So, you’re ready to make one of the best decisions of your life and get a dog. However, you find yourself faced with an unexpectedly difficult decision – shelter vs breeder, which is better?
You may have heard arguments for both sides – the positives of adoption, the reliability of reputable dog breeders, and so on. Most of those tend to come from sources that feel biased, however, and trusting either side seems difficult.
So, to help you out, we decided to break down the pros and cons of both adoptions and buying a dog from a pet store. We’ll even throw in an extra distinction between pet stores and pet breeders and we’ll do our best to be as objective as possible.
Buying a dog from a pet store
Pet stores are a very common way for people to get their dogs or other pets. These stores are very good at making the purchase feel easy – the pups there are often adorable, they are purebred (or are advertised as such), and they are kept in small cages which basically equates buying them with saving them. What are the actual Pros and Cons of buying a dog from a pet store, however?
- It’s easy – there are pet stores on almost every corner, they have nice and convenient websites, and the purchase procedure is as simple and quick as possible.
- It feels nice – pups are often kept in such bad conditions and small cages or containers that people feel the understandable urge to “save” them from the pet store.
- Pet stores usually get their animals from puppy mills. These are pet breeders who breed animals in disastrous conditions and with no ethical considerations for the individual pup or for the overall breed’s health. So, while you technically do “save” the pup by buying it from the store, the money you give them will be used to perpetuate that same system and will lead to thousands of other puppies living that same life.
- Unpurchased puppies often end up directly in shelters, rescues, or on the streets which is why this is an unethical model that shouldn’t be supported.
- Pups from pet stores or puppy mills are often sold without health certificates and with myriad underlying health conditions due to the puppy mills’ wanton breeding programs.
The difference between pet stores and “reputable dog breeders”
When talking about buying dogs, people often talk about “reputable dog breeders” as an alternative to pet stores and puppy mills – what is the difference between the two, and is it meaningful?
Yes and no, depending on what you care about.
When talking about reputable dog breeders, people mean breeders who have the following pros and cons:
- These are breeders who don’t work with pet stores but sell their pups on their own.
- They usually breed and sell smaller quantities of pups.
- They take better overall care for the breeding dogs and their pups.
- These breeders will (should) offer health certificates for both the pups and their parents. They will (should) also allow you to see the parents of your desired pup and the rest of its litter. This is important as it:
- Helps you get the healthiest possible dog.
- Helps you pick a dog with the temperament you want.
- Ensures you about the conditions in which the pup was brought up and the actual reputability of the breeder.
- Such breeders also keep each breed’s “standards” in consideration and make sure that only healthy dogs are bred to reduce the risk of heritable health conditions. Reputable breeders are responsible for many dog breeds surviving extinction due to wars and other disastrous situations.
Side note: People often credit dog breeders with the development of unwanted health issues in certain breeds. And while such problems are due to overbreeding and unethical breeding practices, these breeders are rarely viewed as “reputable” – to the contrary, they are better identified as puppy mills or as unethical breeders.
- A good breeder will also be a dog trainer themselves or will put you in contact with good dog trainers who can help you with obedience training, housetraining, no bark training, socialization, etc. They should also have given the pups some basic training as they were growing up as opposed to just keeping them in a glass container in a pet store all day.
- For all their positives, pet breeders do perpetuate the breeding of more dogs in a situation where millions of dogs are roaming the streets of American and billions more – worldwide. So, while reputable dog breeders do perform good work for the preservation of some breeds and are a better alternative to puppy mills, until the global stray dog problem is resolved, many people view the breeding of more pups as pouring gasoline on a fire.
Why adopting is better than buying?
What about dog adoption, however, aren’t there some problems with that? As with dog breeders, it largely depends on the quality of the shelter or rescue you’re adopting from. But, let’s go over the main Pros and Cons of adopting a dog from a shelter or a rescue first:
- Shelters and rescues don’t breed dogs, they merely try to find homes for dogs that have already been born and that need a loving family. Adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue doesn’t perpetuate any unethical practices but it does literally save a life.
- While many shelters and rescues are not as “shiny” and visually appealing as a high-end pet store, they generally take much better care for their animals than most pet stores. Good shelters will have veterinarians on staff to take care of the dogs, they’ll have large open spaces for the dogs to run and play with when they’re not resting in the shelter, and they’ll often even have volunteering dog walkers.
- Shelters and rescues are generally non-profit organizations. While many of them do charge adoption fees, these are much lower than the thousands of dollars pet stores often charge and go to help the shelter continue working.
- Many of the dogs in shelters and rescues are older or suffer from some health conditions. For many people this isn’t a con for two reasons:
- They want to help exactly such animals
- Getting an older dog has the benefits of being a shorter time commitment and of giving you a dog with an already developed character
However, if you do want a younger pup, you may need to go through more shelters and rescues until you find one you want. Even young dogs are available in shelters and rescues thanks to pet stores and irresponsible owners throwing them away.
- Not every shelter and rescue will offer you a health certificate or a detailed vet check-up. Many do, however, so this too is a matter of just finding the right shelter or rescue.
- Many people worry that dogs from shelters or rescues might be “damaged” psychologically. While many dogs are indeed abused by their owners before they are thrown out, a good shelter should only give dogs for adoption if they’ve passed the necessary psych check-up from a credited professional. So, as long as you find a good shelter, there shouldn’t be any concern about the psychological health or “danger” of the dog you’re adopting.
- Another perceived con is that dogs in shelters and rescues are not purebred. This is partly true as a lot of the animals there are indeed mixed breeds. However, many purebred dogs and animals can still be found in shelters and rescues as people often don’t hesitate to throw even purebred animals on the street.
Virtually every con of getting a dog from shelters and rescues can be negated by finding a good place with decent practices in it. Something similar can be said about the difference between reputable dog breeders and puppy mills/pet stores, with the extra consideration that even the best breeder is still contributing to the existing overpopulation problem.
Nevertheless, whether you choose to purchase or adopt, the first and most important consideration is finding the right place with the best and most ethical breeding/care practices – puppy mills, pet stores, and sub-par shelters should be avoided at all costs.