Whether to adopt a rescue dog or purchase a purebred is an emotive issue that provokes strong opinions. The DOGSLife team talks to those on both sides of the fence.
So you’ve made the decision to add a four-legged member to your family. Congratulations! But where to from here? There are many benefits to both adopting a rescue dog and purchasing a purebred; it comes down to what is the right fit for your family.
Matt Hams, owner and managing director of Banksia Park Puppies, says every person searching for a dog should look at rescue shelters first to see if there is a dog there that will suit their family and lifestyle. “Getting a dog from a breeder provides additional choice for families and especially those for which rescue dogs may not suit.”
He sees certainty of the dog’s background, including its health and temperament, as well as that of its parents, as benefits of getting a dog from an ethical breeder. Health guarantees are a big positive, which good breeders should be able to provide. “Ethical breeders perform tests on their dogs, such as DNA testing, X-rays of the hips or elbows for dysplasia-affected breeds and progeny tracking.”
However, it’s also worth considering the strong evidence that purebred animals are less healthy, live shorter lives and cost more over their lifetimes. Jessica Moore-Jones, CEO of RSPCA Darwin and qualified veterinarian, says, “Mixed breeds (different to a first-generation cross of two purebreds) have robust, healthy dispositions and are less affected by the ill-effects of inbreeding and selecting for specific aesthetic traits. Of course, this is a generalisation — plenty of mixed breeds get sick and plenty of purebreds are healthy. But the correlation between breed and health is overwhelming.”
Another benefit of picking a puppy through a breeder, however, is being able to choose a low-shedding breed, essential for families with allergies. “While low-shedding dogs are regularly available in rescue shelters, they are also rehomed very quickly,” Matt says.
Janet and Peter Flann, founders of Greyhound Rescue, are passionate about the benefits of adopting a dog through a rescue organisation. “When you adopt an animal through a rescue, you are saving two lives. The life of your rescue pet and the life of another animal that can now make it to rescue,” they say. “It is estimated that a staggering 250,000 dogs and cats are euthanised in Australia every year (SMH, June 2016). There are just too many healthy animals that never get the chance to find a home.”
When adopting through a rescue organisation, look closely at the dog’s behaviour assessment to help you understand how it might fit with your family, as well as any special needs it might have. “This means you can select an animal that you know has a good temperament, even if maybe it hasn’t been taught good manners yet,” Jessica explains. “You can select an animal that is lazy, or one that is bouncy, or cuddly, or needy, or independent, depending on what you are looking for. While many people think selecting a purebred animal from a breeder will guarantee them a personality type, it’s a little bit like predicting the temperament of children based on their parents or siblings — it’s wildly unpredictable.”
Also, the concern that shelter animals are harder work is not always true. “Many people think they’ve all been abused or hurt and therefore won’t be good pets for their family. In fact, only a small percentage fit this category and we always make sure potential adopters are aware of these animals,” Jessica says.
Row Murray, volunteer with Homes for Huskies Rescue, adds, “The vast majority of dogs are in rescue through no fault of their own, such as their owners have passed away, or moved away and dumped them, or they had inappropriate housing, or couldn’t afford vet care. These are great dogs that just want a loving home and happy life.”
Once you have your new dog home, be patient. “Remember, it takes at least three to four weeks for a dog to feel settled in their new environment, Jessica says. “That first month can be tough — they might try to escape, or chew things, or bark or even growl at someone. You can contact the shelter for advice but, in most circumstances, they are just struggling to adjust. Support them as you would a new child in a family; with guidance, training and patience, they almost always show you their true colours.”
Finally, if you are choosing a breed based on how cute it is, please reconsider why you want a pet, Jessica says. “Dogs with exaggerated features are quite literally bred to look the way humans find attractive,” she explains. “If you want an animal because of how it looks, buy a new car instead — it’ll be cheaper and no one will suffer.”
Choosing a Purebred: What to look for in a dog breeder
Matt offers the following tips on what to be aware of when looking for a breeder: “Anyone looking to have a dog join their family from a breeder should follow the RSPCA’s Smart Puppy Buyer’s Guide. This is a fantastic resource and contains detailed questions for the family throughout all stages of the process.
“Never buy from somebody who will not answer all your questions or let you see the puppy nursery or property where the puppies have been bred. Be wary of websites that only show huge expanses of grass and paddock. Make sure they show you the real conditions the puppies’ mum and dad live in.”
Jessica adds, “At the very least, you must insist on meeting the mother — she should be confident in the environment you are seeing them in (if she looks scared or not at home, it is likely they have been moved here from a different site to where the puppies are usually kept). Ideally, you should meet and select your puppy before it is available.”
Jessica also recommends avoiding anyone that will let you take a puppy before eight weeks old. “It isn’t healthy, mentally or physically, for the puppy and is a standard cost-saving tactic of irresponsible backyard breeders or puppy mills.”
Further, good breeders should have all puppies vaccinated, wormed and microchipped before they are sold.Here are just a few things that can make life with your dog a bit easier - see them now on our DOGSLife Directory