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Adopting a Dog from a Shelter vs a Breeder: Pros & Cons

A poodle from a breeder

Once you decide you want a dog, there’s the tough decision of where to adopt your new best friend from. Are you going to get one from a reputable breeder or rescue one from the shelter? The reality is there is no right answer. However, being able to compare the pros and cons of each can make the decision a bit easier.

Most importantly: Look carefully at the advantages and disadvantages of getting a dog from a shelter versus buying one from a breeder. Then make the best decision based on you and your situation.

Adopting from a Shelter

A shelter dog looking at the camera from behind a fence

There are many shelters, so you should be able to find more than one in your area, and each shelter has numerous dogs available. Just remember, that you have to pick from what is available, so you need to be patient and make sure that you get the dog that is right for you–even if it means waiting a few weeks or months.

Pros of adopting a shelter dog

So why choose a dog or puppy waiting for its forever home at a local shelter?

      1. A Stronger Bond: You will be giving a deserving dog a forever home. Few things can bring you more joy than getting puppy kisses from a dog that you know would not be around if you hadn’t adopted them.
      2. Most Shelter Dogs Are Pre-Chipped, “Fixed,” & Given Vet Care: Most shelters insert a chip in dogs before they are adopted, and they have been examined and treated by a vet, so you can be pretty sure that they are in good health.
      3. Saving a Life: About half of the dogs that are in shelters get adopted, so you could very well be saving a dog’s life. You may also be saving the life of the next dog who takes your dog’s place in the shelter.
      4. Many Go Through Fostering & Behaviour Training: The shelter staff usually work with the dogs to make sure that they are potty trained, good on the leash and play well with others. This can mean less work for you when you bring your new doggo home.
      5. Some Shelter Dogs Are Already Pawfect: While some dogs end up in shelters due to behavioural problems, many dogs in shelters are happy and healthy. Some families have to give up perfectly wonderful dogs due to changes in living situations, financial setbacks, and changes in employment, all of which are no fault of the dog.
      6. Save on the Initial Expense: It is generally less expensive to adopt from a shelter than buy from a breeder. While adopting from a shelter isn’t cheap, most of the cost goes toward chipping and caring for the animal. Shelters aren’t set up to make a profit, unlike many breeders.
      7. Mixed-Breed Dogs Often Have Less Health Issues: Most shelter dogs are mixed breed so they might be less likely to have inherited genetic problems that some purebreds might have.
      8. Adult Dog Allow You to Skip the Trials of Puppyhood: You can adopt an adult and avoid all the puppy problems, like potty training and chewing. This is especially good for those who have had little experience with caring for and training dogs. They will still need work, but at least some of it has been done for you.
      9. You Can Get Insight into Their Personality: The shelter staff will have a good idea of the dog’s personality and can make recommendations on whether they are the dog that you are looking for. Talk to them about what you want in a dog, what your experience is, and how much time you will have to work with your new dog.

Keep in Mind: Minor behavioural problems can be corrected with proper training. So if your doggo isn’t perfect, you can hire a trainer to help get them on track to being everything that you ever wanted in a dog.

Additionally, you can often find breed-specific rescues throughout Australia. So, if you have your heart set on a specific breed, check out all the shelter options online.

Cons of adopting a shelter dog

There are some downsides to shelter dogs, so you have to consider the problems that might come with them as you make your decision.

      1. Possible Trauma/Training Needed: Many dogs have been traumatized or injured and need special care, which accounts for a larger percentage of dogs that get returned to shelters. However, a professional trainer can help correct unwanted behaviours in many cases.
      2. You May Not Get the Full Story: Shelter staff might not be aware of all the challenges a particular dog might have, especially if the dog is relatively new to the facility. These dogs aren’t exposed to other small animals or children, so the staff probably hasn’t seen how they will interact.
      3. You May Fall in Love with a Dog from a Bonded Pair: Some shelter dogs come in pairs because they were bonded before they came in. In these cases, you will have to be willing to adopt multiple dogs. And even though you feel sorry for them, you need to make sure that you have the ability to care for more than one dog.
      4. Separation Anxiety is a Real Possibility: Being surrendered by a loving owner or being picked up on the street, and then being put in a shelter can be a very traumatizing event. This is why many shelter dogs have separation anxiety which can be difficult to correct. They can bark continuously while you are away and can exhibit destructive behaviour as well. While difficult to treat, it isn’t impossible. So with patience and proper training, you can minimize the anxiety your doggo feels while you are away.
      5. You May Not Pass the Shelter’s Requirements: Most, if not all, shelters screen, and you might not pass their screening. Some even conduct home visits to ensure that you can care for a furry friend properly. While it can be inconvenient, they are doing it to make sure that you are able to provide a safe forever home for the doggo.
      6. You May Not Find the Breed You’re Looking For: Shelters have the dogs that come in, so they might not have exactly what you are looking for. You might have to wait for the dog you really want to show up or you might have to check with multiple shelters. Just be sure that you are confident that you made the right decision when you adopt. It won’t be good for you or the dog if you rush into adoption, pick a dog that you aren’t completely happy with, then want to return it a month later.
      7. There Is Often Mystery Behind Your Dog’s Health: Depending on how the dog gets to the shelter, you might or might not know your dog’s medical history. Shelters do a medical screening, but they don’t catch everything. And some hereditary conditions aren’t always visible early in a dog’s life.
      8. Not All Shelters Are Created Equal: There are no national standards for shelters, so they don’t all care for their dogs properly. Most shelters are underfunded so it is difficult to care for the dogs the way they would like. Some shelters see rotating dogs in and out as a way to help with finances and might focus more on making a “sale” than seeing that their dogs are adopted by a responsible doggy “pawrent.”

Buying a dog from a breeder

Four Labrador puppies from a breeder

Many people with small children often consider getting a thoroughbred puppy instead of adopting. Others really have their hearts set on a specific breed, which can be difficult to find at a shelter. If you fall into this category, use the following pros and cons to help you build confidence in your decision or give you insight into why adopting from a shelter may be a better option.

Pros of purchasing from a dog breeder

      1. You Can Get the Exact Breed You Want Without Wait: If you know what you want and will accept nothing else, you will want to start looking for breeders for that variety of dog. You will get the breed that you want with the appearance and characteristics that the breed exhibits.
      2. The Benefit of Getting a Puppy from the Start: In almost all cases, you will be raising them from a pup, so you will be able to train your new dog to behave the way that you want, and you will get to enjoy that unbridled energy that all puppies have.
      3. Breeders Often Know Their Pups’ Personalities: Good breeders will help you pick out the pup that is best suited for you and your situation. While their personality is not fully formed, the breeder will have a good idea of how active, aggressive, intelligent, etc. a pup is and assist you in making a wise choice.
      4. A Good Breeder Ensures Health: Breeders take pride in their pups and will make sure that you are aware of any genetic problems that they might have. While breeders have to make money raising and selling their dogs, they also love their dogs and their breeds and will usually do what is best for you and the pup.
      5. Socialization Is In-Place: A good breed will make sure that their dogs are socialized and ready for your home. The pups are with their mother as well as people and should be good with other dogs and your family when you bring them home.
      6. Sometimes You Can Return the Dog If Your Situation Changes: If you have to give up the dog, many breeders will take them back. They understand that unpredictable things happen in life and want what is best for the dog, even if it means taking a dog back.
      7. Get Your Dog’s Family Tree: Breeders have more knowledge of the dog’s ancestry which might give you an idea of the puppy’s characteristics in the future. It is hard to tell what will happen to a dog’s personality as it ages, so any insight the breeder has could be helpful.
      8. Receive Papers for Showing Your Dog or Other Activities: If you want to breed dogs in the future or show your dog, the breeder can supply you with the necessary papers. Maybe in the near future, you will be helping other prospective puppy parents pick out the right pup for themselves.

Cons of Purchasing a Dog from a Breeder

      1. The Risk of Irresponsible Breeders: Unfortunately, not all breeders are responsible. You need to check on the background of your breeder and make sure that they are registered and have a good reputation before you start looking for a puppy.
      2. The Possibility of High Vet Bills Later On: Studies show that purebred dogs do tend to have a higher propensity for genetic health issues. Before bringing home your new best friend, you will want to look into if the breed you're buying has a higher disposition for long-term health issues such as allergies and joint dysplasia.
      3. Added Up-Front Cost: It will be more expensive to buy from a breeder than to adopt from a shelter. It can be as little as twice the price up to ten times the price, depending on the breed and the individual puppy. But if you want a certain breed, you are better off spending the extra money than adopting a pup that you won’t be happy with.
      4. Waiting for Your Pup to Be Hold Enough to Come Home: Breeders can’t magically make puppies appear, so you might have to wait until puppies are born and then weaned. Contact the breeder and they can give you a good idea when puppies will be available.
      5. The Typical Plight of Puppies: Puppies can be a handful! You will be getting a puppy that comes with all of the typical puppy problems, like potty training, chewing, crying, etc. So be prepared to spend extra time, energy and money on your new pup--and take into account their unique needs.
      6. You May Accidentally Support a Puppy Mill: It can be difficult sometimes to tell the difference between a good breeder and a puppy mill. If you are getting a dog from a puppy mill, they can often be poorly adjusted. They are kept in small pens, weaned early, and not socialized. Know whom you are dealing with.

Avoid dogs from puppy mills

If you do buy from a breeder, make sure it isn’t a front for a puppy mill. Research the breeder before you do anything else and make sure that they are licensed and registered. Puppy mill owners care less about their dogs than responsible breeders do–mill operators are out to make quick and easy money. They tend to sell online or to pet stores where buyers often make quick decisions based on a puppy’s cuteness. They generally won't let you visit their facility to see the condition that the dogs are being kept in and offer little or no support after the adoption.

Still Want to Do Good? Donate to shelters

Shelters can always use money. If you find one that is doing a great job of caring for their adoptees, drop a few dollars in the bucket if you can afford it so that they can continue with their wonderful work.

Getting Your New Best Friend Is Always a Magical Experience

A woman getting a kiss from her white dog that she just got

Few things can add more joy and satisfaction to your life than bringing home a forever friend. Whether you adopt from a shelter or buy from a breeder, your furry addition to your home will bring you a lot of happiness. Your love will be rewarded tenfold with tail wagging and puppy kisses!

If you decide to adopt, check out our Doggo Adoption Guide to get started on the right paw!