The Great Dog Breeder Vs Rescue Debate

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There are a few myths out there about getting a dogs from breeders. With a name like FiDOSE of Reality, of course, we need to dispel them.  Thus, the great dog breeder vs rescue debate is an age-old one.

I’ve fostered dogs and advocate for rescuing dogs in need.

Every year I fundraise to help dogs in need who have been abandoned, neglected, abused, and/or dumped.

My dog, Dexter, entered my life via a purebred breeder of Cocker Spaniels.

I make no excuses for my behavior, and I’ve learned to accept my decision, hold my head high, and will forever advocate for dogs in need of good, loving homes.

Purebred or mutt, reputable breeder or rescue, 78 million Americans have a love affair with dogs. I cringe, though, because though I am a fan of Westminster Kennel Club and I cover it every year for media, I actually do not want my dog’s breed to be popular.

Westminster
Me at Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show in 2013

Breed popularity dictates and mandates what the general public demands. Puppy millers and horrid backyard breeders must be shut down. Puppy mills are selling thousands of dogs online. I know many people, myself included, who have purchased a dog from a reputable breeder.

Popular breeds find their way into the breeding programs of both amazing and horrible breeders. I have rescued dogs and saved my last little girl from a puppy mill nightmare. My dog, Dexter, is from a reputable breeder. He found me and through a series of events, 30 days after losing my Brandy Noel, he found his way to my heart. We were meant to be.

I did my research, I talked to the breeder, I went on site, I met the mom and littermates, and I was interviewed extensively before I could have one of her babies. This is what being a reputable breeder is all about. She interviewed me extensively as well, asked for references, and I was made to fill out an 8-page application of questions all about me, my life, and why I wanted one of her dogs.

What is it about the stigma of good breeders that so very much angers a portion of rescue folks? Why do I have to be afraid to share the truth and wear my breeder Cocker badge with pride instead of feeling like he’s my Scarlett Letter depending on who I’m around.

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Case in Point
Last year, I received an email from a Cocker Spaniel rescue group.

“Here is the big difference between rescue and a lot of breeders. We got a call from a vet that refused to put this Cocker puppy to sleep. We will do everything we can for this sweet girl. The breeder wouldn’t make any money on her if they did the surgery to remove the eye so they wanted to KILL her. She is having the eye removed on Tuesday. She isn’t available for adoption and won’t be for some time.”

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So I shared this little life on Facebook, Tweeted her out, and sent emails to friends who might be able to help.

And then the comments came rolling in.

“Just like there are bad breeders, there are many horrible rescues too. As a proud mom of three rescue Cockers, I dislike people vilifying breeders and pretending to be higher moral grounds. Perhaps this rescue should thank the benefactor of the funds that enables the rescue of this very puppy instead of judging the breeder.”

and

“I feel compelled to point out that there are just as many unscrupulous rescues as there are irresponsible breeders. This case doesn’t show the difference between rescue and some breeders, it shows the difference between people who care about animals and people who don’t. Both kinds are found in both rescue and breeding.”

In spreading the word about the puppy in need of funds, hope, and a new life, the hope was for someone to step up. Someone has stepped up: Funds are being raised and a fellow Cocker Mom wants to adopt her when the time comes.

cocker_puppy

I replied to the above comments with ,”Just as there are horrible breeders there are also horrible “rescues” – this is about being positive and getting funds raised for this baby in need. On that I am sure we all can agree.”

My first Cocker was a puppy mill rescue. I believe until laws are tougher and legislation is passed for dogs, it will never change. In a visit to Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, in 2012, imagine my horror in discovering puppies being sold with green beans.

When I wrote about this topic on my own blog, the comments were varied but carried a common theme: Make no apologies.

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One responder shares, “Yes dogs from reputable breeders DO exist and I have one! I also often feel as if I have to apologize for having bought my dog but the situation at the time warranted it! I also donate, promote and care about homeless animals (and my cat IS adopted), people need to not judge.”

Simply stated, I went to a breeder because Cockers are prone to a lot of health problems and I shared nearly 15 years of my life with a dog that had a multitude of health issues. I’d sell my left lung to have her back and would not change a moment we spent together. Getting a dog from a reputable breeder does not guarantee a clean bill of health; I just wanted some piece of mind that with the many health anomalies affecting Cocker Spaniels, that this breeder did her homework. She does and I feel very confident in my decision. In fact, we are now friends.

After my dog, Brandy, died, I sought the help of a grief counselor and came to realize that the hole in my heart would never be whole again until pawprints filled it. Then along came Dexter.

His little face protruding from a plastic pumpkin as I would peruse Cocker Spaniel breeder websites in my area, there he sat.  From the girl who swore to the “never again,” mantra – in that never again would I allow myself to get that close to a dog again, I found my never again. He sits at my feet daily and his name is Dexter.

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Dexter came from a reputable breeder and he, in turn,  rescued me from myself. Would I rescue again? Yes. Would I go to a reputable breeder again? Yes. I suppose saying my heart beats dog means living it to the fullest and every day I strive to do just that.

Does it matter to you whether a dog comes from a rescue/shelter or breeder? Bark at me in the comments below but please judge not.

Comments

  1. In my heart, I am rescue.. but I totally understanding wanting what the heart wants. Done right, I have absolutely no problem with a pure bred from a breeder dog.. and you did it right. See the parents, see how it is raised, wait on a wait list if necessary.. know the health of the parents, know the breeding practices of the breeders, know how often the dogs are bred, if that is healthy for the dog or not, etc..

    Too many people do not want to wait. They don’t want to research, heck they don’t even want to be told that what they are getting isn’t what they want. I can’t tell you the number of pet owners who say after the fact “oh if I had only known”.. well you would have known if you had just spent ten minutes asking questions, you would have. My youngest cat Skippy was adopted by just such people after he spent many months in foster care with me. I warned them, they refused to listen, they were smitten by his look.. when it came down to caring for him they couldn’t or wouldn’t put up with him and they returned him.

    If you do your research, you have my respect no matter where you get your pet from.

    • Yes indeed, do the research and find a good breeder. That is true – no matter where the pet comes from, know up front and be informed. Love that. Thanks, Connie.

  2. For me personally, I feel that I will always rescue. But, I don’t have a “all breeders should be shut down” mentality either. I do not have a problem with truly responsible breeders. But, what constitutes a “good” breeder is really hard to identify and up to interpretation.

    For example, I assumed that Pedigree breeders would be top-notch, and then I watched an eye-opening documentary about the problems with pedigree breeding and the Kennel Club in the UK. It seems that even the people with the best intentions can be led astray by the allure of prestige. The documentary is BBC Pedigree Dogs Exposed and is available to view on Youtube BTW.

    Obviously backyard breeders and puppy mills SHOULD be villified and I will continue to do so. But, unfortunately, so many people consider backyard breeders reputable breeders because they seem like nice enough people and they aren’t abusing the dogs. That doesn’t mean they know the first thing about genetics and dog breeding! It’s incredibly frustrating.

    All that said, I’d be lying if my heart didn’t drop a little when someone comes into my pet store and says they “bought” their new puppy instead of adopted. So, despite my own beliefs I am not free from being a little judgmental at times.

    • You hit the nail on the head, Andrea: “Obviously backyard breeders and puppy mills SHOULD be villified and I will continue to do so. But, unfortunately, so many people consider backyard breeders reputable breeders because they seem like nice enough people and they aren’t abusing the dogs. That doesn’t mean they know the first thing about genetics and dog breeding! It’s incredibly frustrating. “

    • I breed dogs. I don’t breed, and won’t breed unless I feel that, after much thought and research, I have found the right match for my bitch. That includes talking to a lot of people who have dogs out of this line that I want to breed into. The whole act of breeding is a pretty daunting undertaking. I usually have two or three interested parties, but the is still a lot to get through before there’s a thumbs up or down. My puppies are whelped in the house, raised in the house, and socialized with different people before I even think about them leaving. They will be 8 weeks old before I turn any of them loose.

  3. What a great post and ditto on the wish that my breed of choice never gains widespread popularity. I can tell you that being a member of our parent breed club, there is a constant pull by some to make the breed conform to “dog show pretty”. I have stood with other club members to urge caution and was surprised to be part of a very small group. 🙁

    I do not understand why anyone has to feel guilty or explain why they made the choice to purchase a purposefully bred dog from a reputable breeder rather than seek a rescue. All of our dogs have been purchased from reputable breeders and that is because we wanted working dogs. While I am sure those turn up from time to time at rescue, it is really difficult to know what you have if you have no idea of pedigree. We also wanted our dogs to have correct conformation so as to maximize movement while they work, and last but not least we wanted a stable temperament.

    As with anything there are a small number of breeders who throw out common sense for prestige (not so much with Chessies but in general), but in my experience that is the exception and not the rule and usually people figure it out. I really hope that the vet who refused to put down the puppy made some arrangements for a reduced fee. 🙂

    I don’t watch Westminster. At that level there are too many politics involved. I bet if I google around I can tell you who will win. 🙂 We do compete in shows on a local level…less politics (mostly) and a lot of fun. 🙂 I have been working on a post about what the judges look for in the ring with respect to our breed and hope to have it tomorrow (because I got some good pictures I want to share :)).

    • You have so echoed our sentiments, “I do not understand why anyone has to feel guilty or explain why they made the choice to purchase a purposefully bred dog from a reputable breeder rather than seek a rescue,” and we are grateful you weighed in.

    • That is crap about Westminster, my sister and her dog were invited to show at Westmister this year after only 1 year of local dog shows. They don’t have an “in” anywhere, and are not involved in any “politics” in the dog show world because they went in blind and are still relatively new. And guess what, her dog just won “Best Opposite” this year in her breed category at Westminster. Don’t let your assumptions – or fears keep you from trying 😉

  4. Was this quote from me? ““Yes dogs from reputable breeders DO exist and I have one! I also often feel as if I have to apologize for having bought my dog but the situation at the time warranted it! I also donate, promote and care about homeless animals (and my cat IS adopted), people need to not judge.”

    I think it was!!!!! If not, then it is definitely what I would say! I am soooo tired of being made to feel guilty that my wonderful dog isn’t a rescue dog!

    • That is how I feel. I cannot hide any longer. I will always advocate for dogs in need and hold my head high. Do the same, rock on!

      • I am sick of some rescue people trying to make me feel ashamed for getting a purebred from a breeder too. I chose to go that route because I couldn’t find a tiny dog right for me at any shelter I could drive to. I was set on a Chihuahua after my personal experiences with them and heavy research. I weighed the pros and cons, my lifestyle, and came up with Chihuahuas.

        I searched for a breeder for literally years. I found a local breeder’s website and made contact and she was as legit as one can get. She makes you sign contracts to spay/neuter and give the dog back to her if you can’t keep them so she can rehome them herself. She doesn’t sell “teacup” Chihuahuas (those don’t exist). She prices them fairly cheap when you consider vet costs and makes it clear she breeds to show, not for the money. She just loves the breed. She keeps the puppies for 10 weeks so they get proper socialization and gives them their first vaccinations and a few vet check-ups. She has you bring the puppy to your vet within 2 days of owning them. And she has you meet her at her home and see the puppies and mother (and father if she owns him). She answers any questions you have and makes suggestions about training and such. She doesn’t let her puppies go to homes where people work all day or those that have little kids who are more likely to accidently hurt them.

        I was put on a wait list and after she picked the puppies she was keeping I got to pick out the puppy I was interested in via picture and her description of the puppy. We set an appointment, and met at her house, I got to see the mom and the puppy’s siblings. She didn’t rush me and my parents (who came with me to make sure everything went well). I got to hold the puppy, a little female. Fell in love with her as soon as she was in my arms, and when she fell asleep on me I was absolutely never going to say no. Meant to be.

        The contracts were signed and we paid in full, I went home, and 2 weeks later the breeder brought Chloe (the puppy’s new name) personally to my rental and I gained the best friend I’ve ever had. I still occasionally talk to the breeder and ask questions and she always replies and is happy to see updates.

        Chloe is all I wanted in a dog. She hardly ever barks (and doesn’t yap at all), she plays fetch, she walks (though I have to stop every 5 seconds for her to sniff), she learned basic obedience fast, and she is a cuddle bug. She’s 7.5 pounds of fun. The perfect size for me (and for my family who don’t like big dogs. They make them nervous). She is a watchdog and growls when new people approach but she’s a terrible guard dog. She becomes the stranger’s new best friend 20 seconds later. lol She’s also super with kids. She is extra gentle with them. It’s super endearing to see her playing with my little cousins or getting petted by a little kid in a pet store. I’m always nervous a kid will be rough with her but want her to socialize so I just keep a close eye on them.

        I’d love to brag and say she’s so sweet and smart because I trained her that way, but I know I wasn’t perfect. It was definitely trial and error despite having trained a dog before her and having spent hours watching positive training videos. So I know it’s more than that. It’s also because she got a great 10 week start on socialization, and her mother was a sweet dog too.

        So yeah, when someone says I made the wrong choice and try shaming me, I get angry. I made the right choice for me at the time. I will rescue someday if the opportunity arises, but right now I am very happy with the choice I made and Chloe seems to be too.

        • I have the exact same issues, except with giant breeds… Same research, same extensive thought process in choosing… We are getting a Neapolitan Mastiff in January… Our 3rd giant breed… This dog fits every aspect of our research, lifestyle, family & we found a breeder that fits us… I love hearing stories like mine so I do not feel alone… No shame here!

  5. With us, our chosen breeds aren’t always the easiest to find. Then when you do find one, the dog is was given up for causing problems due to the owner not doing the work. We will always have children in our lives whether it’s our grandchildren or our babysitting neighbor. We can’t afford to risk having any problems in our situation, so we prefer to not take on any problematic behaviors–instead train early on for not developing those bad behaviors. We got both Barkly and Vlad from reputable breeders that are in the show world, and have plenty of references that we called. It’s also necessary to make clear what jobs you intend them performing. You’re right about the hoops you need to jump through with reputable breeders. I always tell people that if you don’t feel like you’ve been to a proctologist when applying for a puppy, then it’s not a reputable breeder. You should also be ready to wait. I discourage anyone not experienced with hard-headed breeds from getting our chosen ones (Airedales, Cardigan Corgis, and now Black Russian Terriers) as well. My dogs don’t act the way they are because I just brought them home, fed them and hugged them to death. They started training the moment they stepped into our house, and then started formal classes as soon as they passed that 4-month-keep-out-of-public age.

    Like you, I hate seeing the flavor-of-the-year-after-Eukanuba-and-Westminster-over-populating surges that occur. I know it always means greedy people are going to look out for their pocketbooks and not the breed itself. And inexperienced owners rush out for them without understanding that even dogs in conformation shows are highly trained and didn’t get that way without a lot of work that some people aren’t going to do for one reason or another. So I give a list of every bad trait our chosen breeds (along with the breed’s common health problems) can have instead of enthusing about the great things that draw us to these breeds in the first place.

    • Very well said. I love this: ” I always tell people that if you don’t feel like you’ve been to a proctologist when applying for a puppy, then it’s not a reputable breeder. ”

      That is so true! The breeder I dealt with had a 7 page application and wanted references, etc. Really good questions were asked of us, and she was and remains very transparent.

  6. I’m a rescuer and don’t think I could ever buy a dog from a breeder. Between 1/4 and 1/3 of dogs at shelters are purebred, albeit without “papers” to prove it. I really don’t care. For me, it’s not the legitimate breeders, like those who breed the dogs you see at events like the Westminster dog show, that bother me, but the back-yard breeders and puppy millers who are only breeding the dogs for the money and don’t really care about them. Too many dogs at puppy mills live horrible lives with no socialization, no chance to run and play outside, no break from their “job” of pumping out litter after litter. It’s that type of “breeder” that makes a bad name for ALL breeders, and I would think that any legitimate breeder would agree with me on this. As long as there are millions of dogs and cats dying in shelters every year, it makes no sense to continue producing puppies to be sold at pet stores. THOSE are the ones that I feel need to be stopped. The legitimate breeders are needed – without them, in time, there would be no purebreds, and for that we need them. I have no issue with them. It’s those who care only about the money and who neglect and even abuse the dogs in their care that need to be stopped.

    On a related note, I have one issue with the rules of the AKC with regard to the dogs allowed to participate in their shows. Deaf dogs, no matter how perfect they are otherwise, are not allowed. I adopted my Ran knowing she was deaf, and after her first adopter dumped her at the rescue I adopted her from – just four days after they had her at the vet for her 3-month shots. I can only assume the vet confirmed that she was deaf and them dumped her. People have NO idea that Ran is deaf when they meet her. It’s always fun to see their reactions when I tell them. Deaf dogs participate – and excel – in things like agility, and yet the AKC won’t allow them to be shown at events like the Westminster dog show. This is one area I really feel needs to be changed.

    • I soooo agree with you on “The legitimate breeders are needed – without them, in time, there would be no purebreds, and for that we need them,” and I really appreciate you weighing in, Linda.

      My heart was so broken and with so many health problems from my puppy mill rescue dog, I wanted to know the type of dog I was getting this go round. I will rescue again and I will go to a reputable breeder again. I always get nervous post Westminster with the surge in the dog of the moment ;(

  7. i have mixed emotions. if there were responsible dog owners and breeders there would not be an over population of pets. if people spade/neutered their pets even for health reasons, there would not be an overpopulation. there are bad breeders and bad rescue groups. i have seen both. if you want a breed specific rescue you can go to the akc website or look in your state. i would love to have a dog that could show at westminster. i have 2 min. schnauzers that could have been show dogs but they were a little on the small side for my breeder to keep, even though they were 13.5 and the limit is 14. however, many of the dogs showing are over the limit. i know a breeder that had 2 show dogs but they had health problems and she did not want to spend the money to correct, cataracts, so she gave them to the rescue and they got wonderful homes. a reputable breeder will put limits on you, cant breed, must spay/neuter, if not want the dog anymore has to go back to the breeder, etc. my breeder checks up on her dogs and will take them back if she finds they are not being treated properly. there are too many back yard breeders who think they can make money by breeding not true, it is a costly practice and does not pay. or a person will just want to have puppies, dont breed, go to a rescue and adopt a puppy. there is a big need by the govt to stop back yard puppy mills and breeders as well as dog fights, etc. i live in nc where there are so many puppy mills busted almost weekly as well as dog fighting. it is disgusting. i blame the breeders partly for over breeding, look at some of the health problems dogs has developed b/c of over breeding, look at what the movie industry has done….it is a circle that i dont think will ever end. if you look at some of the breeds 20 yrs ago and look at them now, you will see how they have changed and not for the better, german shepherds, bull dogs, bosten terriers, french bull dogs, the list goes on….i cant stand to watch the german shepherds at the dog shows, even the puppies are walking on their hind legs…and in 2-3 yrs they will have hip dyplasia. so i dont think this debate will ever end. i know that all pet stores should not be allowed to sell cats or dogs, or even some other pets for that matter. another problem, is that rescues sometimes charge 300-500 for a rescue….you could spend a little more and get a non show dog from a breeder.

  8. I like your stance on this. There’s two sides for every story and someone shouldn’t have to apologize for feel bad just because they bought a dog rather than rescued it. Dogs are special no matter where they come from. I choose to rescue, but it doesn’t mean my dogs and I are better.

    • Thanks, Dawn. I had a family member recently ask me what secrets I had left since I already acknowledged I married a woman (20 years ago) and that my dog is from a reputable breeder. Those are my big reveals, I replied LOL

  9. Thanks so much for sharing your story. I am one who is very much against purebreds mainly because like you mentioned, there is the dog of the hour that has puppy mills rushing to make as much money on the trendiest dogs. Another reason is that what I believe breeding was for is no longer necessary, jobs, most of the jobs dogs were bred to do no longer exist, except herding on ranches and farms. Also, the inheirant medical conditions which I don’t even think good breeders can avoid. I would not want to see an end to breeds of dogs and I admit to a sense of panic when I heard how few Corgis were left in the world. I believe you when you talk about responsible breeders, I have never heard of a breeder as thorough as yours, and didn’t know there were any. For people to want a certain breed of dog because of certain known characters is just wrong and there are so many unwanted dogs, and cats, that any breeding just leads to more. When my mother got her Cocker from someone who just had 2 dogs and let them have puppies, I was furious. But in her 80+ years she had never had a purebred dog and wanted one, and needless to say, a dog needed a home. I have a hard time following bloggers with purebred dogs and unless there is some sore of rescue angle I won’t visit it. Purebreds are wonderful dogs like your Dexter but there are just too many unwanted dogs to justify any breeding. Illinois’ puppy mill lemon law went into effect this year in hopes of limiting puppy mill dogs, I just recently posted a blog about it. And the puppies you saw in PA, which was Amish country, I can’t begin to tell you the horror stories of friends who rescued their dogs from the Amish puppy mills in Iowa known to be some of the worst in the country. But, beyond all of this, you and Dexter were meant to be and that’s all that matters. And you have done more for rescue dogs than I’ll ever do besides adopting one!

    • Oh goodness, I can soooo relate to what you are saying. My Brandy was a puppy mill rescue and I adored every fiber of her being. However, she had so so many health issues – I can’t think of many we didn’t encounter. I would do it all over again and miss her every minute of every day.

      And with Dexter, my heart couldn’t take another situation where I feared I’d end up back at the vet. I know there is no guarantee of health, but I just wanted some level of security I guess. I will rescue again and I will go to a reputable breeder again. I just am so tired of discrimination and fear… your sentiments are so appreciated.

  10. My sisters and I are all purebreds from good breeders, but her first dog was a rescue and she loves us all the same and says that we are all just as wonderful. Over breeding is a big problem and we are happy that Kuvasz and especially GBGV dogs are fairly uncommon or rare and we hope to keep it that way. It is rare to just get a GBGV puppy as there are so few. Normally you have to wait for a litter and see if there are enough for those that want puppies. We think this is great because it is better for the breed and when people have to really wait months or more for a puppy, they aren’t just getting one on a whim, it is something they really want and are willing to wait for. We have no ill feelings towards those that have a dog from a reputable breeder or a purebred or mutt from a rescue, as long as they have a great home.

  11. Reputable breeders are important. They are the ones working to safeguard the health and future of their chosen breed.

    Reputable rescues are important. They are the ones working to pick up the pieces when irresponsible owners and unscrupulous breeders don’t want to take responsibility for the animals they’ve procured or produced.

  12. I share your opinion completely, both of our cockers came from breeders, and I too am fine with that. Also, Lilly had a litter last year, of beautiful cocker babies, and we were stringent with the purchasers, and we are in contact with all. We will not have any more babies, even though, anytime people see Spanky and Lilly out and about, we are questioned and people are always disappointed, I always let people know of the high maintenance issues with this lovely breed, and how many dump them at shelters, or worse. Please check local shelters first, for favourite breeds that need a forever home! Puppies need loving homes too <3

  13. I’m afraid I have a fundamental problem with purebred dog breeding. I do not mean to speak ill of specific people, but I think that both the breed standards and line breeding practices are problematic.

    To “pick on” cockers, here is a page from Illinois Cocker Rescue detailing the common medical problems in this particular breed: http://www.ilcockerrescue.org/health.htm. It says: “The American Cocker Spaniel is at high risk for developing allergies-–food and/or environmental”. It says: “Cocker Spaniels are genetically predisposed to Autoimmune Hemolytic Anemia.” It says: “Dilated Cardiomyopathy is an acquired disease in which the heart muscle becomes dysfunctional over time. … More than 90% of cases of canine DCM are confined to 8 breeds, including Cocker Spaniels.”

    There is a whole page of such medical conditions. Those are just some of the ones near the top of the page.

    Some of these conditions (ear and eye problems, for example) have been created as a result of appearance standards that distort some features of the dog to the point where they no longer function correctly. Other problems are due to founder effects and other genetic bottlenecks created by close line breeding. All or nearly all the recognized breeds have their own catalog of medical conditions that commonly affect that breed.

    This is a completely different level of … I hesitate to say abuse, but what do you call it when you are breeding dogs whose hearts cease to function? … a different sort of abuse from the puppy mill breeders who are only in it for the cash. This is a hidden, unintentional problem that results from the basic practices of breeding purebred dogs. And the fact is, “good breeders” cannot avoid breeding from dogs affected with these problems, as long as they follow the strictures of “pure” breeding.

    Again, I apologize if I seem to be criticizing too harshly. I do not mean to be unpleasant or contentious, and yet I feel I have to call attention to this problem. For myself, I will say that the last two purebred dogs I rescued were a Rottweiler who had to be put down eight months after adoption when he developed utterly debilitating seizures and a collie who died at only 9 years of age, suffering from skin problems, a “moderate” degree of collie eye anomaly and eventually an inability to metabolize her food. Since then I have rescued mutts, and have had hardly any major health problems. I no longer recommend that people buy or rescue purebred dogs.

    • I totally respect your opinion and am grateful you shared here with us.

      If a breeder is producing litters that are unhealthy and not trying to eliminate diseases in dogs, that is not a good breeder. Many of those dogs end up “in the system” – I know because I am heavily involved in Cocker rescue. There are many dogs, purebred or not, who are afflicted with ailments – many due to poor breeders, puppy mills, or sometimes, it just happens/

      I am so glad for your luck with the mutts and wish you continued success.

  14. Fantastic article! We don’t have dogs, but we love them dearly. We are also very involved with rescues here in Tampa Bay. Jen’s comment is much like the comment I was thinking about as I read through the replies – only she said it more eloquently. We recently ‘adopted’ Russell our newest wonderful cat, but not through any organization. A friend and wonderful woman found him thin and dirty and very much lost. She and her daughter decided to take him in, but circumstances dictated that after six months they couldn’t keep him. I offered to help her find a good home and it turned out to be ours! Should I be ashamed for overlooking this beautiful loving cat in favor of going to a shelter? There are so many levels to this issue and to overshadow loving pet people by judging how or where they found their new companion is just wrong. It brings out the bad side of people to a level of hatred and blame. That takes an awful lot of energy that could be better used the help change things through working with animal advocacy to get some of the laws changed.
    The woman who saved Russell for us told me she is going to get a dog – through a breeder – because of her allergies. It made me so sad that she felt she had to hang her head when she said that. I support her decision 100% and know she will find a respectable breeder.

    • Thanks for your input, Jobi. I really find it sad that said woman had to hang her head – I know that feeling all too well. I almost feel guilty and just can’t do it any longer.

  15. I totally understand your not wanting your breed to be popular. I was offended when I saw an article said that Scotties were “out of fashion” but I realize that Scotties are better off as a breed than some of the more popular ones. Case in point: our Chihuahua friends! With so much rescue work needing to be done, I’m not sure I could ever go the breeder route, though. That’s not to say your decision was wrong – I’m just not sure I could do it! Much love, The Scottie Mom.

  16. Carol thank you for this well done post. I was discussing this topic recently with my boyfriend and I think this helps to explain things. Although I choose to adopt and promote adoption, I don’t judge those who choose reputable breeders. My parents’ dog came from a breeder and I love him to pieces. I honestly believe we all have the same end game and desire to see all dogs in a loving home. People need to do their research whether it is a breeder or rescue, so that it is no longer okay to not put a dog’s needs first. I also completely understand your desire for Cocker Spaniels to remain “unpopular.” It breaks my heart to see how many Beagles need forever homes.

  17. While I was growing up, my grandparents showed and bred Boston Terriers but as an adult, I have never had a purebred dog. This is not because of an aversion to them but I have always found rescues that need me first.
    I do have several friends with purebreds and they have confessed to feeling guilty in certain situations. It is sad that anyone has to justify their decision to have a purebred …whatever their reasons. If you are not actively breeding, you should not have to feel guilty for loving any dog.
    The only people I feel have to justify anything are breeders. If you are a breeder, you should have to prove that you know what you are doing and that your liter will contribute to the breed. Sadly, no one has to prove anything and this is why backyard breeders and puppy mills are so abundant.
    Hold your head high and do not let anyone make you feel guilty. You are a dog owner who loves your dog and that is nothing to be ashamed of.

  18. As a person who has cared for 4 rescue mixes and 1 purebred ( all of whom have passed-I have not kept dogs since 2005 ), and who is beginning to open her heart and life to the possibility of a canine friend, as I research shelter/rescue lists for the two breed/types of interest ( Collies and Belgians ), they are few and far between. My purebred and 1 mix were black Belgian Sheepdogs. Both trained quickly and easily, socially presentable with great manners, and loved by all. The other mixes were lapdog/terrier, Cocker and Rott/Golden, and did not train well. I rehomed the Rott/Golden with a loving family who didn’t mind her manipulative adult puppy behavior, and rehomed the little terrier too-he was a tough case and an impulse on my part, that little Ewok face staring at me from the shelter stall. The Cocker was inherited from a deceased family member. Now, Because what I desire in a canine companion is specific ( trainability and intelligence for good manners, gentleness, loves people & going places, good around horses, easy natural movement and stamina ), and because the Belgians were such a great fit for our active, semi-rural lifestyle, I am leaning towards contacting breeders while continuing to look at shelter lists and rescue lists. I will not succumb to guilt trips by others if I acquire a companion from a breeder: matching the right animal to the right home is key for all, and is what helps keep animals out of shelters. For the record, I later discovered that my purebred B.S. was a puppy mill puppy: at the time I was in my twenties, had never seen one before, and it was 1994-no internet. The woman was breeding too many Goldens-popular at the time- and a handful of Belgians. I get it now. Our lovely girl developed severe epilepsy at 5 and was blind by 6. At 8 she developed a stomach tumor and we had her put down. It was awful. The woman has since been run out of the CA. I hope that she has been permanently stopped.
    My B.S. mix lived to 16. The Cocker escaped the yard after a storm blew over our fence and I never found her. She was 12-13.

  19. As a person who has cared for 4 rescue mixes and 1 purebred ( all of whom have passed-I have not kept dogs since 2005 ), and who is beginning to open her heart and life to the possibility of a canine friend, as I research shelter/rescue lists for the two breed/types of interest ( Collies and Belgians ), they are few and far between. My purebred and 1 mix were black Belgian Sheepdogs. Both trained quickly and easily, socially presentable with great manners, and loved by all. The other mixes were lapdog/terrier, Cocker and Rott/Golden, and did not train well. I rehomed the Rott/Golden with a loving family who didn’t mind her manipulative adult puppy behavior, and rehomed the little terrier too-he was a tough case and an impulse on my part, that little Ewok face staring at me from the shelter stall. The Cocker was inherited from a deceased family member. Now, Because what I desire in a canine companion is specific ( trainability and intelligence for good manners, gentleness, loves people & going places, good around horses, easy natural movement and stamina ), and because the Belgians were such a great fit for our active, semi-rural lifestyle, I am leaning towards contacting breeders while continuing to look at shelter lists and rescue lists. I will not succumb to guilt trips by others if I acquire a companion from a breeder: matching the right animal to the right home is key for all, and is what helps keep animals out of shelters. For the record, I later discovered that my purebred B.S. was a puppy mill puppy: at the time I was in my twenties, had never seen a puppy mill before, and it was 1994-no internet. The woman was breeding too many Goldens-popular at the time- and a handful of Belgians. I get it now. Our lovely girl developed severe epilepsy at 5 and was blind by 6. At 8 she developed a stomach tumor and we had her put down. It was awful. The woman has since been run out of CA. I hope that she has been permanently stopped.
    My B.S. mix lived to 16. The Cocker escaped the yard after a storm blew over our fence and I never found her. She was 12-13.

  20. Recently adopted from a rescue–NEVER again. Saw dog on line, contacted rescue. At meet-and-greet, noted that dog lacked normal interest in humans, but was talked into (“she’s just nervous here,” “once she gets to know you. . . .”). At first, dog just wanted to be held, but then began showing both fear and territory aggression, with growling at husband and guests. Tried to contact rescue, which did not answer e-mail and calls. When finally got through via telephone, head of rescue screamed abuse at me. Hung up phone, shaking. Rescue has now hired attorney to go after me. Interesting that they have money to hire an attorney but don’t seem able to find it to feed their skinny dogs. I will never, never again support rescue.

    • Because of ONE incident you’ll never support a rescue again? Seriously? ??? My goodness. I hate to tell you, but there are far more worse breeders out there than rescues. I’ve rescued 4 dogs over the years. Never had an issue. If you get bad fries from McDonald’s one time are you never going back? That’s how stupid your statement is

  21. What a great article!
    Finally someone has taken on this age old debate and have offered some solid points about purchasing a dog from a breeder.
    I would rather get a dog from a reputable breeder because you have the opp to know much more about what your getting from a health and behavior perspective.
    I know that there are respectable rescue groups out there but I would rather go the breeder route.
    Happy Holidays! Margaret Pug

  22. I bought a Jesse my Cocker Spaniel from an ad in the paper. The couple had a male and female pure bred cockers, so I wouldn’t really call them breeders. I loved him so much and lost him when he was about 13yrs. Then I got a rescue puppy, kinda. When my son was deployed my daughter in law saw a boxer puppy being treated poorly (puppy was tied up in the backyard) and kids being really mean and hurtful to the puppy. A friend of hers helped her get the puppy away from the family. She had been telling about this poor little girl and I was so happy she got her away from that awful family. My son and d-i-l had brought a couple boxers home from Germany when they came back to the states and I had always loved those dogs. My husband and I drove from Wisconsin to North Carolina to get this little boxer puppy. She was the best puppy ever. She died from her second bout of cancer at the age of 10½ yrs. We put her down last November and I cannot get over not having her with me. My doc has diagnosed it as PTSD (only soldiers and law enforcement other professionals get that) and the only way to get over this is to have another puppy (young dog). My husband is allergic to dogs so I am looking for the right breeds. When I look at the rescue sites I will see a Yorkie mix and wonder what all it might be mixed with. I need to have a mix of 2 hypoallergenic purebred dogs. Trying to find one is getting pretty hard to do.
    Thanks for listening,
    Kim

  23. i haven’t had a pet in many years I am hoping to be able to adopt a dog or cat when I move. i see nothing wrong with good responsible breeders. I need a low energy dog because I am over 60 and have problems walking. If these dogs and cats are getting euthanized part of the problem is the high expectations of a lot of these rescue groups and some of the questions they ask. Their are 2 shelters near where I will be moving one is the city shelter and the other is the humane society. The city shelter just stopped being a kill shelter, which is good but they adopt out kittens under a week or 2 old. No foster program either which would be an asset to those who adopt from them. On the other hand the humane society seems like a good place. I already saw a dog I would love to have. I really don’t want a puppy or kitten under a year. I think most people won’t hurt an animal and when you keep them in shelters or worse instead of letting someone adopt them because maybe they don’t have a fence or are planning on having kids. Taking precautions is fine but some of them go too far.

    Susan

  24. I have to leave a comment and say thank you for this article! I am a dreamer of breeding turned private rescuer and am finally getting to pursue my dream of breeding 🙂 My husband was military for almost 9 years and we were with him for 8 of it. As a military family I did not feel it right to breed as it is such an unstable situation and you never know where you might go at times. So I continued doing what I had always done, rescuing! I can honestly say I’ve been rescuing since I was a small child! lol I even crawled down in to an overgrown creek once and saved a puppy someone had abandoned. The poor thing was ridden with fleas and I honestly believe it was by the grace of God that I even found her, because her whine was so low and the over growth was so large I barely saw it move when she did. But none of that detoured me because I was determined! It still pains me to think of her though because she was hit by a car months later and didn’t make it :'( I grew up not so comfortably. Not dirt poor but still poor all the same. My mom went to school and worked full time to support us kids but she always made room for more than enough furry friends! lol I swear we had a petting zoo in our home once! And my love for animals comes from that wonderful woman! I’ve rescued many animals over the years and privately rehomed many of them after spending allot of my own time, energy, money, and tears on them. Many wound up with family members lol And a few were ours till their end. I cannot express the joy rescuing brings in to my heart and soul but honestly I had started becoming pretty cynical about people toward the end. The things I had witnessed and helped take care of. Not just from owners or breeders but also from shelters and private rescuers hiding behind their license and funding and pretty much hoarding animals. I’m not going to lie I did fib to get a few of these animals, because I wanted to care for them and find them their furever homes not just their inbetween home! They deserved to be in a house with people that loved them and couldn’t see their lives without them! When I did all of this I did not ask for a cent in return for all that I had done! All I asked was that if for some reason it didn’t work out that they let me help in finding them a new home. I luckily have never had that happen 🙂 Last year my husband was medically released from the Army after a hardship tour in Korea and 2 tours in the war. It was a complete shock to our systems as we planned to be a career family. But we took it in stride. Sold our home where we were stationed, packed up our lives, and moved back to our hometown where he was lucky to find good steady work that allowed him to still provide for our family while I stay home and take care of everything on the homefront as usual 🙂 With this turn of events it has allowed me to pursue my dream of breeding. I know this may sound crazy to many since I rescued for years but to me the breeders aren’t the real problem. And before you completely write me off for saying that please just let me say my peace? Yes, puppy mills and kitty mills are bad and horrible. But they wouldn’t be if we as a society were a little more patient, vigilant, and diligent. If you are wanting a purebred great! But do your homework! On the breed you are seeking out, the breeder you come across, and don’t get in a rush! Yes that puppy “in the window” is so adorable and could get bought out from under you in the next 5 minutes! But there will be plenty more when you are better equipped to make your choice. And take it from someone who finds it hard to pass up their adorable faces, do NOT look until you are ready!!! Because otherwise you aren’t going to be able to resist and that’s when situations arise that it doesn’t work out. And just a little tid bit, most of those doggies in the actual window of a pet store are from puppy mills. Not all but most. That’s how they unload them without having to answer questions or have people wanting to see their facilities. Have I ever rehomed an animal? Yes. Why? Because unfortunately there are unforseen things that arise that you cannot always control. Like with my little Frenchie. She was my absolute baby!!! I had read up on having one, asked around at my groomer’s that I used for the rescues I brought in, and even got a referral from them for a reputable breeder that she had bought from. I got my little girl for VERY cheap because she had been born with an umbilical hernia but I didn’t care because I was in love!!! Before she turned 2 I found out from a specialist that she had Hereditary Early Onset Advanced Cataracts and if I didn’t get her the surgery soon she would be blind for the rest of her life. I dyed a little inside that day and cried the whole way home cradling her in my lap. I tried calling the breeder just for some information and she would never return my phone calls or emails. I was devastated and tried for months to find a way to raise the funds ($4000) for the surgery. She was just a baby she didn’t deserve to be blind for the rest of her life. And unfortunately there was no where to turn. I finally made the decision to surrender her to a very loving French Bulldog Rescue when she accidentally bit a 2 year old in the face and caused him to have stitches. It wasn’t her fault obviously because she could not see and I warned his mother not to let him mess with her because she frightened easily because of her condition, but it still happened. The cops were called obviously because it was a dog bite and I had to let my baby go to lock up for 10 days not knowing where she was or who these people were all because she couldn’t see, got frightened, and reacted. I felt like such a selfish person and cried that whole 10 days. Shortly after getting her back I surrendered her on the condition they get her surgery immediately. They did and then did an extensive adoption process. She now lives with an older couple who has 2 other Frenchies. She can see now and is as happy as can be 🙂 I still tear up thinking of her because she was my best friend, but I know I did the best thing for her! I am cross at the breeder I got her from but I do not think she is a bad breeder. She is in showing and used to be pretty well known where she was from. I just think it probably frightened her and she didn’t know how to talk to me so she chose to ignore the situation. I’ve also had horrid rescue stories but I know this message is getting pretty long so I won’t go in to detail. But suffice it to say I had to threaten a woman with the authorities once because she kept giving me the run around for months about a Pekingese I was trying to get from her that was heartworm positive and he obviously had some bad breeding because he was snow white with weird blue eyes. I eventually did get him but not for long because my mom kind of guilted me in to letting her have him lol He is her absolute baby he has been treated and as I suspected he wound up deaf. But he is happy as a clam and spoiled rotten 🙂 As a rescuer turned breeder I just wish everyone would take a step back and drop the hate. If we all worked together instead of crucifying for our cause then I believe things could be better. I don’t like using the term backyard breeder lightly because allot of people do not understand what it actually means. It does not describe someone who isn’t licensed or doesn’t have a huge extravagant facility, because I have neither and I do not consider myself to be one. That term in my opinion is for the people that use their animals as lawn ornaments and could care less if they are cared for health wise period. They do not allow their dogs to mate they just don’t care either way because then they don’t have to pay to spay/neuter. But if they get pups out of the deal that they can sell for a quick buck then win win. Backyard breeders are why their is an over abundance of animals in this country! They do not care for their animals and that includes spay/neutering which would help rectify the situation. Despite the fact that these pups are also not cared for health wise and most of the time abandoned if not bought or picked up. I also believe that backyard breeders are a result of society just not really caring about animals, just the bottom dollar. Where we were last stationed there were low cost clinics based on income or they would even do events for people that had animals that couldn’t afford regular vet bills. There were also TNR (trap/Neuter/Release) clinics for cat colonies so that they could be released back where they were comfortable instead of euthanized because they were too wild to be adopted out. It doesn’t hurt anybody to have stray cats around as long as they aren’t procreating like wildfire, in fact it helps with certain pests. I in fact helped with the TNR in my own neighborhood and paid for some of it. If society cared more for the dog in the yard behind or to the side of them then maybe things wouldn’t be so bad. I’m sorry but I am one to stand up quick for animals I don’t care what the owner’s excuses are. We need to take more responsibility and not be afraid to stand up for the voiceless. Yes I plan to breed and I am pretty excited and happy about it! Not because of the money like some because all of that is going right back in to my little spoiled furbabies 🙂 But because I get to bring joy to the lives of people through responsible breeding. I have researched and continue to research my babies breed and I love to educate people who come to me. I have a questionaire that will be put in place just as I had through out my rescuing! But I do not plan to get so big that I need a tax ID or any of those other credentials. This is strictly a small little hobby that will be retired when my girls are just a few years old and will then be fixed and get to live out the rest of their (hopefully God willing) 10+ years just being spoiled rotten as they are now lol It is my long awaited dream, but I will always be a rescuer! I still rescue in fact 🙂 Only now it is with the help of local fostering rescues since I cannot bring them home with me. I truly am sorry for how long this is but I am so grateful for your wonderful words of wisdom. God Bless

  25. I really enjoyed this article. The breeder/rescue issue has become a hot button topic in out group of friends to the point of not being able to talk about it. Very unfortunate since we all used to love hiking with our dogs, a mix of both. Anyways… I am the proud mom of a rescue “reservation dog” a rescue cat and a pure bread boston terrier. Niner (my rescue dog) initially was supposed to be a bore collie, but ended up after I did a DNA test being a lab/boston terrier. Suddenly his health issues made sense. He is a fantastic dog and a loving “big brother” to my other animals. My pure boston terrier was purchased after saving and dreaming and waiting for over 2 years. I did my research and made sure to meet the family and parents, see where he was born and go through rigorous checks. I ended up getting Tek by chance when the breeders came around for thier post-purchase house checks and realized he was getting seriously mistreated. They took him and called me. I am thankful everyday for my 3 “kids” and know that it doesn’t matter how you got your pup, ad long as you love and care for them.

  26. I very much appreciated your article. I have been toying with the same dilemma myself. Although I work with several dog rescue groups and have adopted several of the old and weak that had little chance of being adopted, I always have my own Min Pin that I got from a reputable breeder.

    The main reason I usually have a dog from a reputable breeder is so I can meet the parents, learn about the parents” behavior and health (as much as possible) and have knowledge of the dogs” medical history before taking them home. It is not that there are not many wonderful rescue dogs out there, I have adopted many; but, for my personal well-being, I need a dog that is more likely to have certain traits that will help me to counteract my severe depression. In order to help me with that part of my life, I need to try and find dogs that have certain personality traits, which is why I like to meet the parents.

    As with rescue dogs, you never truly know exactly what you are getting and what is being hidden from you; but, there are personality traits that I strive hard to find in my main companion dog. The rest of my dogs are foster failures and usually the old and weak or have psychological problems that make them unadoptable.

    One other problem I have with rescues and I have mixed feeling about the situation is some of the very strict requirements they have for homes prior to adopting dogs. I used to do a lot of homechecks for 2 rescues and will no longer do them. Many of the people who ran or volunteered for the rescues would not have passed the home checks and the homechecks were often directed towards people with a lot of money.
    With all of the animals needing homes and lined up on euthanasia lists, I don’t understand why so many potential adopters are turn down. There is a lot of hypocrisy in that area.

    • Thanks for sharing your experience with this. I have stopped feeling “guilty” about this and I will always advocate for rescue and will rescue again in my life. I just had to do what was right for me at the time. There is no shame in going to a reputable breeder, and this is something I have learned.

      I know what you mean about some rescues turning down potential adopters and totally agree about the hypocrisy for sure.

    • You completely contradict yourself in what you say. Just because you know the parents of the puppy, you do NOT know that puppy will grow up to be a problem. If you’re looking for a dog to help your psychological issues, try a Lab or golden retriever. And you CA adopt one from a rescue that is in a foster home and find d out about the dogs behavior, health etc. I have 4 rescue dogs. Pure bred lab and mixed. I’ve never had any issues with them. And as far as rehoming to the right people, I think it’s a good thing they turn some down. I see more people giving away their pure bred dog that they spent hundreds of dollars on posting on fac ebook and Craigslist because they are not decent human beings and should never have bought the puppy to begin with. You cannot be a person who is an advocate for rescuing but purchases purebreds. Contradiction in a major way. It’s like saying your an animal advocate and wearing a real fur coat at the same time. Bogus

  27. The MAIN difference in rescuing and buying from a breeder is SAVING A LIFE. Rescuing saves a dogs life. Buying from a breeder only makes the breeder money and takes away a home from a dog that is in a rescue. If a dog gets rescued from a shelter or rescue, a dog from a kill shelter will have a chance to get into a rescue and find a forever home. Until the pet over population is under control, buying a pure bred puppy from a breeder (regardless is they are reputable ) should be stopped. I just spent the day with 150 dogs that were abandoned/neglected and some were pure bred puppies and adult dogs. If you’re thinking about buying a puppy from a breeder, go visit a shelter, a rescue or the pound and then make your decision.

  28. I have NO problem with REPUTABLE breeders who breed for the love of the animal — I think there is a place for them While I will never buy a dog ever because I am 100% dedicated to rescuing, I understand there are those that really want a purebred.

    I actually just wrote a post today about the horrors of the Puppy Mills……http://charitypaws.com/puppy-mills because I want people to understand the horrors of the puppies they are buying! I do hope to make a difference and get people EDUCATED about the options that are available to them to get the dog of their dreams.

    This is a great post — totally resonated with me!!!!!

    • Thanks so much for chiming in and I look forward to reading your post, Jill. I, too, have written of the horrors of puppy mills. Having rescued a dog from one, I know first hand.

  29. I agree with the author’s opinion that either rescuing or getting a pup from a reputable breeder can be a good way to go as long as you do it right. My own experience tells me that things can go horribly wrong in either situations.

    My first dog was from a great breeder who I picked out among several other breeders. He was considered by most people who meet him as one of the best dogs they ever met. He was intelligent, polite, and so sweet. After my first dog passed away, my heart was too broken to get another dog for a long time. After more than two years, I was finally ready to get another dog. I again went to a breeder, but this time I did not take my time to do the research because I was too busy. I got a two months old puppy from the breeder who seemed to be reputable, but the dog turned to be very aggressive and bit me multiple times for no apparent reasons.

    I also believe in rescuing homeless animals and those who are less fortunate. I have volunteered at animal shelters and fostered dogs. My one bad experience while volunteering at an animal shelter was a dog attacked me to get treats, which totally shook me up, though not enough to stop me from volunteering. However, I have also had great experience with dogs that I fostered. They are such great dogs that any family would be lucky to have them.

    In summary, each dog is an individual regardless where the dog is from. It is so important to do as much research as possible before getting a dog. I realize that a lot of us wish that we can save all dogs that are homeless, and rehabilitate all dogs that are aggressive. However, please ask yourself whether you have the financial means and emotional endurance to do those things. I know friends of mine who had to put down their dog (who was a rescue dog) who was healthy because of aggression issues (luckily, I haven’t had to do that). I cannot imagine what my friends had to go through to reach that point. I guess all I am saying is there is no shame of doing what you think you are able for the dog you bring in your lives whether it’s forever or temporarily (fostering).

    Best of luck to everyone who is looking for a furry friend. I know from my experience that the right dog can enrich your life the way that you cannot imagine. 🙂

    • WOW what great feedback, Jess. I love that you shared, In summary, each dog is an individual regardless where the dog is from. I, too, feel the same way. I have had both rescue dogs and dogs from reputable breeders. You are spot on and this what you wrote is beautifully stated.

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