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You're Going to Buy a Dog: Part I. Shelter or Breeder?

Updated on December 16, 2011

The decision buy a dog and add a canine companion to your family is an exciting time full of hopes, dreams and expectations. There are many factors to consider, however, to ensure your new dog will be the right fit for you, provide many happy years of furry friendship, and avoid unnecessary pitfalls and heart aches. Do you want an adult dog or a puppy? Will you adopt or buy from a breeder? Which breed and what size of dog? What energy level is the best fit for your family? This is the first in a series of articles on what you need to consider before bringing a dog into your life responsibly and without regret.

Will you adopt a shelter dog or purchase from a breeder?

Adopt a shelter dog.
Adopt a shelter dog.

About Shelter Dogs: They're Heroes

Adopt a Shelter Dog

The Humane Society of the United States reports approximately 6 to 8 million cats and dogs enter shelters every year. Of those, roughly half meet their end under euthanasia confused and frightened. These figures, staggering as they are, are only for the U.S. The figure worldwide has to be enough to turn your knees to water if you have even half a heart. This fact alone makes adopting a dog a solid alternative in the quest to find your new canine friend. If you are avoiding this option because you desire a pure breed, statistics show that almost 25% of sheltered dogs are pure breed.

So, consider giving a dog another chance at life. There are a lot of good dogs out there who find their way into shelters. Owners who are not dog-savvy or owners who haven't thought ownership through very well become disenchanted. They do a good job at stocking the pound with dogs who are often just misunderstood. Shelters do screen their dog's behavior to ensure they're safely adoptable, but this leads to the other side of the coin which isn't quite as shiny.

An adopted dog may come to you with a little emotional baggage and a lot of confusion. With proper guidance and loving patience, however, there's no reason you can't find a lifelong companion who will love you gratefully and unconditionally regardless of its past. Hey, none of us is perfect and everyone deserves a second chance, right?

There will be an adoption fee which usually includes spaying or neutering, shots, worming and micro-chipping. The average cost is around $75.00 but may be higher in some places. This fee is substantially lower than paying a breeder which is an advantage if your funds are limited.

Try a breed rescue group.
Try a breed rescue group.

Great Video on Breed Rescue Groups

Pure Breed Rescue Groups

An option to consider if you want a pure breed dog is to contact a local rescue organization. Breed rescues take in unwanted and abused dogs whose breed is near and dear to their hearts. They provide needed care and fostering until they are healthy, well-adjusted and ready for a new life. This provides you with the most intimate information about your prospective dog. They'll know its personality and can guide you to the best individual dog/owner fit. There is usually an adoption fee which can be bit higher than the shelter fee, but it will still be substantially less than purchasing from a registered breeder.

Just know that breed rescue organizations will screen prospective applicants carefully and thoroughly to ensure good and proper placement with the right family. If you're unsure the breed you choose is right for you, contacting a rescue group is a wonderful resource. They will tell you everything you need to know and won't rose color anything just to make a sale. Please do choose your breed carefully. Each has its own unique needs and characteristics which will be covered in Part 3 of this article.

A good resource in the U.S. for finding rescue groups is this list from The American Kennel Club. If you are in the UK or Ireland, The Dog Rescue Pages provides over 1,000 rescue groups listed by region. You can also contact your local veterinary office and they can provide you with assistance in locating a rescue in your area.

Buy from a registered breeder.
Buy from a registered breeder.

How to Choose and Breeder and Pick a Puppy

Buy From A Professional Breeder

If you want a pure breed dog, particularly a puppy, a registered breeder is the best way to go. If you purchase from a breeder you most likely have the opportunity to meet the litter's parents, see their pedigree, and spend a little time picking out the right pup for you. You also have an opportunity to see the quality of the home or facility where the litter was born. A breeder is a wealth of knowledge about their breed. They can help guide you with puppy nutritional needs, training tips, and anything else you may need to know. Some will even continue to guide you after you take your new dog home. Its wise to do a little background checking on the breeders you are considering to ensure they're reputable. The American Kennel Club provides a list of breeders and you can also search the internet or contact a local obedience club or veteranarian for referrals.

Do you think you prefer to adopt a shelter dog, choose a rescue dog, or purchase from a breeder?

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A Word About Pet Shops

I don't personally advocate buying puppies from pet shops. Many times these puppies are coming from puppy mills, born and bred in deplorable and inhumane conditions. They will most likely be sold with AKC papers, however this is not a guarantee your puppy is soundly bred. Supporting this type of consumerism just propagates continued inhumane treatment and could lead you to unnecessary heart ache down the road if the puppy isn't sound.

So, these are first things to take into consideration in finding that perfect dog. In Part 2, we will explore the pro's and con's of bringing home a puppy or an adult dog.

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