I work in a shelter and have been involved with the shelter/rescue community for years now. Yet I’m considering getting my next dog from a breeder. This post will likely stir up some controversy amongst my friends and acquaintances; some may even get downright furious with me. I completely understand why. However, I ask you to hear me out. There are reasons behind this decision and it’s not one I take lightly. It’s taken a long time for me to come to this decision – and frankly I may still change my mind.
Some believe there’s no such thing as a “responsible” breeder, but obviously I disagree. There aren’t many, but they do exist. These breeders are dedicated to preserving their breed as the dog it was meant to be. In a way, it’s like a work of art. A good breeder will do extensive health testing to avoid passing on any issues to the puppies. A good breeder will breed for temperament so they are not producing anything unstable. A good breeder knows how important socialization is, has you sign a contract, and will take a dog back at any point in its life if you decide you cannot keep it. Because of this they do not contribute to overpopulation in shelters. Good breeders will also suggest rescues to some people or help the rescues directly themselves. Considering all the money they pour into proving their dogs’ health and abilities, they don’t make nearly the profit you think they do. This isn’t for money. This is for the love of a breed.
Someone who buys a dog from a breeder is not literally responsible for a shelter dog dying. Even if they do not get a puppy from a breeder that does not mean they would have or should have gotten a shelter dog. Police dogs, military dogs, service dogs, search and rescue dogs, etc. The people who take on puppies for this kind of work need puppies whose health, drive, and temperament will be predictable.
I don’t train police/military/service/SAR dogs. Why on earth do I need a dog from a breeder? Because I want something very specific. If I find that very specific dog in a shelter before I get a dog from a breeder – then great! But it’s not likely. It’s selfish, but I’m picky. I don’t want a project. I quite fancy German Shepherds. Poorly bred GSDs can be found throughout rescues. A poorly bred GSD is often a disaster – aggression, anxiety, health problems, so on. If you’re getting a dog bred for guarding and working, you need to be careful where it comes from. Getting a GSD puppy from rescue is a huge gamble (plus they look so different as puppies who knows if it’s even a GSD unless you’ve seen the parents). I would just get an adult, but I really want to start off with a puppy. I want to teach it appropriate behavior from the beginning, prevent bad habits as best I can, properly socialize to avoid behavior issues, and have a better chance of teaching it to enjoy normally scary things like going to the vet. I’d also like a dog to do obedience and potentially sports with. For that I need a dog with at least a little working drive.
“But it’s all in how you raise ’em!” No. No it isn’t. Stop saying that. Improper socialization and training can have a huge impact – absolutely. But temperament and drive has a genetic component. Things like aggression and anxiety can be passed on to puppies. So I want a dog from rock solid lineage to avoid those issues. Five days a week I work with dogs with behavior issues. The last thing I want to do when I come home is do more of that with my own dog. The breeder I am considering usually has a long wait list for puppies and potential buyers must pass a thorough screening process. In the meantime, I will absolutely continue to browse shelters and rescues for a dog that suits me. I’d be delighted if I could find one. And 95% of the time I’m still totally going to recommend shelters/rescues to anyone looking to add a dog to their life.
Unfortunately regulations on breeding dogs are so piss-poor that pretty much anyone with two intact dogs can be a breeder. The real people who are the problem are the puppy mills and backyard breeders – those who don’t breed/test for health or temperament, those who don’t screen buyers, those who just churn out dogs ignorantly for a profit. They are the ones whose dogs end up in shelters. They are the ones who deserve your ire.
I know that even with all this, some will still disagree with my decision to go to a breeder. That’s fine. Hopefully this helped others understand.