Whether you are looking for a puppy to buy or an older one to adopt, I know finding your favorite dog breed can be challenging. I have been contacted so often by PetBudget readers looking for help that I have decided to create this resource to guide you.
In this article, I will share with you 13 ways to adopt and 13 ways to buy a puppy in the US. Hopefully, you will be able to find your future dog near you and bring him home soon with the help of this article.
I want to start with a bit of advice: always buy or adopt from a responsible breeder or shelter. You will have a better chance of getting a happy, healthy, well-behaved dog. Avoid puppy mills and unreliable backyard breeders. Visit the kennel or shelter, ask questions about the breeding process or the dog’s history, and make sure to interact with the dog. A veterinarian should have seen the dog before your visit.
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How hard is it to find a puppy?
We have reviewed close to 50,000 puppy ads from various sources to estimate the price of puppies in the US (for over 150 breeds).
If you are open to any breed and mixed breeds, it is usually easy to find a puppy. When looking for a specific purebred dog, things can become trickier depending on the breed. For example, popular breeds like French Bulldogs, Labrador Retrievers, German Shepherds, Golden Retrievers, or Goldendoodles are some of the easiest breeds to find.
Other purebred puppies like Beaucerons, Icelandic Sheepdogs, Irish Terriers, Clumber Spaniels, or Italian Spinoni, and many more are extremely hard to find even when the budget isn’t an issue.
If you have a specific breed in mind already, visit our breeds page and select the article for information on how to find your favorite purebred puppy.
13 Ways to find a dog to adopt near you
- AKC national or regional breed clubs
- AKC Rescue Network
- CKC breed clubs
- Rescue Me
- Best Friend Animal Society
- Hearts United for Animals
- North Shore Animal League America
- Local rescue and shelters
Year after year, approximately 3 million dogs enter animal shelters in the US, and more than half a million are euthanized. I adopted my pet and would advise everyone to do so. It will likely save a life and be cheaper, faster, and easier for you. If you want a puppy, know that it is possible to find one for adoption with patience and work, and don’t dismiss this option right away. But it would be better to be open to considering other breeds if adopting a puppy is your goal, as they tend to find a new family very quickly.
If you only want to find the best ways to buy a puppy from a breeder, scroll down to the next chapter.
Petfinder is one of the biggest adoption websites. They have thousands of dogs available for adoption at any time. Their search engine is also powerful, making your research a straightforward process. They also have an app that will notify you when dogs meeting your search criteria are newly available.
See dogs available on Petfinder now (you will be redirected to their website).
Adopt-a-Pet is another huge adoption website. It is North America’s largest nonprofit pet adoption web service. They also usually have thousands of dogs available for adoption, and it is possible to set up an alert directly from the website. The search engine is basic but still enables you to search by location, breed, and age, among other things
See dogs available on Adopt-a-Pet now (you will be redirected to their website).
Adopt-a-Pet’s search engine is used on the following three websites: The Shelter Pet Project, PetSmart Charities, and Petco Love. You will find the same results, and it is not necessary to look at them if you have already searched on Adopt-a-Pet.
The Shelter Pet Project
The Shelter Pet Project results from a collaboration between the Humane Society of the United States, Maddie’s Fund, and the Ad Council to promote adoption from shelters.
Started by PetSmart founders, PetSmart Charities and PetSmart Charities of Canada are some of the most prominent financial supporters of animal welfare and focus primarily on helping abandoned pets find a new home.
Petco Love (formerly Petco Foundation) is also an independent nonprofit organization dedicated to the welfare of pets and supporting adoption, among other things.
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
There is a database of dogs looking for a new home on the ASPCA’s website. The search engine is easy to use (breed, sex, location), and there are thousands of dogs available for adoption at any given time. If you live in New York City, you could also take a quick look at the dogs available at the ASPCA’s adoption center.
See dogs available on the ASPCA‘s website now (you will be redirected to their website).
Breed-specific rescues in the US
A breed-specific rescue could be a good option to find a purebred dog. There won’t be as many dogs available as the previous websites, but it’s worth a shot. To see AKC-approved rescues, visit the AKC Rescue Network page.
You can also visit the rescue section of the AKC national club’s website for your favorite breed(s).
SaveaRescue is another interesting resource. You will find multiple rescues that you can sort by distance from your ZIP code. They also have a search engine with dogs available for adoption that you can filter by breed, age, and location.
Reputable breeders will almost always offer to take their puppies back if the buyer changes his mind or can’t take care of the dog anymore. A good strategy could be contacting breeders and letting them know that you would be willing to take one of their dogs if they have any available for adoption. Retired breeding dogs can also be available for adoption sometimes. Read the following section about buying a puppy for tips to find breeders.
Breed-specific rescues in Canada
If you live in Canada or are willing to adopt there, check the Canadian Kennel Club website to find information on breed clubs. Some do rescues, and others can direct you toward the right persons or organizations to contact.
The following organizations are not as big as Petfinder, Adopt-a-Pet, or the ASPCA, or as focused as breed-specific rescues mentioned previously but are worth considering to increase your chances to find your dog.
- Dogs on Rescue Me!
- Dogs on Petango
- Best Friends Animal Society (Utah, California, New York City, Georgia, Arkansas, Texas)
- Hearts United for Animals (Nebraska)
- North Shore Animal League America (New York)
- Local rescue and shelters ( a simple Google Maps search can go a long way)
12 ways to find a puppy to buy near you
- AKC Marketplace
- AKC breeders
- UKC breeders
- CKC breeders
- Good Dog breeders
- Lancaster Puppies
- Greenfield Puppies
- Local breeders
I understand that many families are exclusively looking for a puppy to buy. It can make a lot of sense if you want your future pet to get used to their future environment from a very young age. And also, let’s be honest, although they are way more work in the first months, puppies are adorable!
The American Kennel Club (AKC) is the most famous kennel club in the US. The AKC Marketplace is their online puppy ads service. You will find available puppies and even puppies about to be born bred by AKC registered breeders only. Although puppies found here are a bit pricier than the average, there is a better chance that AKC registered breeders will take great care of their dogs and puppies. And it’s also the best place to go if you want a purebred dog (whether you want your pet to be registered or not).
It is also possible to create an alert to get a notification when new puppies become available.
See puppies are available on the AKC Marketplace now (you will be redirected to their website).
American Kennel Club breeders
Not every AKC registered breeder will use the AKC marketplace to sell their puppies. If you want to be proactive and increase your chances of getting a puppy, you can go on the breeder directory and contact breeders in your area. You will be able to find out if they have available puppies or at least if you can put your name on the waiting list for the next litter.
The easiest way to find breeder directories is to visit the national club’s website. You’ll find the information in the AKC national club directory.
United Kennel Club breeders
The United Kennel Club (UKC) is the second most popular kennel club in the US. The AKC is more focused on conformation to breed standards, where the UKC is more performance-oriented. On their website, there is a tool where you can search for breeders that have litters or have previously registered litters. It’s possible to search by breed and state.
Find UKC breeders (you will be redirected to the UKC breeder search engine).
Canadian Kennel Club breeders
If you live in Canada or are willing to travel there to get your puppy, the Canadian Kennel Club (CKC) is a good resource. Although they do not have a marketplace like the American Kennel Club, you will find breeders contact information.
Here is the link to the breeds directory of the Canadian Kennel Club. Click on your favorite breed to find breeders contact information. You will also find the name of the national club and a link to its website (if available). It’s worth examining if they advertise puppies for sale or have another breeder directory.
Other breed clubs
On top of the AKC, UKC, and CKC, there could be other national and regional clubs for the breeds that interest you. You can easily find them with a simple Google search. On their website, they could offer puppies for sale or advertise upcoming litters. There is also a good chance that there will be a breeder directory available.
Some breeds (especially mixed breeds or designer breeds like the Goldendoodle or Labradoodle) are not recognized by the AKC, UKC, or CKC. In that case, you won’t have any luck with these three kennel clubs, making it even more relevant to look for an alternative.
Good Dog breeder directory
You can also look for a breeder near you on the Good Dog breeder directory. To be listed on the Good Dog website, breeders must go through an in-depth screening focusing on breeding practices and environment, the physical and mental health of the dogs and puppies, and their selling policies.
It doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your research, but it’s already a step in the right direction.
It is possible to find puppies for sale on specialized websites. It is a very convenient solution, and some reputable (and even AKC registered) breeders use these online marketplaces to sell their puppies. But it is essential to be aware that they are also a tool used by many puppy mills and backyard breeders to sell their dogs. Even scammers pretend to have puppies to sell but disappear after receiving a deposit from potential buyers. I would highly recommend that you read the next section of this article explaining how to differentiate a reputable breeder from a bad one.
Out of the following websites, PuppySpot seems to be the most proactive when it comes to working exclusively with responsible breeders. They promise that they don’t associate with puppy mills by screening all the breeders and accepting less than 10% of all applicants. They also require a health check for every puppy sold through their platform and provide new parents with a special AKC registration package. This collaboration with the American Kennel Club signifies that PuppySpot is serious about breeding standards and dogs’ well-being.
- See puppies on PuppySpot (you will be redirected to their website).
The breeder screening process isn’t as strict for the puppy ads sites below. Even if they could be trying their best to vet sellers and have honest and reputable breeders on their platform, it remains your responsibility to make sure you are dealing with one.
Some very obvious red flags should be a very low price, a seller being okay with you taking a puppy under eight weeks old home, the recommendation to get the puppy shipped to you, the impossibility to visit the kennel and meet with the breeder in person, a lack of transparency or knowledge about the breed. Before making any decision, if you decide to get your puppy from one of these websites, please read the next section to be sure to buy from a good, loving, reputable breeder.
- See puppies on NextDayPets (you will be redirected to their website).
- See puppies on PuppyFind (you will be redirected to their website).
- See puppies on PuppyFinder (you will be redirected to their website).
- See puppies on Lancaster Puppies (you will be redirected to their website).
- See puppies on Greenfield Puppies (you will be redirected to their website).
Some of these websites will allow you to add an alert to be notified when new puppies are available.
Finally, you could always search for local breeders that are not registered with any kennel club. If none of the previous solutions have worked, it could be worth doing this quick Google search.
How to find reputable breeders?
It is essential to get your dog from a reputable breeder and avoid puppy mills and greedy backyard breeders at all costs. Although very low prices should always be a huge red flag, even the most expensive puppies could come from bad sellers, and price only is not a sign of quality. Breeders registered with a kennel club tend to be more serious, but again, it is not enough to decide whether a breeder is trustworthy or not. Along the same lines, an unregistered breeder could be excellent.
Here are the characteristics of good breeders:
Small scale operations
- Usually only sell one or two breeds, don’t have puppies available all the time, and have experience.
- Raise puppies in their home since birth and show love toward their dogs.
- Make sure puppies are handled by different people to be comfortable with humans.
- Knowledgeable about the breed (temperament, health, nutrition, grooming, etc.), answer your questions.
- Encourage you to meet them, visit their kennel (should be clean and spacious), and see the breeding dogs and puppies (should be kept clean, warm, and well-fed). Good breeders tend to only sell puppies to people they have met in person.
- Willing to share information about their breeding process. Good breeders don’t start breeding dogs under 18 months old and usually stop after 3 to 6 litters.
- Will ask you to pick up the puppy at the kennel or at least to bring it to you themselves (serious breeder will never ship their puppies or refuse access to the kennel).
- Will make sure you will be a good fit for their dog (usually by making you fill a questionnaire) and will most likely make you sign a contract spelling out your responsibilities (usually to spay/neuter and sometimes train the dog).
- Screen their breeding dogs for genetic disorders and keep their vaccine and preventive healthcare up to date (should be able to provide proof, like health certificates, test results, etc.).
- Take puppies to the vet first the first weeks (and can prove it).
- Don’t let puppies less than eight weeks old leave their mother.
Check AKC breeding clubs or the Orthopedic Foundation for Animals to find the recommended health tests for each breed.
You can also read the medical section of our dog cost article to know more about the most common health issues for dogs and the potential cost, according to Dr. Brooks, DVM.
- Reputable breeders will be able to provide references from previous buyers.
- Will keep answering your questions and help after the sale if needed.
- Will take the dog back at any time if needed and provide a guarantee (usually for health and temperament).
Sellers to avoid
Finally, I would strongly advise against buying a puppy on Craigslist, Hoobly, or similar websites, and even in pet stores (unless they have partnered with a shelter and offer dogs for adoption). The likelihood that dogs you will find there are coming for puppy mills is very high. It supports a very inhuman system and increases the chance of your puppy developing expensive health issues and significant behavioral problems in the future.
The cost of a dog
On average, a puppy will cost $1,300 in the USA. Most puppies can be found between $500 and $2,500. The price will vary depending on the breeder and location and the dog’s bloodline, color, and age, among other things. It is also possible to adopt one for $50 to $500.
The cost of owning a dog is $21,000 on average (usually between $6,000 and $54,000) through the dog’s lifetime. This accounts for the cost of the dog itself, supplies, food, grooming, training, and preventive healthcare. It could be must more expensive if you need regular services such as dog walking or dog boarding.
To know more, check our whole article on the cost of owning a dog. You will find all the information on supplies, food, preventive healthcare, training, grooming, and tips from pet professionals (veterinarian, trainer, groomer). We also have a cost calculator that you can play with to establish your dog budget.
Why do puppy prices vary for the same breed?
There can be a significant price difference between puppies. Many factors can explain this:
- Purebreds are more expensive than mixed breeds (except for a few designer breeds).
- A show-quality puppy coming from a prestigious bloodline could be 10 to 100 times more expensive than the average dog of the same breed.
- A puppy’s coat color and markings will also influence the price, depending on their popularity.
- Some expenses that a breeder can defray will also reflect in the price: health screening and other medical costs, microchip, training and socialization, and registration papers.
- Some breeds are very popular in some areas and less in others.
- Age is also a factor. On average, a puppy between 2 and 4 months old will be 4% less expensive than a newborn to a 2-month-old puppy. And a puppy between 4 and 6 months old will be 8% cheaper on average. On the other hand, buying an unborn puppy from a coming litter (usually from registered breeders) is likely to cost 28% more!
Five tips for finding a cheaper puppy
- Adoption. By investing a little time in visiting shelter websites regularly, there is a chance that you will be able to find a puppy to adopt. They are rare and get adopted quickly, but it is a realistic option. Not only is it cheaper, but it is also a great thing to do.
- Older puppies. Most people are willing to buy their dog as young as possible, creating excellent opportunities to find puppies a few months old for a much lower price. A 6-month-old dog will still be adorable and playful and should be cheaper than an eight-week-old one.
- Other locations/states. Some breeds are more expensive in specific locations because of their characteristics and the cost of operating a breeding business there. Looking at prices in different places is a great way to save a lot, providing you are willing to travel to meet the breeder and your future dog.
- Mixed-breed or purebred. Mixed breed dogs tend to be less expensive to buy than purebreds. This is especially true for purebreds with registration papers (pedigree). Most families are just looking for a pet to spend time with and do not need these registration papers.
- Friends and family. Let everyone around you know that you are looking for a dog. You might get a good surprise and learn that someone trustworthy has a pregnant dog and is looking for people to get the pups.
Adopting vs. buying
Here is a list pros and cons of adopting and buying your future dog.
- PRO: You can get a dog within a few days.
- PRO: Usually, $50 to $500.
- PRO: Dogs from shelters are usually spayed or neutered and microchipped.
- PRO: It gives the dog a new home and saves pets from being euthanized.
- PRO: An adult dog temperament is more predictable.
- PRO: Adult dogs can be easier to manage and need less training.
- PRO: You can be aware of health conditions due to poor breeding conditions before adopting.
- CON: It is hard to find a puppy.
- CON: You might have to deal with issues caused by previous owners.
- CON: Adult dogs can have a harder time adapting to some situations (kids, apartments, other pets, etc.).
- PRO: It is easier to find a puppy.
- PRO: You can take good care of your pet from the beginning.
- PRO: A puppy is likely to adapt to most living situations.
- CON: You often need to get on a waiting list.
- CON: Usually, $500 to $2,500.
- CON: You have to consider spaying/neutering and microchip expenses.
- CON: It can support puppy mills where animals are raised in deplorable conditions.
- CON: The is some uncertainty regarding the dog’s future temperament.
- CON: A lot of training will be needed during the first months (time and money).
- CON: There is a risk for puppies bought from bad breeders to develop expensive health problems.
Pick a puppy from a litter or choose the right dog in a shelter
I believe that this aspect not as important as finding a reputable breeder or shelter. There are mainly two reasons for this. First, a puppy bought from a reputable breeder is far less likely to develop expensive health issues or significant behavioral problems, two of the main things people want to avoid. The second reason is that a reputable breeder or shelter will be able to guide you when choosing your pet by knowing their animals and making sure to understand your expectations and goals. In that case, they will give you the best possible advice.
To choose a dog from a litter or shelter, look for a healthy and shiny coat. You should be able to feel the dog’s ribs but not to see them. Eyes, ears, and genitalia should be clean and not inflamed. Get the dog’s attention to test sight and hearing. Finally, pick one that will match your level of energy.
It’s okay to pick a laid-back dog or puppy if you mainly want a low-maintenance cuddling buddy. In the same idea, choose a high-energy puppy or dog if you have a very active lifestyle. Although energetic dogs will require a lot of daily exercise and activity and will most likely need more training, they will be the perfect companion to go on many adventures with you.
Once you have your dog, don’t forget to get a dog license (mandatory in most places). Check our new dog owner guide to know everything you need to get ready to welcome a dog home in a few minutes. It’s a 5-minute read packed with helpful information for future and new dog owners.
Patience is key
Whether you are looking for a dog to adopt or a puppy to buy, finding the perfect pet can be a long and frustrating process, especially when looking for a specific breed. It’s important to manage your expectations and understand that it is very likely that this process will take weeks or even months. It is also best not to jump on the first opportunity but to take the time to pick a good dog for you instead. One that will be comfortable in your environment and will be a good fit for your lifestyle. Be honest and transparent with shelters and breeders. Serious ones have both your interest and their dogs’ in mind. In the end, it will all be worth it!
See specific information for you favorite breeds
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- Learn more about the cost of owning a dog or look specifically for your favorite dog breed.
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- Find out more about essential dog supplies and tips to select the right ones for you and your dog.
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