Adopting a dog is usually preferable to a breeder and the Internet helps put you in touch with far more dogs and shelters than just your local one. Petfinder.com is a particularly useful site. But if you have a young child (as we do) or if you're picky on what type of dog would be the best fit for your home, a local puppy may be hard to find or rescues may not be willing to place with you. In that case, you may find yourself searching for a breeder.
At best, the Internet can help you identify breeder in your area. Then you can do the work to verify and get to know the breeder just as you would've in the pre-Internet era.
But at its worst, the Internet provides a new, gleaming facade and marked-up prices for the same old puppy mills. Websites often charge broker fees of 100% or more, then offer to wash off that puppy mill smell and ship the dog right to your doorstep so you never have to see where it came from.
Here's where the Internet can add value: If you're at all suspicious, google the breeder or site name and "puppy mill." If you see anything negative, run the other way. If you don't, that's not an endorsement, but you can then do your usual due diligence.
Make sure the dogs are raised in the house (not in the basement, garage, etc.) with constant interaction with a wide range of adults, children and typical household activity and noise. Ask about mom & dad, history of genetic diseases, and have your vet give the puppy a clean bill of health.
More on what to avoid:
- ASPCA: Why You Should Never Buy a Puppy Online
- Dozens of Former Customers Join Consumer Lawsuit Against Nation’s Largest Online Dog Seller, Purebred Breeders LLC
- Humane Society: 101 Puppy Mills