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Is it Okay to Get a Puppy from a Breeder?

A good number of people have come to us interested in a puppy, but are also wracked with guilt that they are contemplating buying from a breeder instead of going to a shelter.


We are here to say there should be NO shame in purchasing a puppy from a GOOD, ethical breeder. 


We are really firm believers in both the need for quality rescues and ethical breeders. These are not opposites, in fact we believe they work together to create a better future for the species of dogs. 


But...How could you buy a purebred puppy when thousands of dogs are being euthanized in shelters?


This question grabs at the heart strings and admittedly should give anyone who cares about dogs pause. But let’s take a deeper look at what responsible breeding entails and how dogs end up in rescues/shelters in the first place.


If everyone wanting a purebred puppy, abruptly changed their minds today and adopted a shelter dog— would the problem of homeless pets be solved? 


Irresponsible owners and unethical breeders are the problem, not ethical breeders


Unfortunately, no. The root of the problem is so much bigger than that and the shelters would quickly become full again. The dogs in shelters today are not coming from ethical breeders. They are coming from irresponsible owners with “oopsie” litters, hoarders, puppy mills and the like. And that is the source of the crisis. An unspayed female dog could have around one hundred puppies in her lifetime. So you can imagine how quickly this adds up in a home or community with several intact dogs running around. 


There will never be an end to the homeless dogs without a change in legislation and education. But we also believe that every dog saved is worth it and can make a difference. We have donated to spay/neuter clinics and local rescues and would encourage others to do the same. But does a passion and concern for rescue work mean you can’t get the purebred puppy of your dreams? No! Let’s look at how truly ethical breeding actually HELPS with the homeless dog crisis rather than worsening it.


Ethical breeders do their due diligence to make sure they are selling to responsible owners


Ethical breeders carefully vet their buyers and their dogs. Breeders want to get to know their buyers and make sure they are prepared to be responsible pet owners. Not every family is a good fit for every breed or even a dog in general. Good breeders are not afraid to say “no” in order to find the best homes for their pups. When buying from an ethical breeder, there is typically an application and interview process. Of course, no screening process is perfect, but taking the time to assess buyers on the front end to avoid mismatches significantly lowers future risk of rehome. 


Good breeders also carefully vet their parent dogs for both temperament and health.

Outside of unwanted litters, a huge percentage of dogs are surrendered to shelters because of health and/or behavioral problems. A well-bred puppy should come from parents screened for hundreds of genetic disorders and breed-appropriate orthopedic screenings (OFA’s). Could a puppy from fully health-tested, well-tempered parents still go on to develop a health or behavioral issues? Yes, but the odds are much lower. And most importantly, a truly ethical breeder will back their puppy for life!


An ethical breeder’s puppies will not end up in the rescue/shelter system


A good breeder is available to stay in contact with their puppies' families and will want to know about any health or behavioral concerns and be the first line of help and support. If a puppy from an ethical breeder must be rehomed at any point in his/her life, the breeder will take him/her back and be responsible for making sure the dog ends up in a good home. 


And it’s not just a nice gesture, ethical breeders will have buyers sign a contract that ensure the puppy must not be rehomed, placed in a shelter, etc. without the breeder’s knowledge. A good breeder will be a source of knowledge and support to help navigate issues and keep the dog in his home, and they will be the first stop in the worst case scenario that rehoming is unavoidable. In short, and ethical breeder’s puppies will not end up in the shelter/rescue system.


Ethical breeders help provide the education that is needed for a brighter future for dogs!


 Finally, breeders are some of the biggest proponents of spaying and neutering out there! A good breeder will have a legally binding contract that a puppy sold must be spayed/neutered by a certain age. An ethical breeder has a firsthand understanding that not every dog is of breeding quality and certainly not every person is equipped for all that goes into raising a litter of puppies, and they are ready to educate their buyers on this. A breeder who requires proof of spay and neuter on a pet dog is doing their part to prevent accidental litters.


In addition to educating their buyers on the importance of spaying and neutering, breeders should be a source of information about their particular dog breed and dogs in general. Good breeders promote good training practices, healthy diets, knowledge of puppy development, etc. Breeders often spend a good bit of time answering buyers’ questions about how to successfully integrate a new pup into the family. These bits of education have far-reaching consequences when it comes to helping the general public understand dogs better and ultimately providing safer, richer lives for them. 


The future health of dogs depends on our ethical breeders


Let’s look at the flip side. Often members of the rescue community want to “shut down breeders” and make breeding of dogs illegal. Let’s consider this possibility. 


If ethical breeders are shutdown, then the only dogs being produced for the future are from “Joe Schmo” down the street who is producing accidental, unwanted litters because he hasn’t bothered to spay or neuter his dogs, let alone health testing them or being concerned about temperament. Even worse, puppy mills would likely continue to operate illegally- willing to sacrifice health and temperament and the basic humane treatment of their parent dogs. 


If the only dogs being bred are not being health tested, we would begin to see a decline in the health of dogs in general. The number of French bulldogs with significant health problems right now is a sad, but good example of what can happen when regard for a breed’s health takes a backseat. While there are certainly ethical breeders of French bulldogs out there, the breed does stand out as one that has been a “hot breed” for backyard breeders and puppy mills in the past decade. And it shows in the breed’s subsequent health issues and shift in physical conformation.


Every purebred was originally developed for a unique and important purpose


And without ethical breeding, we would lose breed integrity that has been around for centuries. Yes, there are amazing mutts and good and bad example of every breed out there. But in general an Old English bulldog is very different than a border collie. It’s not “all how you raise them.” Breed and genetics matter. A Belgian malinois bred for police work is simply not going to be a good fit as a family pet, and a shih-tzu is going to be a very lousy police dog. We need BOTH types of dogs and a whole lot more to be able to meet the many needs/roles that our society has for dogs— from scent work, therapy work, herding sheep— the genetic differences in the species of dogs really matter and have developed through centuries of careful breeding. 




Adoption isn’t the only way to support dog rescue! 

Not every family has the skills or lifestyle to take on a rescue dog with an unknown history. Families who have young children or need a dog to meet specific requirements (Service work, therapy work, etc.) have very valid reasons to purchase a dog from a quality breeder. We’ve met families who have recently lost a beloved dog from a testable genetic disease who are desperate for the peace of mind that their next dog will be healthier! Furthermore, adoption isn’t the only way to help dogs in rescue. You can donate financially or even with old puppy items no longer needed. Foster-based rescues are often in need of basic supplies as well like unused puppy pads, old bath towels, or even a crate.


There should be no shame in purchasing a dog from an ethical breeder and loving that dog as a puppy and for his whole life. That pup goes from being deeply nurtured and well-socialized by his breeder to a family who is well-prepared to love him for the next 15 years. This should be the ultimate goal for dogs in the future… not merely the end to breeding. The idea of every puppy having this start in life is heartwarming, but alas we must end on a somber note.


It’s the buyers responsibility to do research!


Now, for a big word of caution. Regardless of whether or not you choose the rescue or the breeder route, please take the time to do your research. Unfortunately, there are many breeders who are not thoroughly health testing their dogs or putting in the tremendous amount of time and energy required to properly socialize a litter. And, perhaps even more unfortunate, there are plenty of unethical rescues out there, too. Animal neglect or even abuse has been a far too frequent occurrence in “rescues”. So until we have legislation that better manages breeders and rescues… you as the buyer must ask questions, ask for references, and ask to see facilities, health testing results, etc. before adopting a dog from anywhere! You simply doing your research as a buyer/adopter, is one more way to support dogs and give them a brighter future! 

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