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Buying a puppy is an exciting event, however, bridging the gap between desire and reason is critical to making the right choice in a dog breeder.

At what point does one become a broken record?

Some days I feel like the Peanuts teacher who’s lessons, through the ears of her students, become nothing more than “wah wah wah wah wah.”

This series started with the hypocrisy of #AdoptDontShop, then moved on to define what a reputable dog breeder is (and is NOT), and lastly, I explored the truth behind dog rescue.  

My contention all along has been that to solve the problem of backyard breeders (BYB) and puppy mills breeding dogs (and as a result needing dog rescue), people need to be educated. Educating puppy buyers is the dam that will cease the flood of demand for poorly bred puppies bred with egomaniacal intent.

Knowledge is power, right?  

Not so fast….  

Like so many revelations in life, only when you are smacked in the face with personal experience are you able to garner full clarity on an issue.   

After not one, but two, of my close friends – smart, college-educated, professional moms –  purchased a Craigslist puppy through a backyard breeder, I started to question what was the root cause of this issue.   

I had discussions with both.  Listed facts. Provided evidence.  Even pleaded for them to wait and buy a puppy from a reputable breeder.  To no avail.

And herein lies the gap between desire and reason.

Puppy Buyers Beware of Super Puppy Powers

True story.

Buying a Puppy - Bassett Hound
Big Dog Mom & Baby Pops ❤️© 2019 Big Dog Mom, LLC

I went wine tasting with my sister and two aunts for a girls’ weekend in southern Arizona.  Our fourth winery was the home to a llama, a greyhound, and a 10-week-old Bassett Hound puppy.  

Needless to say, my family got some extra wine from me that evening because all I wanted to do was be with the puppy.  I was possessed from the second I laid eyes on him. And if the winery owners would have told me they were selling him… done.   

On that day Big Dog Mom would have become the owner of Junior, Sulley, and Baby Pops.

No research.  No money.  No common sense or rationality.  Just pure emotion.

That is the power of a Super Puppy.  

Puppies have unique and special powers.  The power to, in an instant, possess our mind and our heart like no other.  Puppies are our kryptonite.

Puppy powers have the ability to suspend reason indefinitely.  And this suspended rationality continues until that puppy gets older.  Bigger. Naughtier. Sicker.

No, this is not always the case.  

For my friends, I am sure their puppies will be just fine.  They will be loved and cared for and be given every opportunity a dog deserves for a long, happy, and healthy life.

However, what about the other 13 puppies in the litter being sold on Craigslist at 7 weeks old?  Will all of them end up as fortunate?

Rational people know the answer to this question.

Puppy Buyer Named Desire

Buying a Puppy_2

We are about to get scientific, so stay with me here.

When you receive a text or notification on your cell phone, what happens?   

In that instant, a message is sent to your brain and you have a release of a chemical called dopamine.  

Dopamine is a brain chemical that literally makes us happy, and it is released every time we receive something on our phones. Dopamine feels good, so we keep checking our phones, hoping to get a little hit of it.

This, at its core, feeds our desire for immediate gratification.  And it is as true with buying a puppy as it is getting notifications on your phone.

When people get it in their head that they want something, come Hell or high water, they are going to get it.   

The following is the mental game people play when it comes to buying a puppy:

Craigslist Ad?  It’s a sign. Fate or God telling us THIS is THE one!

Non-refundable deposit?  Trust.. I’m sure it will be fine.

No money for a puppy?  Charge it.  No problem.

No research?  Trust again. I’m sure it will be fine.

Parents not on premises?  Well, these adorable puppies came from somewhere. I’m sure the parents are as nice and sweet as the breeder says they are.

Only 7 weeks old?  Breeder says they are weaned and ready to go. They are the “expert” after all.  

And if at any time during this process the puppy buyer actually smells the puppy… it’s over.  Done. That puppy is bought and paid for. There is no turning back.

Backyard breeders know this.  They orchestrate their business around this fact.

These breeders don’t ask questions of their puppy buyers.  They empathize with their desire to obtain a puppy (today) and they feed that desire with accommodations.  

There are no obstacles placed in the way of this transaction.  No puppy questionnaires to fill out. No references required.

Cash, check or charge is all it takes.  Easy peasy, lemon squeezy.

Facts Don’t Matter When Buying a Puppy

In The Fallacy of Dog Rescue – Why Reputable Dog Breeders Are NOT the Problem I shared data from the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy (NCPPSP).

Data from this survey revealed that there was no difference in socioeconomic status (education or income) of the people who relinquished their dogs into shelters.  While the data did show that many of the people rehoming their dogs were uninformed about dogs and how to properly care for them, the people themselves were not classically defined as poor and/or uneducated.  

There is a difference between being uninformed (about dogs) and uneducated.

My friends are good people.  They are highly successful, highly intelligent people who are far from being uneducated.  

So why in the world would intelligent, educated, well-meaning, dog-loving people knowingly choose to buy a puppy from someone unworthy of the title “breeder?”

My answer to this question is the one that stings the most as this realization has come from the pain of personal experience.

And here it is….

At the end of the day, facts just do not matter when it comes to buying a puppy.  

The first three posts in this series were about sharing the facts.  In excruciating detail, I showed, illustrated and proved why and how backyard breeders and puppy mills provide the supply of puppies to meet uninformed peoples’ demand.

Don’t misunderstand what I am saying.  Facts matter to me, and I am sure they matter to the dog lover reading this.  

But for the 3.9 million dogs that end up in shelters every year, facts clearly did not matter when their purchase was made.

Yet, while I still believe education can be part of the solution, you can’t solve a problem fueled by emotion with facts.

One of the members in the Big Dog Mom Community reminded me of the saying, “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.”  In other words, facts about backyard breeders and puppy mills will fall on deaf ears if the puppy buyer is possessed by Super Puppy powers or manipulation of a skilled snake oil salesman.

For these people buying a puppy, any puppy, is the objective.  The puppy is the prize. And any information that would cause them to conclude that THIS 7-week old Craigslist puppy is not the best, not the right fit, or for any other reason, not a good choice, is information they neither want nor will listen to.  

So how do you inject reason in an emotion-filled event like buying a puppy?  Is this even possible?

No Silver Bullet for Backyard Breeders

buying a puppy

My approach earlier in this series was to solve this issue using facts, reason, and common sense.  Logic is how I combat most problems as a very left-brained person.

Unfortunately, logic alone is insufficient to bridge the enormous GAP that exists between desire and reason when it comes to buying a puppy.   Remember, facts don’t matter when stacked up against Super Puppy powers and the desire for immediate gratification.

So what are we to do?

Throw our dog-lovin’ arms up in the air and wave the white flag?  Hell no! [ear muffs kids, Big Dog Mom is about to get real!]


Let me be clear, the solutions I am about to provide are for puppy buyers.  Those friends and neighbors who are the target of the snake oil salesman on Craigslist selling discounted “papered” puppies [*papered = AKC = meaningless BYB marketing BS].

Here you will find no silver bullet.  Just one left-brained Big Dog Mom trying to figure out how to bridge the GAP between desire and reason for puppy buyers drunk in a puppy stupor.  

How to Fill the Gap Between Desire and Reason when Buying a Puppy

According to Psychology Today’s 5 Ways to Get Your Unwanted Emotions Under Control, the key to managing emotions driven by Super Puppy powers and slimy backyard breeder’s sales pitches, is by a process called emotion regulation. 

For us left-brained folks that sounds like gobbledygook, but stay with me.  

These 5 steps are for puppy buyers and future puppy buyers, so it is critical that this message gets shared.

1. Select the Situation

The idea here is to avoid places and situations where you will be faced with an emotional response.  Stay away from Craigslist. If the decision around the dinner table is that the family is getting a puppy, don’t let your first order of research in finding your new bundle of joy be Craigslist or other online marketplaces.  Those places are a trap for the uninformed and filled with snake oil salesmen eager to take your money. Select the following sites instead to spearhead your search:

2. Modify the Situation

If you know you will be unable to resist buying a puppy if you see and hold one, hold off visiting the breeder until you have done more research.  Don’t put yourself in the position to have to rely on self-control. Instead, download this Puppy Buyer Checklist that will help you stay objective while you search for the perfect puppy.  This simple printable checklist gives you the top qualities you need to look for in a breeder and a puppy.  

3. Shift Your Attentional Focus  

Buying a Puppy - 5
© 2019 Big Dog Mom, LLC

Remember that Forever Puppies don’t exist.  Puppies grow up and throughout their lifetime dogs are a tremendous responsibility in time, money, and care.  Shift your focus toward Day 2 through year 10 with your new puppy.

Try to sober up BEFORE you get drunk on Super Puppy breath.  Immerse yourself in books about your breed. Attend a local dog show.

Like finding a mate, the hunt for a puppy is fun, but the best ones come to those who are willing to wait.

To read the other posts in this series, click here:

What You Should Know About #AdoptDontShop Before You Use It

The Fallacy of Dog Rescue – Why Reputable Dog Breeders Are NOT the Problem

How to Put an End to Dog Rescue: 10 Simple Solutions that CAN Work!

4. Change Your Thoughts

At the core of our deepest emotions are the beliefs that drive them.  Replace your desire for ANY puppy with the desire for the RIGHT puppy.  By changing your thoughts you may not be able to eliminate the desire, but you can at least channel it into a productive desire that serves both you and your new puppy.  

Download this Puppy Buyer Checklist to help you find the RIGHT puppy!

5. Change Your Response

If the first four steps fail to regulate your emotions while buying a puppy, the last step is to change your response.  If you normally fall head over heels for every puppy you meet, bring someone with you that will man the Puppy Buyer Checklist for you.  A friend or loved one that can help you bridge the gap between your desire for this puppy fix and the reality of the purchase you are making.  

In the end, if you find yourself in the home of a Craigslist backyard breeder trying to sell you “papered” puppy, consider for a second where that money is going once you leave.  Follow the money stream and ask yourself, “do I want to support this person and what they are doing?”

Your money is an endorsement.  A fiscal sign of support for everything that the breeder does and stands for.

If your reaction to those last two statements of fact makes you pause, walk away.

This is not an easy bridge to cross between desire and reason, but know that you are not traveling alone.  Big Dog Mom is here to help.

Please share this message using the links below with a friend who needs to hear it.

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  1. Stephanie, This is the best one of your series, great job! Been trying to figure out how to stop the puppy fever for my people too! Puppy fever is so real, I think we’ve all experienced it at least once in our lifetime.

    1. Thank you so much, Debi! I do believe most pet-loving people can relate to this issue and how hard it is to say no to a puppy. I was honest about wanting to take that Bassett puppy home with me and I joke often with my husband about him coming home to #3 one day when he least expects it. (of course I’m joking…but he knows how much I love dogs.) It doesn’t matter where that puppy comes from – rescue or breeder. Unfortunately, backyard breeders and puppy mills know this. And they continue to profit from one of our greatest weaknesses. We need to be smarter and stronger than this. Saying no to a puppy from a backyard breeder is not equivalent to saying no to that puppy – it is saying no to that “breeder.” The business is being done with the breeder, not the puppy. But the emotion of “turning our backs” on that cute puppy, even for all the right reasons, is too much for most people. 3.9 million to be exact. 🙁

  2. You are so right Stephanie. Planning for that puppy and finding the “Right” puppy and breeder is so important. And being willing to wait. I waited two years for my Springer and she has been worth every conversation I had with the breeder, and every sleepless night being so excited to get her. She is a beautiful example of her breed because the breeder knew what she was doing. She took the time to research the lines she wanted to breed to and considered the health and temperament of the parent and their parents. She is healthy and happy and I am happy too.

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