared for by foster families who can honestly assess the dog’s temperament and often have worked on training it a bit before you get it.

You absolutely don’t want to buy from a pet store. Here’s some more info on why: http://www.aspca.org/PUPPYMILLS
In some areas, PetCo and Petsmart have dogs available for adoption from reputable rescues. At other pet stores, you have to watch out because sometimes they will do all kinds of shady things to make it look like the dog isn’t from a puppy mill even though it is. Sometimes puppy mill pet stores will refer to their sales as “adoptions” or try to make it sound like the breeder is reputable by claiming it is “USDA inspected” (even though this is a buzz word that is a red flag that you’re actually dealing with a puppy mill).

You’re in Canada and all, like, civilized and everything.

I’ve (regrettably) never seen a pet store that sells rescues. Some of the chains allow adoption people to set up on weekends and stuff, though.

I’ll throw in my two cents here :slight_smile: We have german shepherds, which came from a friend who breeds working dogs (search and rescue, police dogs, etc) and the two we have were better suited as pets than as working animals.

I would generally agree with the advice of avoiding puppy mills for the reasons you name: you don’t know what you’re getting, and the quality-of-life that puppy has had so far is not necessarily great to say the least.

A proper breeder will have given your puppy or dog the proper care, attention, training, etc that your dog should have. The breeder should also be able to provide references that you can follow up on. For example our dogs were well socialized with people from a young age, even before they were old enough to “leave home”…and that goes a long way towards being well behaved, friendly, etc.

Has your dog been to the vet? Did the vet check for whatever problems maltese are prone to? What is your impression of the breeder? Does the breeder care about where and who the dogs are going to (not just who’s willing to pay)?

Regarding cost, even getting them from a friend, we still paid much more for our dogs than we could’ve from a pet store…but the investment is that we know they’ve been well treated and trained appropriate to their age.

Me too. The rescue I used to work with had regular Saturdays at both PetsMart and PetCo. I do know that both of those stores have caged cats and kittens permanently available in the store (at least here in Michigan) but not dogs. Typically the dogs/puppies are cared for in foster homes, and the foster person, or another volunteer, will bring the dogs in on the weekend.

OP, are you looking for a puppy specifically? Because if your plan is to bypass the cute but tedious puppy-phase and go with an adult dog, check petfinder.com. Or look up <your location> maltese rescue.

Tips to spotting reputable breeders:
*Typically show or work (obedience, agility, etc) their dogs.
*Register with reputable registries instead of junk ones: Canadian Kennel Club (Continental Kennel Club is the same acronym but a junk registry), AKC, UKC.
*Have DNA testing and clearances from health registries on the dogs they breed (CERF, OFA, Penn-HIP and the like) so the puppies they sell are likely to be healthy. And will provide them, or post the clearances on the site. I don’t know what issues are common to Maltese; but check reputable fancier club sites - also the AKC website has a lot on information and links on each breed they register.
*Don’t churn out masses of litters.
*Don’t typically own both sires and dams, although they could.
*Will have a spay/neuter agreement for non-show prospect puppies, or will pediatrically spay-neuter before selling pups.
*Don’t have spammy-looking websites with lots of pictures of cute Maltese puppies in teacups :rolleyes: and lots of prattle about how “tiny” their dogs are.
*Don’t tend to breed more than one or two breeds, and run like the wind from anyone selling exorbidantly priced “Maltipoos” and “ChiMalties” :rolleyes: and other mixes that you can find on craigslist, in rescues, on petfinder etc.
*NOT that there is anything wrong with cross- or mixed-breed puppies! There isn’t at all. I just feel strongly that paying a high price for them from someone who intentionally breeds them is, well, immoral.

That all said, my vote is for an adult dog or older puppy. Puppies are really a pain in the ass for about a year! It’s the adult dog you’re going to be living with for a decade or more; the cute-adorable puppy phase passes by very quickly. With an older puppy or adult, you have a better idea of what you’re getting.

Also, thank you for being the sort of buyer who actually does research. :slight_smile:

Right this minute, the rescue I work with has like six legit Malteses for adoption. Try Petfinder first and see if there might be any somewhere close to you. You might be surprised.

If you must have a full-bred pedigree puppy, try breed clubs. Visit the breeder to meet the parents. Mama (and all the dogs around) should be healthy, well-socialized, and well-groomed. The place should look generally like a good place for a dog to spend her life- clean, indoors, with soft places to lie and space to run around. Ask for a vet reference, too.

For a pet, bloodlines aren’t the most important thing in the world. They can be more so with breeds that are prone to serious genetic problems, but Malteses, as far as I know, aren’t generally riddled with breed-related health issues.

I’d also suggest looking into breed-specific rescue groups, we got an English Springer Spaniel from one who has been great - completely housebroken, trained on the basics, thoroughly checked out by a vet, etc. (and still with PLENTY of youthful energy when we got her at around 2 years of age).

There are very few rescues where I live and the dogs they carry are mostly older street dogs. I wouldn’t want a dog from these rescues.

If you are absolutely intent on buying a purebred puppy (and again, why? there are legitimate reasons, but I’m curious why you chose this route) then I think the first thing you need to do is find out where the dog shows are in your area and start attending. Then you need to develop a friendship with a few show dog owners/breeders. Preferably they will be showing maltese, but at first just talk to anyone. Just like any group, there are some jerks in the bunch; if you meet one at first, just stop talking to that person and try another. Tell them why you are there. “Hi! My name is (name) and I’m interesting in buying* a maltese puppy. I’m looking for breeder recommendations.” Then hush and listen. For these people, dog showing and breeding is their life. They have forgotten more than you’re ever likely to know.

There aren’t that many really reputable breeders, really. And they mostly, kinda sorta know each other. Which means, if you can befriend a few, you will have a great source of information on who is doing things properly and who isn’t.

*purebred dogs are bought, not adopted. If you are dealing with someone who is using the term adoption, that is a red flag, although a small one

I don’t know where you live and you don’t have to say…but “older street dog”

  • to me would be highly desireable. Great dog skills, great survival skills, well-socialized, presumably healthy and robust health, plus needs home.

What’s not to like? Are you in the US?

My ‘older street’ dog has been the best dog I ever had. Got her when she was 3-4 years old and 12 years later she’s still going strong and a great dog. There’s a lot of misconceptions about pound dogs. That they’re there because there’s something wrong with them. That couldn’t be farther from the truth. I worked in a pound for a month and the dogs I saw brought in were surrendered for stupid reasons. ‘Owner moving’, ‘child allergic’, ‘no time for dog’, or…in the case of a St. Bernard ‘too big’ :expressionless:

So don’t assume that since they’re in the pound that there’s something wrong with them. They’ve often got a lot going for them.

All good advice so far.

It’s the wrong breed, but I’ve gotten 3 dogs over twenty years from these folks, and they are a pretty good example of a serious breeder and breed enthusiast doing it right:
http://www.cedarwoodkennels.com/

There’s a difference between rescue groups that take in strays and those that are breed specific. Even if there aren’t any maltese rescue groups in your area, the good ones are often helpful with figuring out transportation to a good forever home. I myself prefer mutts, but my current dog was a purebred rescued from a breeder (she was the breeder, not a pup) and she’s a really good pal and still healthy 10 years later at 14 years old.

Even putting aside the moral issues with bad breeders, the reality is they often don’t make very good dogs. There’s nothing wrong with wanting a specific breed or not wanting a pound mix, just take the time to make sure you’re dealing with a breeder who is reputable. First question might be can I come out and visit your establishment? That alone will clear out a lot of the bad ones.

Good luck to you!

The legitimacy of breeders is difficult to determine: absolutely all breeders will say they are legitimate, and pay lip service to the care and quality of their dogs; and everyone who’s bought from them has a vested interest in not admitting error and will say likewise, so testimonials from other customers are of dubious value.

Assuming you live in the US or Canada, the difficulty of obtaining a quality dog from a rescue in your area, wherever it is, even a puppy, is vastly overrated (and deliberately exaggerated by breeders).

You can adopt purebred dogs from a breed-specific rescue. They may not be papered, but unless you’re going into showing dogs as a hobby, there is zero reason to want papers…unless you’re housetraining. :wink:

If you DO get a lead on a breeder, check to see if the breeder offers designer dogs. For instance, Morkies, a Maltese/Yorkie mix, is popular with bad breeders. If the breeder offers these designer dogs, that’s a red flag, unless the breeder has a specific goal in mind, other than “breed lots of cute puppies with a cute name and make lots of cute money”.

My parents had three Maltese and they are excellent companions. In fact, unless someone is going to be home with the dog for most of the day, I’d suggest not getting a Maltese, as they really need to be with a human. They can be crate trained, and will happily sleep in their crates at night, but they’re even happier to sleep with their humans, if the humans lift them onto the bed or provide a staircase. A Maltese is a great dog for someone who stays home most of the day, and the dog will also be happy to accompany a human on errands and visits. They do tend to yap, and all visitors are in danger of having their knees licked right off. They need regular grooming, which includes regular haircuts, because their mantle of hair grows, and grows, and grows. That lovely flowing coat looks great in the show ring, but my parents kept their dogs in what’s called a puppy cut, where the hair was trimmed to just an inch or two in length.

Do not buy a puppy from a pet store. Bad all around.

If you’re set on a Maltese, try to find a Maltese rescue. Most breeds have rescue organizations, where purebred dogs end up because it was a bad fit with their previous owners, and various other reasons. They may be able to direct you to a rescue Maltese dog, but in any case they will know the reputable breeders.

The thing is that rescue organizations can also harbor crazy dog people who will blacklist a breeder of Maltese if they also breed mutts like malti-poos, and the other various things. Their attitude is that no reputable breeder would dilute the breed that way. Now I am not wholly in favor of breeding mutts on purpose, but I think breeders can do that and still be “reputable.”

What you want to see in a breeder is someone whose breeding stock is kept in the home. A lot of them do co-ownership, where the dog lives with one family until it’s time for its breeding obligations, and then it goes and services the female, if it’s a stud, or if it’s a female she stays at the breeder from the time she gets pregnant until the pups are weaned.

Bad breeders keep their dogs in conditions where they don’t get a lot of attention, they have too many dogs, and the dogs are not well exercised. They are called puppy mills because they breed without regard for improving breed standards. They’re just in it for the money. They don’t improve their breeding stock with things like, for instance, showing them, entering them in dog sports and obedience competitions. These are the people who sell their puppies to pet shops. Reputable breeders screen the people their puppies are going to.

Find the local Maltese rescue. Maybe you don’t know how to assess breeders, but you can talk to someone or email them and you’ll probably be able to discern if they’re a concerned individual or a mouth-foaming dog fanatic.

Also, if this is your first dog (I don’t think you said), get an older dog. Puppies are extremely cute but they are a lot, a LOT of trouble. Maltese dogs are cute at any age!

ETA: Actual red flags for bad breeders: They won’t let you see the parents (both of them), they don’t health-test the parents for any genetic diseases endemic to the breed (I don’t know what they are for Maltese but it’s easy enough to Google); they let their bitches have more than one litter a year; they don’t hand-raise the pups; they don’t screen the pups for temperament; they don’t screen the buyer for compatibility with the pup; they let the pups go to their new homes before the age of 8 weeks. Possible red flag: They ship puppies to distant states; they breed designer mutts.