Friday, September 24, 2010

Why Do People Buy Dogs From Pet Stores, Anyway?

jen over at Inu Baka asked:  I was always a bit confused that if someone wanted to lay down so much money for a puppy, why not go to the breeder that already has a jump start on the social training and health part covered? Convenience? Fear of screening process? 

I'm not sure I can answer this.  Now you've got me seriously thinking, Jen, and I think what I'll have to do is make my theories here, ask customers at work, and then get back to you.  

People ask me, "So what do I have to do to get this dog?  Is there an application process or something?"  It gets asked a lot.  Sometimes I wonder if people mistakenly believe that our dogs are rescues.  I honestly can't think of anything we do that would lead people to that conclusion.  Sometimes I think people are letting themselves believe that, because they then feel better about what they're doing.  In a, if-I-say-it-enough-it'll-be-true kind of way.  Many people resist the term "purchase" even while filling out our warranty papers, and will repeatedly say that they're "adopting."  "I adopted a dog from here a few years ago."  This gets said very frequently.  It always kind of irritates me.  I'm not even sure I could say why.  Adopting, to me, just sort of implies doing a community service, a good deed.  Purchasing, not so much.  So I sort of feel like they're giving themselves credit, a pat on the back, that they don't deserve when they insist on saying that they're "adopting" one of my dogs.  Sometimes I try to console myself with, "Well, maybe it's because they think of their dogs as family.  You don't buy family."  Which is why I don't say anything about it when it gets said anymore.  I have in the past made the distinction for people.

Here's what I think.

People who want instant gratification.

These people want what they want and they want it NOW.  They want a dog, they want to go home with it NOW.  They don't want to be put on a breeder's waiting list for a litter that isn't even bred yet.  They don't want to sit through an application and screening process for adopting.  Most of the time they don't even want to take the time to walk around the store with us and buy supplies.  Now, now, now.

People who think they're saving the puppies.

Everything you read about stores that sell puppies say DON'T BUY THE DOGS, even if you feel like you're saving them.  Because that just fuels the industry.  And they're right.  If you're absolutely against selling dogs in stores, don't buy them because you feel sorry for them or because you want to "save" them.  I certainly don't believe that all pet stores that sell dogs are like ours.  I rather think we are an exception rather than the rule, sadly.  But if you're against dogs being sold in stores, even if the dog looks like it's in dire condition, do not buy the dog.  Call the SPCA.  That's the way to save them.  In my store, I'll tell you right now, they don't need saving.  Half the time, they've already been saved.  They have food, they have veterinary care, and nothing is going to happen to them.  They're fine.  They don't need saving, so if the only reason someone is thinking of buying a dog from a pet store is to "save" it, I can say with a clear conscience - don't.  

People who came in with absolutely no intention of buying a dog, and fell in love.

This happens more than one would think.  I hear all the time, "I only came in here for a bag of dog food and I left with a dog!"  or, 'You know, this is how it happened with my last dog.  I just came in here for one 5 dollar thing, and now look!"

People who are looking for a certain breed, and honestly have no other ideas where to look.

If they don't see it in the classifieds, chances are, we're the next stop.  I think they just honestly don't know where else to look for what they want, especially if what they want isn't a Labrador, Golden Retriever, Pit Bull, or mix of any of the previous three. 

Lots of people say to me, "I went to the SPCA, and all they have is Pit Bulls and Pit Bull mixes."  

A note here:  Our SPCA is a bit different.  There is one 15 minutes away from the store, and all they take is big dogs.  All the smaller dogs go to the SPCA facility about 2 hours away.  Why that is, I couldn't tell you, I just know it is.  And unfortunately, 100% of big homeless dogs around here are pits and pit mixes.  And what's popular right now are small dogs.  That don't shed.  All we have are small kennels.  We only have 3 big kennels.  So people looking for the smaller dogs, they're probably not going to make a 2 hour drive to check out the smaller homeless dogs at the other SPCA unless they're really dead set on adopting.

Or, "I really wanted to save a life and adopt, but I got rejected."

This hurts so much in so many ways.  I really wish a lot of rescues, including the SPCA, would relax their standards a little.  Just because they get rejected from a rescue doesn't mean they're not going to get a dog.  The rejection hasn't solved anything. It just means one homeless dog missed out.  If they want a dog that bad, they're just going to buy one.  Rejecting them seems pointless to me unless there are some serious red flags.  I understand, and the way I always explain it to people is that these organizations are typically trying to put themselves out of business.  They don't want to have to do what they do, and so they try to make sure that the dogs they place aren't going to go through the same thing again, later.  And yet.. It always seems so tragic when they immediately come to the store to buy one, instead.

Everyone wants a puppy, nobody wants a dog.

It's true.  Tragic, and true.  We have puppies.  People want puppies.  The SPCA has dogs.  Nobody wants dogs.  People have this notion that because rescues usually come with baggage, that also makes them dangerous.  As in all things, people are afraid of the unknown.  Even when the SPCA happens upon some puppies, they don't last long there either.  They'll have a list of prospective owners a mile long, while dogs that have been there for months are languishing.  I have actually had people say to me that they wouldn't adopt an adult dog because the lack of histories on them makes them uneasy.

So, here's a few of my guesses on why people buy dogs from us.  These are just guesses, based on what I hear customers say.  I really do want to ask customers now and get it from the source.  I'll have to think of a way to do that without sounding hugely creepy.


  1. Oh yeah.. what perplexes me isn't that people pay so much money for a puppy, but that people will pay so much money for a MIXED BREED puppy. Designer Dog Craze. Another topic for another post. But really.. people will pay 3000 for a Labradoodle. Go adopt a dog for 150 and donate the rest to the SPCA. Really. There's no need for it.

  2. awesome post! thanks so much for taking the time.

    as for the rescue rejection - you are spot on. some rescues have ridiculous rules for a reason. i wanted to adopt an itty bitty pittie last year from a big rescue group. but i had two dogs already, male and female. They do not adopt to multi dog homes regardless of how good the dogs can be together.
    I was hurt, but I understood I guess.

    Thanks again, it was a really comprehensive answer :)

  3. With pits I think that's completely understandable. They're great dogs, I trust my sister-in-law's pit around my 5 year old autistic son more than her mom's Bichon. In fact, the pit has never so much as looked at him the wrong way, and the Bichon has snapped at him. But they were bred to be dog aggressive. There's no way around that. The best way to be sure that nothing happens is to make sure there are no other dogs in the home. Same with Siberian rescue. Best way to make sure something awful doesn't happen is to be sure there are no small animals in the home. But I know of some rescues around here that require people to own their own home. This, I don't get. If someone can provide proof that they live in a pet friendly apartment that allows the size and breed dog, who cares? The economy and the last few years has proven that owning your own home means absolutely nothing when it comes to not having to re-home a dog. Thousands of people have given up dogs, cats, and even guinea pigs, rabbits and birds because they had a home foreclose on them and suddenly had to move. I think that's BS, I'd make it work, and a lot of people who live in apartments feel the same way. They'd sleep in their car with their dog until they found somewhere else instead of giving the dog up. But, they don't own their home, so they can't adopt. Silly.

  4. I will agree that some rescues are a little too uptight. I vehemently disagree with rescues that won't adopt appropriate dogs out to people without yards (townhomes and apartments). Some dogs need space to run and go nuts, but that's what visits to dog parks etc are for, and I don't feel that my dog or any fosters I have in my care are depraved for not having a yard.

    But I will say this for rescues; sometimes we get some weird ass people. People who don't want to know anything about our dogs but "What does the dog's tail look like, can I have pictures?" or "how big/old are they? How big will they get when they get older?" Mind you we've provided videos and pictures and basic personality and size/age/stats? that the person had to have gone through before contacting us about that specific dog (and why is that important to matching him up to your home?). We get applications for dogs that aren't really a match this time, but we'll keep you that person file for one we feel will work for them later (dog aggressive to a home with other dogs, owns young children to a nippy dog etc.). Those are the people that GIVE UP because we didn't give them the dog they wanted right away and stormed away with a sad song and in a huff.

    My favorite are the people that balk at our adoption fee (150-300 depending on age and medical care for the dog) but then run straight to INSERTMAJORPETCHAINHERE or a questionable breeder with a litter on the ground to drop 2k on a dog because it's such a darling.

    Not all rescues are like our small breed-specific one, but we really really try to adopt our dogs out to the most appropriate homes available as soon as we can. We've been canceled on with meetup appointments where we've tried to give the person the dog before, TWICE. I've been burned by rescues myself, but goodness, the things people do to us back gets ridiculous sometimes, too.

  5. Weird ass people, rofl. I think the presence of dogs just attracts weird ass people. Seriously, we get some good ones in the store. I'll have to tell you all about "Yorkus Lady" in another post.
    Once I had some lady call and ask me what the ugliest dog in the store was. I tried and tried to explain to her that her vision of ugly and my vision of ugly probably differed wildly, and finally she said, "Well, see I'm blind. So I want the ugly dog no one wants because it doesn't matter to me what it looks like." Sweet, but odd.

  6. Great post you got there. I TRULY don't believe in pet shops as the conditions are bad. You're spot on with the "you don't buy family" part. go to breeders! go to rescues! These are places where you can get a loveable dog, the perfect dog. I strongly agree that people nowadays are thinking that they want an adorable puppy and they want one now. And if they think they're saving a sad dog from a pet shop, then they need to think about what happens after the dog gets "saved." The pet shop owners get another dog, put it in a bad condition and another person believes it will be doing a good deed to save it.
    by the way Thepaisleyfox I think rescues are only uptight because they need to help get their dogs adopted -more and more dogs are coming in and less dogs are getting adopted.