Puppies for Christmas: Part 1
Buy Or Adopt?
Buying a “pure breed” dog as opposed to adopting from a shelter or rescue can be a contentious issue. I think a lot of this contention comes from not fully understanding why someone might want one instead of the other.
There are pros and cons in any situation. If you do your research you can find some really great, responsible, educated and dedicated breeders. These would be the breeders that went to college and have a degree in animal husbandry. They keep excellent records on bloodlines, hip scores, and other genetic conditions that could plague their litters. They breed responsibly to improve or sustain the breed standards and are more concerned for their animals and the breed than making a quick buck. Some of them will have have a jump start on crate training, house training, and basic obedience training before allowing their puppies to leave the parents and home. They will tell you that the proper age for a puppy to leave its mother is eight weeks, and not six weeks or as soon as the puppy is eating on its own. There are still many things that the mother should teach the puppy that no human ever can. Reputable breeders don’t sell online and don’t ship you a dog after taking your credit card number via a web page or over the phone. No reputable breeder sends her dogs to a pet store to live in crates or cages. Yes, this option is quite pricey, but you get a huge bang for your buck here, and the puppies are generally a lot healthier with great temperaments.
Then there is the pet store, classified ads, online or backyard breeder option. While not always the case, it is true more often than not that these puppies come from puppy mills or clueless owners that have a couple of pretty dogs that they thought would make cute puppies that they could sell for a quick buck. Puppy mills usually have hundreds of dogs, living in deplorable and filthy conditions, without medical care, and are used for nothing but breeding. The mother has litter after litter and then either given away or killed when she stops producing. The puppies are taken from the mother as soon as possible and sold strictly for profit. Oftentimes, those they can’t sell become breeders also. A reputable breeder doesn’t use Craig’s List or eBay, which has recently reaffirmed their intention to help puppy mills sell puppies online. (You can read Mary Haight’s coverage of eBay’s puppy mill aid by clicking here.) These dogs usually never get human contact or socialization and need weeks or months of rehabilitation after rescue before they can be adopted out. Pet store dogs are usually obtained from these puppy mills. Backyard breeders usually have no clue about breed standards, dispositions, or the temperaments the puppies should have. Usually, they have cute dogs that are either bred intentionally or accidentally and they sell the litter to make a quick buck. Sometimes little or nothing is known about genetic diseases the puppies might inherit. These puppies may seem healthy and yet in reality, be quite sickly and costly to the responsible pet owner. Option B is adoption rather than purchase.
There are many, many, dogs and puppies in need of homes, and finding one is as easy as going to the local animal shelter, calling a local rescue or browsing Petfinder.
The risk, especially with rescue puppies, is you know even less about their temperament, history or health issues than you do with a purebred. This isn’t to say that rescues aren’t a good option though.
Here again, doing your homework can help. Talk to local trainers, groomers, and veterinarians about rescues or shelters in the area. Find one that is willing to take a dog back if things don’t work out. Not because you think you might have to do so, but because if they are willing to make this guarantee, then chances are they will make an effort to match you up with a dog that suits your lifestyle. Rescues and shelters that are willing to (many of the best ones insist upon) taking the dog back if for any reason you no longer want or can keep her truly care about their dogs. (This, by the way, is true of the best breeders too.) Many of these also have information on local trainers that they can refer you to should you want or need to “rehab” the dog or have questions about how to teach the dog to fit in better with your lifestyle. You may be able to find a “breed rescue” that rescues the breed of dog you are interested in, or you may get lucky and find a dog that is close enough to your favorite breed in a rescue.
So Which One?
I feel this really is a personal decision. Personally, we have one of each. Corrine is our purebred, AKC registered German Shepherd Dog purchased from a breeder in Texas. The purchase was less than ideal as she was purchased from a third-party site and flown into us after the payment cleared. Dalton is our rescue. We knew he had been hit by a car and had some issues with one of his rear legs, and we decided that we were okay with that. What we didn’t know, though, was that he also has hip dysplasia in both hips. So while Corrine came with an initial price tag of approximately $2K, Dalton’s initial cost was a $300 adoption fee. My husband purchased Corrine and I thought he was insane for paying her price. I talked him into adopting Dalton using the argument that he was already neutered and microchipped (additional expenses we incurred with Corrine after the purchase) and “only $300.” Well, after his leg surgery and monthly medication costs, he became the more expensive of the two.
To be continued…