Having Trouble Getting That Dog Breed? Think Laterally!

Updated September 16, 2021

I had two very enlightening conversations last week. 

The first was from a frustrated ex- Cavalier owner who has been waiting over 12 months to get a Golden Retriever puppy. According to the breeders she’s talking to, she’s not even any closer.

The second was from the owner of a new (second) Golden Retriever puppy. She said that due to unprecedented demand, her breeder is only selling to people she’s sold to before. 

Clearly, these two observations are flip sides of the same problem. So before I give you some suggestions, let’s look at what’s happening.

Why Are Puppies So Hard To Get In Australia?

There appear to be three reasons why puppies are in short supply.

First: The Pandemic

Everyone blames COVID, and they’re not completely wrong. As lockdowns hit across Australia in 2020, many families simultaneously decided it would be the perfect time to get a puppy. This led to a sharp increase in demand, but no way to increase supply as quickly.

However, this can’t be the whole explanation or we would have fixed it by now. And in fact, vets had noticed puppy prices rising rapidly for several years before COVID.

Second: A Reduced Puppy Supply

This relates to the disappearance of backyard breeders. Now this must be a good thing because everyone knows that backyard breeders are bad, right?


In fact, not so fast. In my privileged inner city bubble, I saw very few bad, and lots of very good backyard breeders. Families who wanted to do it just once, or others with just one pair who had a litter every one to two years. They took our advice, weren’t trying to get rich, and brought lots of healthy and well-balanced dogs into the world.

They’re almost all gone now. That’s thanks to some well-intentioned rules on who can breed dogs plus an increasingly judgemental tone especially on social media. But even this isn’t the whole story.

Third: Changing Breeders

Go to any dog show and look at the age of dog breeders. I experienced this personally in 2010 when I wanted to get a second Border Terrier and found that Tinker’s breeder had died. With him went his kennels.

The older breeders who did it for the love of the breed are now a rare breed themselves. There are still good younger breeders coming through, but seemingly not in the same numbers.

Getting A Puppy in 2021 & Beyond

So what to do?

Well, the worst thing would be to fall into the arms of pet stores. The few remaining have benefited greatly from the nationwide puppy shortage and they don’t need any more help. No matter the marketing, their puppies mostly come from places we describe as puppy farms.

As I said before, you need to consider the long term consequences of a pet shop puppy very carefully.

You also need to watch out for the scammers. Visit this regularly updated page to see how bad it is with Cavoodles and you’ll also get some idea of what to look out for.

What I advised the frustrated Golden Retriever seeker to do was to think again. They wanted a Golden Retriever because their friends had one, and they’d fallen in love with it. That is a great reason to choose a breed, but it also shows you something else.

There are many other breeds you will fall in love with if you meet them too. And like I always say, within a day of getting to know any dog, it won’t matter what they look like. You will love them for who they are.

So What Are The Best Dog Breeds In Australia?

There’s not just one breed for each dog owner, but you also need to know what it is you want. For this, I have prepared you a gift.

Visit this page and you’ll find I’ve assembled a list of only 130 dog breeds. Why 130 when there are there are probably 450? Because these ones are everyday dog breeds you can probably own yourself. Most have breeders right here in SA.

You’ll see that I’ve sorted them into categories.

For example, I like dogs who are:

  • low maintenance
  • small
  • full of attitude

Therefore, I can choose from almost any of the Terriers & Schnauzers and the smaller Spitz breeds.

Many people want dogs that don’t shed. They should look at the Low-Shedding Breeds, and so on.

No matter what you want, you will find that there are at least five or ten breeds that all seem OK. So how do you make the final decision? Three ways.

First, Ask Your Vet

Please don’t ask your vet to choose you a breed from the whole list. That’s impossible. But if you email with only five or ten on a shortlist, your vet is likely to be only too happy to help.

They’re going to talk about things like temperament, health and lifestyle differences.

You’ll find this causes your suitable breed list to shrink even further. Now it’s time to throw out the net…

Second, Dog Shows

Another way to broaden your horizons is to visit the local dog shows. This is especially effective on the ‘best of breeds’ day if there are multiple days like the Royal Adelaide Show. It’s one of my favourite treats of the year. I get to see all the breeds assembled in one place and talk to the breeders, who always seem eager to discuss their dogs.

Third, Contact The Breeders

Now using the breeds you’ve shortlisted, go to your breed association and get the contact details of all the registered breeders. You can find SA details here.

Send a friendly email or make a call asking about upcoming litters. Be warned that some may have puppies right now and you’ll need to have thought about your timing in advance.

Even if you get a positive response, you’re not done yet. You need to go out and meet the breeders and their adult dogs to make absolutely sure that this is the dog for you. Don’t be offended if the breeders spend as much time making sure you’re the right owner for their dogs! That’s a good sign.

Then spend your waiting period learning all you can about them. The result of all this is that you may end up with a breed you’d not even heard of before you started looking. But I almost guarantee that you’ll get a lot of satisfaction from going that extra mile.

You Might Also Like: Monthly Costs Of Dog Breeds | 21 Long-Lived & Low-Cost Breeds | List of Good Family Dogs

Have something to add? Comments (if open) will appear within 24 hours.
By Andrew Spanner BVSc(Hons) MVetStud, a vet in Adelaide, Australia. Meet his team here.

6 Replies to “Having Trouble Getting That Dog Breed? Think Laterally!”

  1. Hi Andrew,

    Just came across your page and it is so informative! I have always wanted a Springer Spaniel but cannot find a breeder who ever has puppies available. Is there any other way to find good breeders, other than online?

    I have stumbled across a Labradoodle puppy available but I believe they can be prone to allergies and obviously need regular grooming. My gut tells me to hold out for a Springer but I am so tired of waiting for one to become available.

    Any suggestions?

    1. Hi Kerryn. By online I assume you mean that you’ve already used a list of registered breeders from your country’s or state’s kennel club. As for other breeds, sorry I can’t open that can of worms online! You need local advice for that one. Good luck.

  2. Hi Andrew, do you have any thoughts on the ubiquitous ‘Bull Arab X’ which seems so common in all rescue adoption lists?
    Also, do you have any suggestions for owners looking to transition to a med/ large breed? After having owned only little dogs – all adopted – it may be time to consider something larger. Small dogs from rescues are now rarer than hen’s teeth.
    Many thanks,

    1. Hi Michelle. Officially, there isn’t such a breed but it’s a name that gets used a lot. They seem very similar to American Staffies, and therefore will vary from excellent to unsuitable. You are relying a lot on the quality of the assessment done by the rescue shelter but if it’s by Animal Welfare League or RSPCA it should be good.
      As for transitioning to a large breed, there really isn’t much adaptation required. If you get the right dog, the only problem is that they are more of a tripping hazard! They are often in fact quieter than small breeds.

  3. Oh Andrew if only your point 2 were correct!! I so fear that you do not see the bulk of bad backyard breeders proliferating in the Northern and southern suburbs particularly, and where consulting a vet is quite literally the last thought on their mind and profiting a clear first.

    1. Thanks for the insight Margaret. I’m interested in your personal experiences if you can elaborate. My concern is that such breeders motivated by commercial gain have not been discouraged by the laws to the same extent as hobbyists. After all, it’s quite easy to buy the license.

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