Things to Consider When Picking a Dog
If you’ve recently decided to get a dog and are wondering if you should adopt your newest family member from a shelter or select from a breeder, you’re not alone. There are certain things that you should consider before making this challenging decision. To help prospective pet parents understand which route works best for them, we’ve put together some important things to remember. Our goal is not to influence your decision one way or the other. Our desire is to help you be more informed and decide what will be best for you and your family.
Rescuing a dog is often more affordable than a breeder. Most rescues will charge an adoption fee. This is usually minimal and covers most of their basic shots and spay/neuter. It also goes towards the necessary upkeep of the facilities that continue to help animals in need to find a new home.
When you purchase a dog from a breeder, the dog itself is more expensive because you are paying for a specific breed. In addition to the cost of your new puppy, there will be vet check-ups, deworming, vaccinations and spaying or neutering if you choose to do so. Often, this can drastically increase the cost of your new pet.
Do you have a breed in mind? Most shelter dogs are mixed breeds. While you can certainly find a purebred dog at a shelter, they will not likely have any supporting paperwork to confirm it. If you’re looking for a family dog, you can select a breed that fits with your family and try to find a shelter dog that is similar to or matches that breed. Often times, mixed breed dogs have fewer health issues, due to genetic diversity.
When you go to a breeder, you can meet the parents of your puppy and see if that breed fits your family’s needs. You can see the temperament of the breed first-hand and can get supporting documents to guarantee the pure race of your dog. A breeder can give you a full backstory on your dog. What their full breed history is, what kind of food they have eaten from birth, and what kind of experiences and socialization they have. Good breeders will often work with these puppies to expose them to sights and sounds in a positive manner.
It can be a rewarding experience to help a dog that may have been hurt or abandoned. Many shelter dogs have amazing backstories, and greater still, forming a bond with a rescue dog is something indescribable. Anyone who has rescued a dog will tell you that there is no greater love than knowing you and your dog found each other when you both needed it most.
When you get a dog from a breeder, you get to see your puppy’s life unfold. You will be able to see photos or experience first-hand your puppy’s first moments in life. You will see them grow and progress from a few weeks old into your faithful companion for many years. Although this is possible with a rescue dog as well, it is not as common to find puppies who were born in the shelter.
Training and behaviours
Whether your puppy is adopted or from a breeder, training is an ongoing task for the rest of your dog’s life. However, rescue dogs often have more behavioural issues. Many have come from less than ideal situations and have a lot to overcome. Although shelters do the best that they can, due to lack of resources, volunteers, money, and time, it is hard for them to provide a full life for the animals there. It is very common for shelter dog’s social skills, both with humans and dogs, to deteriorate while in a shelter, often resulting in worsened behavioural problems. It is best to talk to the staff before adopting to find out as much as you can about a dog’s past and current issues. Shelters are happy to recommend a trainer that can help you and your new best friend overcome any issues.
Not all shelter dogs have behavioural problems or have experienced abuse or neglect. Some have been re-homed simply because their owner’s living situation has changed and they could no longer afford to keep them. This means that many dogs will have already been house trained and have basic obedience knowledge. If you don’t have time to train a puppy, adopting is a great way to find a companion that already has basic commands and house training behind them. Adopting an older dog may be a great option for someone who has never owned a dog before or wants a companion but does not have the physical ability to help a puppy or young dog meet their exercise needs.
Getting a dog from a breeder is more like starting with a clean slate. You will have to train your puppy to your liking and meet any unwanted behaviours head-on as they grow and begin to show their own doggy personalities. This can be a fun and rewarding experience once all of your hard work has paid off. But much like shelter dogs, not all puppies from breeders come from the perfect situation and it is always best to find yourself a positive reinforcement trainer to help you tackle any issues before they arise.
Some things to keep in mind moving forward
If you want to rescue a dog, you need to choose based on if the dog is right for you and if YOU are right for the dog. If you are adopting a dog with behavioural problems or anxieties, be prepared to work with that dog. You may need to adapt your lifestyle, go to training classes, or plan socialization for your dog. Try to anticipate how a dog might feel in a situation and decide if that is right for them. For example, a dog that has previously been abused may not do well with children or with other animals in their personal space. This issue can certainly be worked on and resolved over time. However, forcing them into a situation too fast and too soon will be both stressful to the dog and hurtful to you if they are unable to adjust. You must be ready and willing to create an atmosphere to help your dog transition into your family.
While breeders can and should be licensed, this can sometimes be a poorly enforced area. Many under-qualified people can become breeders. This means you must be very careful in selecting a breeder. Are they knowledgeable about the breed? Do they have proof of their license? How long have they been breeding? What kind of health are their other dogs in? How selective are they about who they adopt to? A good breeder will be selective and want to ensure that you are right for the dog. “Window-shopping” for a dog is a thing of the past, and most often these mall breeders are in it for the money and will skip steps to ensure a profit.
Beware of puppy mills, where dogs are kept in poor living conditions. They are bred and kept in cramped spaces then sold without much regard for the well-being of the dog. These types of breeders can make false claims about the dog’s breed and origin to sell them at a higher price. Often these dogs will have behavioural and health issues associated with their early development in this kind of environment. If you come across a puppy mill, report it to your local animal control office, bylaw office, or a police station. You may feel the need to buy a dog to “rescue” it from those conditions, but keep in mind you will just be supporting the puppy mill with your business. Boycotting puppy mills and reporting them is the only way to reduce their presence in the future.
Although the task of choosing a puppy can seem daunting, the preparation and research will pay off in the end. It is best to be fully informed before making any kind of decision. This will eliminate most of the difficult transitions and the heartache of potentially having to re-home your new dog. Once you have decided the best route for you to acquire your newest family member, check back to our blog for tips on how to bring a new dog into your home.
Written by: Rachelle Biever CPDT-KA