The choice of whether you should get a purebred or shelter dog is a personal one and can’t be made by anyone but you. It will require a lot of consideration because bringing in a pet is a big responsibility, no matter what type of pet you get! You’re adding a family member, after all.
Here are some things to keep in mind while you research your options…
Many shelters euthanize animals due to a lack of space. These are often perfectly healthy dogs that are being killed due to no fault of their own. Money, time, and space is their biggest mountain to climb. Whether you choose to adopt from a kill or no kill shelter is something you’ll also want to keep in mind, should you decide to go the animal shelter route. That too is too personal for anyone else to offer an opinion on. But in many cases, adopting your next pet could mean saving their life!
Adopting from a shelter is also a very affordable way to find a pet. If the animal is old enough, the shelter will already have spayed or neutered the dog and began any medication he/she may need as well as treated for worms and fleas.
While you don’t know for sure, many shelter dogs may already be potty trained. This is often due to their age and the fact that many were already trained by a previous owner. However, that isn’t always a guarantee. Some may have been outside dogs, pad trained, or just ineffectively potty trained in the past.
You will never know the past experiences that potential new family member has or how he was raised or in what environment. You can’t know for sure what his weaknesses or strengths may be. Does he have an underlying aggression issue? The inability to get along with other dogs or children? A shelter may have some of this information but they also may not.
75% of animals in shelters are mixed breed dogs. And while you may have no interested in a pedigree, you’ll want to consider the different breeds your potential new dog comes from. With a purebred dog, you’ll have a written history of every ancestor of your puppy. You would know the breed standard for size, temperament, and most importantly, the breed specific health concerns. With a mixed breed dog, if you’re able to determine what various breeds your dog comes from, you’ll want to keep in mind that all health concerns for both parents could come into play for your new dog at some point. Of course, those combined issues may end up costing you a small fortune in vet bills down the line and potentially some heartbreak too.
Behavior issues are often times the reason for a pet being sent to a shelter. Of course, some pets find their way to shelters because of irresponsible owners or even owners who are financially or physically no longer able to care for their pet.
Keep in mind that behavior issues could be a part of this dogs past. Many dogs are tossed outside to fin for themselves if they have chewing issues, scratching issues (those poor door frames), excessive barking, frequently potty on the floors inside, or show aggressive to family members or strangers. The type of grooming a dog requires may also lead some owners to feel like the work is too much for the reward.
Many times, owners didn’t do their research before they brought in their new puppy. They didn’t know that the dog would grow to be 90 lbs instead of 20, that they would have a never-ending shedding dog with the most thick undercoat imaginable, or that the dog would require at least one or more hours of good exercise a day to work out all of that breed-standard energy!
If you are looking into a mixed breed dog, you’ll want to keep all of these considerations in mind and be open to whatever the outcome may be. This is especially true if you’re not sure what breed at least one of the parents may have been. And the mystery could run much deeper than expected if the parents of your dog were also mixed breed dogs themselves.
In Summary – Why do some dogs end up in shelters?
- Irresponsible owners
- Incapable owners (financial, physical, etc.)
- Dog’s health issues
- Dog’s behavior issues
- Dog’s lack of potty training
- Grooming difficulties
- High energy dogs / exercise requirements
There is NO doubt that, if it is right for you, a shelter dog should come first! Every dog deserves a person and every person deserves a dog. And while there are often more unknowns that go into a mixed breed shelter dog, so many families looking for a new pet would find just as much enjoyment from a “pound puppy” than a purebred dog.
With a purebred dog, you will likely be able to purchase your new pet as a puppy and train them yourself from the very beginning. If you decide to pad train, outside potty train, or crate train – you have the ability to get your new family member accustomed to this from the very beginning.
You’ll create and know every detail about your puppies upbringing and how they do with family members, children, and strangers since you’ll likely have raised them from 8 or 12 weeks forward.
You’ll be given a shot record and worming schedule from the breeder to know that your new puppy has been immunized in a timely manner.
Breed standard: With a purebred dog, you can get extensive information about the breed standard of your new puppy. This allows you to thoroughly research what to expect from your new puppy through adulthood in areas such as:
- Expected adult size
- Grooming requirements
- Exercise needs
- Breed specific health concerns
- Breed traits
- Dietary requirements
You can generally meet both the mother and father of your new puppy and see what they look like as adults, the environment they live in, how they are raised, their feeding schedules, and more.
A good breeder can give you advice on what’s best to feed the puppy as well as provide you with advice on potty training, crate training, and more. Some of these things, specifically dietary requirements, may be breed specific and could very well be very important to the growth, behavior, and outcome of your puppies future.
Many reputable breeders now offer “lifetime breeder support”. This means that, if you have questions about your dog, you can contact them and they will be available to answer any questions you may have about your specific breed of dog. While that may not initially be something you see as a huge benefit, it may be very helpful in the future as your dog grows. These can be things as simple as grooming advice, exercising, training procedures, and even health questions (IF they are able to answer them).
Many reputable breeders now also allow you to return your dog directly to them, if you decide you can no longer keep it. These breeders genuinely want you to do that! No cautious breeder wants any of the puppies they produced to become shelter dogs. Many times a lot of consideration, money, time, and experience goes into a planned breeding. And every reputable breeder has an immense love of dogs! They do not want to contribute to the homeless dog community and will do everything they can to care for and re-home your pet to the perfect place in the future.
Again, 75% of shelter dogs are mixed breed dogs, not purebred dogs. Of course, this depends on who you ask. The American Kennel Club says that number is much lower, according to the above chart. And with the new policies great breeders are putting into place, like returning a dog you’re not able to keep, these reputable breeders are doing their part in keeping their purebreds in forever homes.
Potty training from scratch
The “puppy phase” (chewing and puppy energy, specifically)
Purebred puppies cost more than shelter dogs
So, how do you choose a reputable breeder?
Here again is a controversial issue. Everyone has an option on what makes a good or not so good breeder. For the purpose of this article, I am keeping some topics out of it and just supplying a basic guideline of some of the most important things to look for.
Things to avoid
Look for reviews of the breeder online first. “No news is probably good news”. Many great breeders will not have feedback online and that generally means good news rather than bad. Human nature tends to cause us to complain more than we compliment so if you don’t find anything either way, that’s a good start. It won’t give you the entire picture but it’s a start.
Avoid puppy mills! Does the breeder have an excessive amount of dogs? “Excessive” is a matter of opinion but 10 or more should be a little alarming.
Does the breeder keep all of their dogs in cages/crates for extended amounts of time? All dogs need love, play time, and potty time. They are part of a pack (considering there is more than 1) and enjoy and need time with their pack members.
Are the enclosures clean and free of trash, feces, and urine? Some waste is okay, especially if puppies have been sharing the space but caked on and built up waste is a health concern. Puppies are going to make messes! However, those messes should be cleaned up regularly so the animals aren’t sitting in their own waste for extensive amounts of time.
Per the American Kennel Club, and just common decency alone, all animals need a specific amount of space, given their size and exercise needs. Find out what that specific amount of space is for your breed and make sure the dogs are cared for within those specifications. Without the proper space, health, temperament, and behavior issues can arise.
Do not buy a puppy if you cannot see other dogs or the parents. You want to know the parents and animals the puppy has been living with are healthy and well cared for. You need to know if the parents are aggressive and generally see their temperaments.
Beware of puppies that look too skinny. Puppies need to be wormed in the breeders care and an excessively skinny puppy may mean the puppy has been underfed or underwormed.
Visit the web site of the breeder. Look around at all of the information they provide. Do they have an excessive amount of breeding dogs? What do those dogs look like? Do they look like the breed standard or do they look like they are simply a living, breathing thing capable of breeding? Look for information. Does the breeder seem knowledgable in their breed? Do they provide online pedigree’s of the parents for you to view?
How to spot a potentially great breeder
A great breeder will have great reviews or, at least, no excessively negative feedback online.
They have an informative web site with pictures of all of their breeding dogs as well as information on each of them including sizes and personalities. You can see their animals and if they are breeding to the breed standard.
A great breeder keeps clean living space for their dogs and puppies for optimal health and wellness.
A great breeder worms and immunizes on a schedule that’s right for the breed.
A great breeder is very informative about the breed and can answer questions such as dietary, health, and other breed specific questions.
A great breeder will allow you to return the puppy, should the need ever arise.
A great breeder will provide you with a contract for the health of your puppy.
A great breeder will allow you to meet the mother and father of your puppy.
A great breeder will allow you to see where your puppy was raised.
If you’re on a waiting list for a puppy, a great breeder will keep you informed about your puppies development as well as sending pictures as he or she grows.
A great breeder will not breed from dogs that are unhealthy or from dogs that do not meet the breed standard. This includes improper temperament.
A great breeder will always consider their dogs health before that of a litter. If breeding isn’t right for the dog, they will not breed until or unless it is an optimal time.
A great breeder will inform you if the breed your interested in may not sound right for you. The future of the puppy is more important than your immediate desire.
A great breeder who cares about their lines will always be available to answer your questions. Ask what the best contact method is for them and use that contact method whenever possible. With so many technology options these days, some may work better than others.
A great breeder will never allow a dog to mate to a dog of another breed.
A great breeder will never breed from colors that aren’t appropriate (some combinations of colors may cause “lethal” genes and the breeder should know the potential).