I used to think that what was most important was that every puppy and dog find their forever home. Today, I think that was a bit niave, because I didn’t realize how passionate people felt about breeders and dog rescue. Over the past month, I’ve read people share harsh judgements about the other side. I’ve been called retarded and stupid for trying to understand why someone would choose a breeder.
About the breeders…
So far, I’ve learned that some people feel that breeders are selfish, they’re only in it for the money, they are the reason we have puppy mills and backyard breeders, their dogs end up in shelters, they perpetuate the problem that has created the need for dog rescue.
About dog rescue…
I haven’t heard anything negative about rescue volunteers; all of the negativity is directed to the dogs. So far, I’ve learned that dogs who are rescued have loads of behavioral, developmental and health issues that are beyond most families, making them not worth the trouble of doing a good thing.
The great divide…
Although I do understand the great divide between buying from a reputable breeder or adopting a dog through a rescue group, I didn’t understand the name calling, the judgment, and the bashing – until now.
I had lunch with a new friend and dog rescue volunteer and she explained that although she knows that there are good breeders out there, in her rescue work, she comes into contact with the bad breeders regularly. Rescue workers find themselves cleaning up after the damage the bad breeders are doing to our dogs. Now I can see how all breeders are seen as perpetuating the problem by people who mostly see the dark side of dog breeding. That may be an unfair and harsh judgment, but it is what it is.
What we need to do…
That’s where education is important. I stupidly spent some time on Craigslist in the Pets section and was stunned by the number of people posting about bad breeders. There were several posts warning people to stay away from _____, because their puppies are sick or injured. Did anyone call the police? Animal cruelty is a felony in Washington.
I think that people need to see dogs as family members. As I type this, I’m surrounded by three Australian Cattle Dog mix pups (all sleeping) and I can’t help but smile, because they bring so much joy to our family. I couldn’t imagine turning one of them into the shelter. Sometimes they don’t listen, sometimes they run over to the neighbors to play with a dog, sometimes they destroy a slipper, but all the time they’re loving, loyal, fantastic dogs.
If you want to buy a puppy…
Don’t go on Craigslist. I would be hesitant to direct anyone to the internet. You just don’t know who you’re dealing with. Instead, I encourage people to start by getting a recommendation from a local and trusted veterinarian. There are also several purebred rescue groups who are connected with breeders; they can direct you to reputable breeders.
When you visit a breeder, ask about the details of their contract. I hope that all good breeders have a clause about rehoming a dog. I’ve met several who will file a lawsuit should one of their puppies be taken to a shelter. Spend some time, several hours if possible, with the puppy so that you can see every mood. I wonder how many people buy a “mellow” puppy only to be discouraged when their puppy wakes up and starts bouncing off the walls.
Keep in mind that buying a puppy doesn’t preclude you from behavioral or health problems. Dog trainers are important and understanding the inherited health issues of a breed will prepare you to be able to help your dog.
If you want to rescue a puppy (or dog)…
Do your homework. Again, get a recommendation from friends and local veterinarians for a reputable rescue group. I’ve learned that there are many rescue groups that are one person operations and/or very inexperienced. There are many more great rescue groups who will give you a detailed application to complete, require a home inspection, and may not release a dog to you until it’s spayed/neutered and current on vaccinations.
Each of our dogs were puppies when adopted, but I’ve learned that this doesn’t preclude us from behavioral problems. If you adopt a puppy/dog from a puppy mill or other abusive environment, you will have a long, patient road ahead of you, but I believe that if we all stick with it, then we’ll have amazing dogs.
Getting your new rescue on a solid training schedule will help too. Puppies are so adorable and the jumping, biting, and rough play is fun and cute when a big dog weighs 15 pounds. This behavior is unacceptable when they weigh 70 pounds. I’ll admit that we (and by ‘we,’ I mean ‘I’) allowed our litter mate puppies to run the house for a while. I coddled them all the time. I don’t think we would have made it through adolescence without the help of our trainer.
Whichever path you choose (please choose rescue – smile) understand that you’re making a commitment. I’ve heard that bringing a dog home is like bringing home a child. The big difference (besides the obvious number of legs) is that I doubt many people out there would give up their child easily, but people will give up their dog quickly. Imagine taking a 3 year old child to the shelter and driving away, imagine the child’s confusion. Dogs feel too. So if you’re not sure if you’re up to the responsibility of a dog, then don’t buy or adopt until you are ready. When that day comes, then definitely do your homework and prepare to have fun!
Kimberly Gauthier, a perpetually happy person, lives with her amazing guy, their spoiled dogs and cats, and loves dog rescue, photography, reading, and laughing. She’s the author of Keep the Tail Wagging, where she shares tips on raising happy, healthy dogs and promotes dog rescue and reputable breeding. You can also find her at Girl Power Hour as The Fur Mom.