Saturday, March 29, 2014

"How could you BUY a dog?!"

As a professional in the dog world who decided to buy a puppy from a breeder instead of rescue one from a shelter/rescue group, I did have this fleeting thought during the process -- "Yikes, I bet I'm going to piss off someone by doing this!"  And sure enough I have.  I've received a few emails, nothing nasty or rude (I do want to point that out!) asking why I chose to buy and not adopt.  I actually haven't responded to the emails as of yet and so thought I'd send this as a message hopefully to help others understand and also ease anyone that has the possible guilt of buying instead of adopting.

First of all I want to say this: Everyone has a reason for everything they do. Everyone has their own lives and things going on that others have no clue about. Making judgments on any issue is wrong at best, harmful at worst.  So before jumping to conclusions you should get facts and know all the details of the situation at hand. Sure, easier said than done.  But I digress ...

...Now onto the actual subject matter -- Why did I buy a puppy from a breeder when so many are in shelters? We recently bought a puppy from a responsible breeder.  Let me reiterate the adjective I used before the word "breeder" -- responsible.  There is a lot that goes on in finding a responsible and very reputable breeder. I researched and asked all the right questions. I did all my homework and lucky for me I know exactly what questions to ask a breeder before buying.

Over the past 12 years I've owned 6 dogs, including the new puppy we have now. Of those six dogs two of them were rescues and four were "bought" from breeders -- two were not reputable breeders and two were highly reputable and excellent breeders.   I slowly learned how to ask the right questions and do my homework.  And that can often involve a lot of work, and it should.  If you are going to go the buy-a-puppy-route you need to know exactly what you're doing and where your puppy is coming from.  A bad breeder can be a disgrace to the reputable breeder community. Bad breeders are indeed contributors to the too-many-pets-in-the-shelter problem we face today.

Now, don't get me wrong -- buying a dog from a reputable breeder doesn't guarantee a quality dog for health or temperament. However, the chances are greater that you will have these things on your side if you did get the dog from a good, well-rounded and reputable breeder.

On the flip-side, rescuing a dog doesn't mean you'll be guaranteed problems either.  There are many excellent dogs in rescues/shelters that are absolutely amazing dogs that live a fully, happy, healthy and behaviorally-balanced life.  However, in my experiences (and this is just my experience but it's been 15 years of working with rescue dogs and "breeder's" dogs from all angles) rescue/shelter dogs are more likely to have some behavioral and/or medical issues.  I've also worked with loads of rescues and I know that they are often a crap-shoot both medically and behaviorally.

So does this mean I'm against rescue dogs? Absolutely not!  I work with rescues day in and day out. I also work with full-bred dogs too from reputable and responsible breeders as wells as from backyard breeders and puppy mills. One of my current dogs is a rescue as well. The facts are that reputable and responsible breeders do most often produce sound dogs.  There is a reason they are reputable and responsible.  If it weren't for these types of breeders we wouldn't have dogs at all.  They aren't the problem, contrary to what you may believe.  (Read this great piece here on this topic.) ... More on breeders  later in this post ... Keep reading.

So, why did I choose to buy instead of adopt? Well, my first response to anyone who really wants my answer -- it shouldn't concern you.  Ok. But it does. Because I'm in the dog profession. I'm not just an average person with a dog. I work with dogs in rescue all the time. I work with rescue groups and shelters all the time.  I know loads and loads of wonderful people who volunteer countless hours, blood sweat and tears in rescue. I cannot tell you how much I commend these people. It's unimaginable how much hard work, dedication and tireless hours rescue people put into what they do.  I can't even begin to describe some of the things they have seen, been part of or done; and I commend them all for their work and efforts.

I have the highest respect for anyone and everyone involved in rescue in any way. It's a grueling part of life that I find will sadly probably never go away.  I am pretty certain that we can make a difference but sadly there will always be people abusing animals, neglecting them and all the in betweens of that.  

But here is the thing.  That has nothing to do with me.  I am not the person neglecting dogs. I am not the person abusing dogs. I am not the person dumping dogs at the shelter, or worse.  I am a responsible dog owner, to say the very least.  I am not contributing to the dog over-population problem/dog dumped in shelter problem/dog being abused/neglected problem.  My breeder would have sold my puppy to another person if she hadn't sold her to me.  My breeder also takes any puppy of hers back at anytime during the dog's life, anytime, no matter what. Her contract states that should I need to re-home her I have to give her back to her, and her only.

This means my breeder isn't contributing to the pet over-population/dumped/abused/neglected problem either.  This also means that all responsible and reputable breeders aren't contributing to the pet problem.  No, they aren't.  Where do you think dogs started from?  Where do we get all these wonderful breeds to choose from?  Responsible and reputable breeders preserve a breed. They make them what they are and what they should be.  They breed for betterment of that specific breed.  If you had a Border Collie that didn't herd you'd have a very bad specimen of a Border Collie, no?  If all breeders ceased to exist there would eventually be no dogs. Of course this would take decades to do however,  realistically if no one ever bred dogs ever again dogs would become extinct.

The truth is that breeders aren't the problem. Irresponsible dog owners are the problem.  Plain and simple.

The people contributing to our too-many-pets-in-the-shelter-problem are the result of lack of education, understanding, training and/or compassion for animals.  For those extreme cases of abuse and neglect, that's an entirely different problem. People who are actually harming and neglecting dogs have a problem that goes far beyond irresponsible dog ownership. Those people have an underlying mental health problem of some kind. That's a whole other topic that I will not discuss.

If you want to help keep dogs in homes and out of shelters adhere to these tips:
  1. Don't get a dog if you are not able to afford it (or make your own sacrifices to afford it!) -- I get it. I am not rich by any stretch. But I do what I can to make it work because when I get a dog I get the dog for life regardless of what comes along the way.
  2. Don't get a dog if you cannot commit to it for the dog's entire life, no matter what. -- Really? Do I need to elaborate this one?
  3. Learn to understand canine behavior and body language and get your dog trained as soon as you get it! -- One of the main reasons dogs are over-crowding shelters is because of a behavior issue. You'd be surprised at what some people define as a behavior issue.  It ranges from jumping on guests (insanely easy to train polite greetings!) to biting people and/or other dogs.  So no matter what, as soon as you get a new dog (any age!) hire a highly qualified training professional and get started on the right path.  And don't stop training your dog. And if you see something come up later re-hire your trainer and get the issue addressed immediately. Nearly all problems are able to be helped with appropriate training. 
  4. Don't give up a dog because he's become an inconvenience. -- If you find that having a baby means "we just don't have time for the dog" then think this thru before having a baby and actually getting a dog.  You cannot believe how many people give up dogs when a new baby comes into the home. It's ludicrous. This goes back to #3 --> find a highly qualified trainer that understands families, babies and dogs.  They even have specialized programs for this exact thing (Family Paws Parent Education). There are really no excuses on this one.  Maybe the baby thing wouldn't even apply to you.  Maybe you're just tired of having a dog. I really don't care what the reason your dog is an inconvenience to you is.  Go back to bullet #2.
  5. Dont' breed your dog if you are not a responsible and reputable breeder. -- Oh so your dog is gorgeous and has a great temperament.  It doesn't matter unless you plan to health test the dogs for all genetic diseases.  You also have to take back any puppy your dog produces at any time if the owner cannot keep it, whether the dog is 4 months or 12 years old.  You should show your dog and get points in confirmation at the very least. These are only a few of the things responsible breeders do, just a few.  I don't want to list them all, this is a good read if you think you want to breed your dog.  And don't say I want to have "just one litter".  How do you think litters get in shelters? Half of those dogs were part of a "just one litter" thought by someone who never should have bred their dog. Do not breed your dog if you aren't an established, responsible and reputable breeder. Period.
Now you may still be wondering -- so, why did you buy a puppy? You never answered that. You're right I didn't. I am not going to answer that. I don't owe anyone an explanation. I chose to buy a puppy. That's my right. I am a responsible dog owner. I'm highly educated in dog training and behavior. My puppy will never be bred. My puppy will be a respected and well-trained dog in the community. My puppy will not ever be in a shelter or on the streets.  The reason I chose this path is mine and mine alone.  

If we all actually followed the above 5 steps we'd have no problem with too many pets in shelters.  That's a fact. Seriously. If every single one of my above steps was followed by every single dog owner there would be no problem. Simple as that.  Wanna help? Wanna learn more? Wanna get to training your dog or learn how to educate others about it?  Let me know, because contrary to what you may be thinking I'm very much an advocate for getting dogs out of shelters. I'm all for responsible dog ownership, as this alone would solve our problem.

Here is my follow up blog post, "So your thinking about buying from a breeder..."

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