Paul and I were window shopping one evening a year ago. We stopped by a pet store, and I begged to go in. We had been wanting to get a dog, and I had decided (after much research) that beagles were the breed I wanted. So we went in, and there in the window was a cute little beagle. I fell instantly in love. We asked to see her, and before we knew it, we had signed the paperwork and she was ours. We brought her home with us and thus began our lives with Jera.
It wasn't until later that I thought about the negatives of getting a dog at a pet store. A friend was very shocked when we mentioned those "two words" - and assured us that she would never do that. We started to feel very ashamed about it, and we would be very vague if someone asked us where we got Jera. I am coming clean about it now because I don't want people to make the same mistake as us.
Pet stores have a number of disadvantages:
1) They promote instant gratification buying. They allow people to take home pets who are just enamored with the cuteness of the puppy, and they don't monitor if people are prepared for an animal. Many of these animals end up in shelters later because of improper care and/or abuse.
2) The cost of the animals is higher. Many of these places are higher, so they rely on people not having done their homework about what dogs cost. They also try to sell you other things that you might not really need, from fancy collars to travel health insurance. (Well, probably not the latter, but you get my point.)
3) Pet stores are often accused of getting their dogs from puppy mills. Puppy mills are where dogs are just bred to produce puppies to be sold to pet stores, without proper care and nutrients. The dogs are just "merchandise", and not as much concern is put on the well-being of the animal.
4) Dogs from pet stores tend to have more health problems. Since they change hands so often (going from a breeder or puppy mill, to being transported, to the pet store), information can get lost in the shuffle. Genetic diseases and abnormalities are often overlooked.
5) In a lot of pet stores, animals are kept by themselves in cages all the time, and aren't given a chance to run and play like puppies should. Jera was 4 1/2 months old when we got her, and we had SUCH a hard time potty training her! At 11 months old (when she ran away), we were still having trouble with her having accidents in the house.
We didn't have any health problems at all with Jera even though she came from a pet store, and she had SUCH a great disposition. I guess we got lucky. :-) But if you are looking for an animal, then I suggest you check out your local animal shelter! It seems that most put up pictures on the web of the animals they have, so you can keep an eye on the website and when you see an animal catch your eye you can go visit. Also, rescues are another good place to get a dog. If you're patient, you still are likely to find a puppy and the breed you want (if you care about either of those things). And trust me - a dog is worth the patience! (I don't advocate rushing into it, like I did - twice.)
For further information:
Dog Owner's Guide: Pet Stores
10 Reasons Not to Buy a Puppy from a Pet Store