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I mean, I've had dogs before, it's not like I'm trying to get a dog for the first time in my life. The thing is, I am an immigrant, I had to leave my previous dog back home; A caucasian shepherd - a pretty serious breed (here's a google for image search if you don't know what I'm talking about).

For the past few years, for various reasons, I couldn't have any dogs and frankly my life felt somewhat insufficient. Finally I think I'm ready to get one. Considering all possible choices I decided to get a zwergschnauzer, and that would be my first ever dog since moving to USA.

I want to get a purebred male, either a young adult or a puppy. However it seems to be quite a difficult task to find a good puppy in my area (San Francisco Bay Area).

First of all the price. According to ads I found on the Internet, it varies from $350 to $3000 for a puppy. I mean I understand you get what you pay for, but really $3000 for a puppy? And we're talking about one of the most popular breeds in US, not some exotic one.

I am not trying to get a show dog, but a family pet, yet I want to get a good and healthy puppy and if it really makes huge difference, maybe I should prepare myself to pay reasonably higher than average price? But I won't pay $3000. It would probably be cheaper to fly to Germany and bring one here.

Also it seems finding a puppy is difficult. I've been emailing in response to all ads I've found on Craigslist, eBay Classifieds, and PetFinder. Most of the puppies are either already sold out or of a mixed breed.

I found web page of Miniature Schnauzer Club of Northern California and wrote them an email asking for recommendations - no answer yet.

Can you tell me the process of adopting a purebred dog in the United States? I'm especially interested in knowing the parts like how the registration process works, and the normal procedure for bargaining for price.

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There are three main categories of sources to purchase or adopt a dog in the USA:

  1. Directly from a breeder. If you are intent on a very young puppy, this is your best source. However, not all breeders are created equal:

There are reputable breeders that carefully select the dogs/bitches they are breeding based on health and temperament. They breed limited numbers of litters per year, and have the parents tested for genetic defects before breeding them. They typically show their dogs at confirmation shows, and limit the dogs selected for testing to champions of the breed. Many breeds have national clubs that are a good source for finding reputable breeders. Here is a link to the Miniature Schnauzer club list. This is the best chance of getting a healthy puppy that exhibits the characteristics of the breed. It will also be the most expensive. Another advantage of these breeders is that you can get on their waiting list for a future litter if no puppies are available immediately.

The next category of breeder is the "backyard breeder". These are people who breed their dogs as a hobby, perhaps to allow their children to "experience the miracle of life", or because they think they can earn some extra money. They often only produce one or two litters. They may provide good care of the dogs and puppies, but may not have done the testing to minimize potential health problems -- they just used the bitch they had available and got a stud from another source. The health outlook for these puppies is more uncertain, but could be fine -- it is more due to the luck of the draw. These are generally less expensive than from a dedicated breeders, and the price might drop quickly as the puppies age and the people are faced with finding homes for them. You will usually find them through local classified ads, Craigslist, etc. Availability is unpredictable.

Unfortunately, there are also breeders whose primary motivation is profit, also known as puppy mills. They will produce as many litters as possible each year to maximize profit with little regard to the health of the animals they produce. The dogs are often kept in unsanitary conditions, receiving the minimum of attention and care required to keep them alive and producing offspring. The puppies may have health issues and genetic defects. These breeders will be reluctant to allow you to see the parents, and will bring them to a neutral place outside of their living area if they do allow it. Please stay away from these: They provide a life of misery for their breeding stock and heartache for the purchaser who discovers that the puppy they are now attached to has major health problems.

  1. Pet store. Beware of pet stores that are selling puppies. They are almost always provided by puppy mills. I know a person who purchased a bargain Labrador Retriever from a pet store for $300 when the breeders were asking $1,000. Six months later they found that the puppy needed a $2,000 surgery to correct hip dysplasia.

There is a growing trend for pet stores to focus on selling supplies and to allow non-profit rescues to display pets that may be adopted on their premises. You will see that it is a separate organization (usually) in this situation.

  1. Non-profit Rescue/Shelter These are organizations that take unwanted or lost animals and try to find homes for them. Reputable shelters will do health and temperament evaluations on pets before they make them available for adoption. They will vaccinate and usually neuter pets before adopting them out. They normally have adoption fees to help cover their costs in caring for the animals, and the amounts often differ based on the desirability of the animal. Purebred puppies are usually the most expensive, and senior mixed-breed dogs are the least. While you can be reasonably assured that there are no short-term health issues, problems may not be apparent in puppies until they mature. The majority of dogs in shelters are mixed-breed. Puppies and pure-bred dogs tend to be adopted more quickly. Some shelters will accept waiting lists for breeds, with no guarantees of when a dog may be available. There are also breed-specific rescues that focus on a particular breed. California Miniature Schnauzer rescues.

So if you are intent on a pure-bred puppy, a reputable breeder is your most reliable source, but you will pay the most money for it. That money could be cheaper in the long run than an inferior dog produced by a puppy mill.

I would urge you to visit some local shelters, such as an SPCA. You will see what you are getting there when you pick an adult dog. If you are more flexible on your breed requirements, you will probably find a great companion for much less money that will live for many more years.

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    It might be something to do with where I live, but I've noticed many backyard breeders advertising purebred puppies from unregistered parents. Those simply aren't purebred. It's important that if you're looking for purebred puppies, you need to see the papers of both parents. Reputable breeders, including reputable backyard breeders, will have copies of all the paperwork to show you. – Spidercat Nov 19 '14 at 20:12
  • This depend on what you want the dog for. If you just want those characteristics, it doesn't matter if they have papers. I never registered my show quality pure-bred dog because he's fixed and I don't care. Perfectly fine. – Jasmine Nov 25 '14 at 17:48

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