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The Chosen Ones: Breeder, Rescued or Both?

The Chosen Ones: Breeder, Rescued or Both?

I feel like I am about to write about politics or religion or something equally controversial. This subject is so volatile, that I expect to lose a reader or two and probably be called some names that won’t make it to the comments section. Asking my Facebook page members where they got their dogs and why, resulted in more than 5000 people seeing my question and more than 100 responses. Surprisingly, I only had to delete two of those responses. I appreciate the tempered opinions on what is such an emotional subject. So I write this with full awareness.

Until the last not quite three years, all of my dogs have been rescues from various sources. I even ran a Doberman rescue for many, many years. But as regular readers know, after losing my heart dog, Merlin, I got the opportunity to be gifted with a wonderfully bred dog now known as Kenzo. You can read about that here if you so desire: Introducing Kenzo. So I fully get the emotional response that such a subject brings to those passionate about rescue. But despite the fact that rescue has always been a part of who I am, I have never accepted that all breeders should be painted with the same brush. Running a purebred rescue, I never viewed responsible breeders as the enemy because I met some of them. Responsible breeders are who started most original purebred rescues to help save the creations of their not so responsible counterparts. Despite what some of you believe or have read, responsible breeders are not the cause of shelter dogs dying no more than being a cat person is. It’s an absurd idea that needs tossed to the curb.

Adopting a dog from a rescue or shelter or a re-homing situation is an honorable action. As I mentioned, all of my canine kids up until Kenzo have come to me via varying rescue situations. I took in my first dog, Samantha, from a past friend who got a puppy at the same time as having a baby. Layla, my second dog, was found wandering the streets and rescued by my neighbor’s child, while I was still mourning my first dog. When no one claimed her, I gratefully called her mine. Merlin and Kera were both adopted mere months apart from the shelter at which I spent much time volunteering. Siri came to me as a foster puppy who never left, one of seven rescued from the irresponsible owner of a purebred dog who had an “oops litter” with the neighbor’s dog. Trent belonged to someone I knew who sent him into a rescue of my suggestion, when a baby’s allergy made keeping him impossible. The rescue turned out to be a hoarder and he came to me, never to leave. I have personally fostered literally more than a hundred dogs. Some ended up becoming family, even if for a short time. Damon, who my Doberman rescue was named for, was my foster failure for almost a year before I lost him to Wobblers.

From the front, left to right: Luigi, Miley ( GSDX Rescue ) Gianna, Chesney and Denzel. Photo courtesy of Suzy Augello.

From the front, left to right: Luigi, Miley ( GSDX Rescue ) Gianna, Chesney and Denzel. Photo courtesy of Suzy Augello.

I will always have a rescued dog, very likely several rescued dogs. I love making a connection with a dogs who need help and watching them blossom with love and proper care. It’s an amazing feeling. If I had more humans in my home and more money and more time and more space (don’t we all say that?), I would have far more dogs than I should. Facebook shares are hard on the soul, with all the dogs in need. But my first responsibility is to my current dogs and I would never add a family member that would cause them too much stress. Read more on that subject here. The fit should be appropriate so that responsibility limits my desires. When the time comes, I will be on Petfinder looking for my next crew member.

Every dog person I know has a bucket list of dogs that they want to “have” before they die. I have not fulfilled mine yet. So I won’t rule out getting another responsibly bred puppy at some time in my life. Despite what you hear some rescuers state, you cannot find every kind of purebred dog in a shelter or rescue. There are hundreds of breeds that many people have never heard of, who are never going to find themselves in a shelter. Someone wants those breeds and that is okay. Everyone has the right to choose the dog breed that feels right to them. Some people choose breeds for utility such as herding sheep, guarding livestock, helping to hunt, and even guide dogs. Working lines, as they are called, are bred for generations for their jobs. There is nothing wrong with that. Working dogs cared for properly are a joy to watch.

Responsibly bred dogs are not causing dogs to die in shelters. Irresponsible breeders and irresponsible owners are. Insufficient laws addressing breeding are responsible for the over-population problem in this country. Lack of education in proper care and training of dogs are among the many reasons that dogs are surrendered to shelters or rescues. A throw away society that wants a quick fix is prevalent in the American culture. None of these reasons are conducive to long term commitments for the lifespan of a dog. Shelters and rescue groups exist because of the irresponsible and uneducated, not the responsible.

Stable temperaments and sound health are the hallmarks of a responsible breeder. Without them, the future of dogs is in jeopardy. Breeds that you know and love will cease to exist without responsible breeders. Learning how to identify responsible breeders and how involved they are in the lives of the dogs that they create could be a pleasant eye opener.

Buying a puppy from a responsible breeder should involve en extensive questionnaire. You will be thoroughly screened with references checked and multiple phone calls back and forth before you are approved. You will meet in person or see via Skype, the puppy’s parents. You will get the appropriate health testing information for the breed. You will get questioned on your lifestyle and whether you are a good match for the breed. The breeder will have an ironclad and extensively worded contract with requirements that you must meet for the dog’s lifetime as well as a requirement to return the dog at any time in his or her life, should there be a need to do so. You will be asked to contact them throughout the dog’s life for questions on diet, exercise, health and any other subject that you can think of that pertains to your choice.

This chart can help people understand the difference between the type of breeders that exist. Supporting the last two columns should be your goal. Support of the other types of “breeders” is part of the problem, not part of the solution.

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At this point, some of my rescuer readers are probably wondering if the above is a commercial for breeders. Not at all. It’s simply an attempt to educate that responsible breeders are not the enemy. Backyard breeders, commercial breeders, puppy mills and pet stores that treat dogs like a commodity rather than living sentient beings are the enemy. Don’t confuse them with each other. The goal of humane educators should be focused on eliminating the need for the aforementioned sources of irresponsibly bred puppies.

Since I procrastinated while writing this blog post, I had the opportunity to be thoroughly appalled and disgusted at what was meant to be a Super Bowl ad for Go Daddy. This sad excuse of an ad portrays a “family” who sells puppies online, with no regard for who they get sold to. This is not a responsible breeder. See above chart once again. Because of the huge outcry from dog lovers everywhere, the ad was pulled. This shows you do have a voice. Use that voice wisely. Don’t generalize. Support responsibility on the part of breeders and rescuers alike.

That brings me to responsible rescue practices. All rescues and rescuers are not created equal. Rescues should have a thorough screening process, with a questionnaire, a home visit, behavior and medical screening and treatments before placement, as well as putting the utmost effort into making appropriate matches. A good rescue will also be present for you for the lifetime of the dog. Responsible shelters offer the same comfort. What rescues and shelters should not do is be too stringent so that good solid homes get turned down for reasons such as no fences, working a regular job, having children, etc. Obviously, some dogs will require a fence, some will require no kids, some will need more attention than others. But blanket statements and requirements that are rigid regardless of the validity of the home, help no one but irresponsible breeders. Then there is the opposite end of the rescue spectrum; the rescuers who screen no one, adopt out intact and unhealthy animals as well as those with unaddressed behavior problems to people ill equipped to handle it. Read more about that subject here: Saving Them All: At What Cost?
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Responsibility is important on all sides of this equation. The only solution to this is education. Make it your goal to know more and you will make more informed decisions. That is always going to be a good thing. Diversity is also a good thing. Allow people their individuality. Judgments on others for their choices won’t help educate. So leave your ego at the door and please share your story on your canine choices in a respectful manner. Rudeness will not get your comments listed. Thanks in advance!

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16 Comments

  1. Kati February 5, 2015

    Thank you so much for having the courage for writing this. I have been running a small dog rescue for 21 years. Ali Oop Adoptions specializes in the “squishy’ dogs, Boston Terriers, Pugs, Bulldogs, etc. Rescue is my passion, ask anyone who knows me.
    I have become involved with English Toy Spaniels in the last 6 years. A very rare brachy breed, its actually considered to be endangered in this country. But some of them do end up needing new placements & many of them come to me, as I am knowledgeable with the breed. Many of them, both rescues & pets are very very timid, so after much internal debate, I have started breeding my english Toys, on a very limited basis. My girls are from top breeders & have been shown. I get guidance from other breeders when picking mates, but my focus is on producing outgoing, social dogs. I have produced 8 pups to date, 6 being show quality, but more importantly, 7 of them have outgoing, fearless temperaments.
    Yet, I get the evil eye from just about everyone. The show people, dont know what to make of my houseful of special needs, mix breeds, and poorly bred fosters. Rescue people are absolutely aghast that I am breeding anything!

  2. Linda Augello February 5, 2015

    We all are driven by a certain leading passion whether it be a breeder or a rescue home, shouldn’t matter. It’s the care of the fur family member that matters. I personally have three rescue dogs living in my home and will soon be fostering another one. I no these babies I’m blessed to have me but I am just as blessed to have them. I have always had a passion for GSD’s since childhood and despite me trying to find one to rescue none of my three are GSD’s. I started off as a very narrow minded individual passing any penny that said Pitt bull. Which greatly narrows your options in rescue situations. Enter almost leaving that when I county animal control without a choice of a dog in officer asked what I actually was looking for and I told her my situation at home with my 15-year-old male alpha dog and did not do good with any other animals. She told me she had the perfect dog for me she then brought out my Emma. After absolutely loving her personality I asked the officer what kind of dog she was and she told me a pitbull. I cannot believe I will pass this dog five times only because her window said pitbull. Then two weeks later I realize she needed a playmate. Because the free adoption in Dekalb County in the month of January I went and picked out my Ariel who is a pocket pit! They are perfect. As for my Murray my 15-year-old he has actually adjusted to them better than I ever thought and they know to respect him. Next week I will be fostering a four-month-old pup also a pit.
    Where my going with all that, well every GSD I found the officers had told me that they were not good to have at home. I still want to GSD, but they are a lot of money to adopt. Needless to say if I didn’t have the money I would purchase the GSD from a breeder.
    But what it all boils down to each and every animal deserves a good home with lemon care. No matter what the circumstance.
    Your photo with this article is actually my daughters babies. Everyone of them are beautiful loving wonderful dogs no matter where they came from and she is amazing with them. I am very proud of her!

  3. Suzy February 5, 2015

    VERY well put this blog was! I have done my share of fostering/volunteering . It is a very rewarding process. Their are many many reasons ( I can go on and on ) as to why I go both ways with being a rescuer and a breeder dog buyer. But when it comes down to it I am a huge dog lover and will always do what I can to help one in need. Regardless as to where the dog comes from. They do amazing things for humans. More then they will ever know and I think we can all agree to that. :) Thank you blogger Debb for posting this and thank you mom. I still cant believe you have 2 beautiful adopted Pitties. Dogs are truly amazing.

  4. Emme February 6, 2015

    Thank you fora well written, factual,compassionate article. I have had dogs all my life. My dad showed Great Danes and Dobermans so I literallygrew up with dogs. As an adult I got into the sporting breeds by rescuing a puppy from a street corner who turned out to be a Springer. I have worked with pure breed rescue for springers and consequently have seen the gamut of responsible and irresponsible breeders. I have rescued dogs in my family and responsibly bred dogs as well. Imo it is always the human element that is the problem and not the poor dog. As you have said, people need to educate themselves before any decision in life especially when adding a companion who will be with you for many years. There is a place in this world for dogs on both sides of this issue. Let us not forget to take our egos out of the equation and just follow our conscience and do what is right for us and our family. Thank you for a sane, balanced article.

  5. Tammy DeVito February 7, 2015

    I generally don’t comment on people’s articles. However, I found your point of view extremely thoughtful and accurate. I worked at a Humane Society for 15 years and also breed dogs, and enjoy participating in dog sports. I’ve adopted several fosters and own purebred dogs as well and love them all. You should be commended for writing this from a true dog lovers point of view. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It has brightened my day :)

  6. Teresa February 7, 2015

    Thank you for expressing what I have felt for years, so eloquently. Your final paragraph can be a road to follow for all decisions in life, not just where we stand on dog adoption. Self education, taking responsibility for your own actions, respecting others opinions & always keeping an open mind (which goes back to self educating!) is the way to go for a fulfilling life experience. I have & will continue to have dogs in my life. A neighborhood oops puppy was my heart dog. But it started with a shelter puppy, then a purebred, then some personal rescues & I’ve now graduated to a rescue which I hope to foster for soon. Your article is appreciated & will be shared. Thanks again.

  7. robin February 8, 2015

    Thank you for the terrific article. This is a common argument I have with folks on a regular basis. I’ve been involved in rescue for over 14 years. All my dogs have been rescues and I would have no problems adopting from a responsible breeder! Responsible being the key word. I’ve been involved with great rescue groups and horrible rescue groups . A responsible rescue group is just as important as a responsible breeder. I also get push back from folks on both sides of the fence. Our goals should be to keep be breed standards and eliminate so many animals that are “thrown” away.

  8. Melody February 8, 2015

    Your article is totally on point! I got my first Akita (21 years ago) from BYB not knowing any better. The next three (a shepherd mix and two Akitas) were rescues. I’ve volunteered at a number of rescues and still act as a resource for Akita rescue. My most recent two are from a responsible supportive breeder, one acquired as a two year old and the second as a puppy. I’m sure I will rescue again but I agree that you can’t always get exactly what you want. My third and youngest Akita had to be the right temperament to fit in a 3 Akita household. The breeder has all the health checks done and I know if I’m unable to care for the Akitas I got from her she would take them back. “Reputable” rescues and breeders aren’t that different and have the same objectives.

  9. Harley Harrington March 14, 2015

    Hi and thanks for writing such a great post. I have been raising and training Blue German Shepherds for over 45 years and in addition to the pups I have raised I have also had a soft spot for dogs in trouble. I have rescued and re-homed over 200 dogs that were in need of better care for a wide range of reasons. I agree with your article that it is not responsible breeders who are responsible for dogs ending up in shelters, I feel there is enough blame to go around. With regard to getting the dog you want when you go to a responsible breeder, I think you don’t necessarily get the dog you want, you get the dog you need. Thanks

  10. chris April 1, 2015

    I believe in both (breeders who are responsible and rescue dogs). We have three german shepherds – one from a backyard breeder (thank goodness we rescued her at 8 wks old or who knows), one from a responsible breeder and one from Los Angeles that we rescued via facebook from a shelter down there. They all have their good and bad sides. I firmly believe in the fact that we are drawn to who needs our help at that time (if we had not gotten the one dog from a responsible breeder-the person that did might not have helped him with his issues). My husband always says that we are drawn to the dogs that need our help. We do whatever is necessary-chiropractic, homeopathic, holistic, at some times regular meds, etc and we have always gotten dogs that need help with issues.

  11. Johanna May 22, 2015

    Hi Debbie! I love how you voiced your opinion and did so good at explaining what a good breeder does :) I have many clients that have bought their dogs from breeders and they are awesome people! Breeding will never stop. Buying from a responsible breeder is crucial!

  12. Donna Hill September 28, 2015

    Great article! I would love to see a comparable article with chart on rescue organizations as well. More and more we are seeing dogs being brought in from other countries with no behavior or health screening and no support for foster or adoptive families and drop the dogs cold once they have their money. Others outright lie about the dog’s bite history etc. Then there are the good rescues who screen potential families and are responsible, supportive etc.

  13. Christina October 2, 2015

    Thank you for this article! I always feel like I’m judged by the rescue community because I got one of my dogs from a responsible breeder. My husband and I have fostered over 60 dogs in our home and now have 3 foster failures! I have owned many dogs in the past and had an amazing dog that I got from a backyard breeder. It was a Scottish Terrier that didn’t come close to the breed standard but had an awesome temperament. When he passed away in 2012 I never thought I would have another Scottie but I thought about it all the time. In 2013 I ran into someone at the park who told me about a responsible breeder just a couple of miles from me and I called them up. They just had a litter born and I was able to get a beautiful male who I am currently showing with great help from his breeders ( I need a lot of help). He has his 2 majors and I hope to have him finished by next year then we will start doing barn hunt! The breeders I got him from are also officers in the Scottish Terrier club which I am now a member of also. All the members are very helpful and even work on each others dogs at the show. The club also has it’s own rescue group with a long waiting list. None of the dogs that come into the rescue are from any of the responsible breeders. My breeder said she has only had one dog returned in over 30 years!

  14. Crissy Mancini February 7, 2016

    Debbie,

    Excellent commentary. I agree wholeheartedly. I believe it was the best read on line.

    People have no idea what rescuers, trainers, and people that adopt actually see in the Animal world.
    And your point is well made … if no reputable breeders were around, we would lose the breeds or the breeds that
    are healthy, and of good temperament.
    Thank you for putting your wisdom out there.
    People love to jump on bandwagon just to tear someone apart. It gives them the illusion of being important.

  15. Mr.Roger October 4, 2016

    You are right, this is such a touchy subject so, kudos to you for the courage to write about it. My first pup came from the breeders/neighbors. Well, they don’t breed for money (at least that’s what it appears to me). Just that they decided to mate their dog and they can’t manage to take care of the pups so sold it to people they know. I guess it is going to be a hard battle to get rid or regulate pet stores or breeders – we already have lots of problems as it is anyway. But making people aware of the sad tale of dogs breeding nonstop for money will hopefully put them off to buy to decrease the demand.

  16. Gerda October 23, 2016

    Hi there

    An absolutely fabulous article that could not have been better written.

    Having adopted a rescue and taking on a rehomed dog (she is a kennel/crate dog) and dealing with the issues these dogs came with, your article educates all.
    It does not and or should not offend anyone who has the dogs best interest at heart.
    I applause you.

    Again well written and please write more.
    Education is key

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