"Why Breed Dogs, when so many are homeless?"
Animal shelters and people willing to rescue and rehabilitate are very necessary. Responsible breeders are equally necessary. We must quit fighting the battle of breeders vs rescues – when neither is a problem and both are essential. This is a call to action to educate your fellow pet owner. The casual pet owners - those people most likely to dump a dog at a shelter or produce an unintentional litter of mixed breed puppies.
I am so sick of getting online and seeing any mention of breeding an animal being greeted by an immediate derogatory response. I don’t think people understand what they’re truly saying when they are discouraging someone from buying a dog by repeating slogans thrown around the media like “adopt, don’t shop” or “ For every dog you buy, a shelter dog will die”. First off – that second statement is far from the truth. If a family is looking for a specific breed puppy to suit their lifestyle – they won’t (and should NOT! ) settle for a shelter dog that doesn’t fit the bill just because their breed of choice isn’t available. Think about it.. If you are shopping for a brand new Corvette and the dealership has a long wait on them – are you going to go across the street and buy a used minivan? No, because that does not fit the bill of what will suit your lifestyle. That van may be too bulky for your garage, use more gas than you want to buy, and perform differently on the highway than you want.
There is a valid need for responsible, educated, dog breeders. Imagine if no one was breeding intentionally. The only dogs we would be able to choose from are accidental litters of questionable lineage? No thank you. There is a lot to be said for a well-bred purebred with generations of information on health, temperaments, size, structure, working ability, etc. If someone wants a dog that will suit their lifestyle – picking up a mixed breed puppy at the shelter is not the best idea. That dog will often mature to be something other than what the person was hoping for, and consequently could land the dog back in the shelter because the family just cannot deal with that type of dog. Shelter workers do their best to guess breeds, but cannot always be accurate. If there was no one breeding purebreds… how would we have dogs to provide all the important tasks that dogs do for us every day? Police dogs are bred for their specific working ability and drive. Service dogs are bred for a specific size, temperament, and trainability. Dogs that provide scent-based tasks (bomb sniffing, drug sniffing, tracking lost humans, etc) are bred to be able to do that specific job. A random mix that was an accident would likely not fit any of those tasks – or an organization would have to shuffle through testing hundreds of dogs to find just one that will suit. Oh… but you say “you can find purebreds in shelters” . Oh… but someone still bred that dog!! That purebred was not a random accident because some irresponsible owner let their bitch in heat wander around. The purpose of being a good, healthy, and suitable pet for a particular person is also a reason to breed. A dog that doesn’t fit a family’s lifestyle is a huge reason they get turned over to a shelter. If these irresponsible pet owners did their research before buying a dog, and got a breed that fit their personality, they would be much better off. Too many people are picking dogs on what they think is cute.
If we put breeding dogs on hold until the shelters were empty… we’d end up with zero purebreds and the same amount of unwanted mutts. The irresponsible pet owners creating these undesirable mixes are not going to change their ways just because responsible breeders quit breeding. Yes – they are undesirable or they would be getting homes. People wouldn’t spend thousands on a dog to pass up a free/cheap mix if these generic hound/pit/lab/shepherd mixes were something to be desired. Just being in the stressful environment of an over-crowded animal shelter can cause the best of dog to become neurotic, fearful, and aggressive. Yes, good dogs come from shelters. But more come out with issues that need a lot of time, patience, and dog experience to fix. Not everyone can handle that !
In recent years, we have also seen a rise in “designer breed”. Yes, these are high-priced mixed breeds that are intentionally bred to fill a purpose. I will not go into my feelings on designer breeds as that is a whole new topic, but one thing is for sure and cannot be argued – The breeders of designer breeds are not breeding them to dump them in shelters. They are breeding them and selling them for money ( a lot of money, may I add). They are breeding them because there is a demand for them from pet owners. Those same pet owners who then turn around and surrender that $1,000 poo-mix because it doesn’t turn into the perfect blend of the two breeds that they expected. Yet again – the breeder is not at fault for the pet owner not thinking things through or working to fix the issues that don’t fit their lifestyle because of a semi-unpredictable mix.
Why do people seek out good breeders? Because they want a specific dog with a predictable adult size, coat, temperament, instincts (herding, hunting, retrieving, etc) , and a history of good solid health. Health testing is also a big reason to get your dog from a breeder. If you know those parents, grandparents, etc, are free of breed specific health problems – there is good chance your puppy will be too. Wouldn’t you rather pay the breeder now than pay the vet later? No, mutts are not healthier. They can just inherit several different genetic defects from every breed they are mixed with. In purebreds, we know which health problems are prevalent in the breed and can work around them. We test our breeding stock to the best of our ability to ensure they will produce the most excellent puppies possible. If you are buying from a breeder, you know what you’re getting. If you get a dog from a shelter – you must be dedicated. You don’t know that dog’s background, if it was abused or neglected, if it’s ever bitten a child or killed another animal. You don’t know if it’s prone to being destructive, or if he’s ever been inside a house. Prepare to have to housetrain an adult dog, or even break its fears of having to walk on hardwood floors, household noises, car rides, strangers visiting, or other things a dog raised outside may not be used to. If you get a puppy from a shelter, you have a “clean slate” – but yet no idea on what it will mature into as far as temperament, size, and activity level. Any way you look at it – a rescue dog is going to be more work and more unpredictability than a dog born and raised by a responsible breeder. If you have the time, knowledge, money, and patience for a potentially troubled dog – good for you. You take that chance and pat yourself on the back when you get it all sorted out. But not everyone does, so there should be breeders to provide a well socialized puppy or dog that will be predictable in all the ways mentioned. Breeders are also always available for support on help and advice on training, health care, and any other questions the owner may have. Breeders know their breed well, and are the best source of info to new owners. Shelter workers are overworked, underpaid, and have no insight to a dog’s past, lineage, and they are not an expert on every particular breed mix that walks through that door.
Anyone that’s a professional in the animal world will tell you that there IS a need for breeders. Talk to a veterinarian, a vet tech, a groomer, a dog trainer… they will tell you the pros and cons for a breeder-bred dog vs a rescue. Pet and animal professionals (even genetic and biology professionals) absolutely understand the need for intentionally bred dogs – no way around it. The Humane Society of the United States even has a portion of their website dedicated to how to pick a good breeder if you cannot find what you’re looking for in a shelter. http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/puppy_mills/tips/finding_responsible_dog_breeder.html The only people that I see that are against breeders in general are uneducated on the topic and just parrot repeating what they’ve heard on an animal rights ad.
You think PETA is out to help animals, and believe what they tell you? You repeat their slogans blindly without ever truly understand what that organization is about? Do 5 minutes of research. PETA kills more animals every year than they help. Way more. Educate yourself. Take a few minutes to type “PETA kills animals” into any search engine and you’ll see the shocking truth. These people don’t want pets to be treated better. They want there to BE NO PETS. So unless you believe that animals shouldn’t be pets or for ‘human use” at all… don’t support PETA. Unless you believe no animals should be used for food, ever, in any circumstance… don’t support PETA. Unless you believe that no animals should be under human care (wild and free or nothing) then do not support PETA. They are not in it for animal welfare, they are in it for animal rights. There is a huge difference – research it before you preach it.
There are also other terms created by animal rights activists that are bait words to have breeders battling against each other instead of banning together. “Backyard Breeder” and “Puppy Mill” really have no true definition and are starting to be used as catch-all terms for another breeder that doesn’t do things the same way you would, or a breeder who has a large number of dogs. The only real thing that matters is how well those dogs are treated , housed, and cared for. Are all the dogs up to date on medical care? Are they housed in clean, sanitary, and climate controlled conditions? Are they of a healthy weight? Are they well groomed? Are they well socialized and enjoy the company of people? Those are the things that matter and can be neglected whether a person has one dog or one hundred. They can also be all 100% taken care of even if there seem to be a lot of dogs. I personally know breeders with about 30 dogs and every single dog is exceptionally well cared for. I have also seen dogs that are loved indoor pets, but have fleas, the owner has no idea what heartworm prevention is, their toenails are painfully long, and haven’t seen a groomer in ages. Pet owners can be ill-informed and not keep up with grooming, dental care, proper vaccination schedules, etc. Breeders with large numbers of dogs are often very devoted to keeping each and every dog healthy and happy – you cannot automatically label a breeder as one of these catch-all terms just because they have a large number of dogs. Look a little deeper –Just because a breeder only “has one 1-2 litters a year” does not automatically make them a better breeder.
Only 20% of dogs in shelters are purebred. A large percentage of those purebreds are pit bulls, labs, Chihuahuas, hounds, and other bully breeds. A large number of dogs in shelters are also mis-labeled as to what breed they are. This is either because someone guessed wrong innocently, but I have also seen that some dogs intentionally get mislabeled as another breed mix, because another breed may sell better than what they actually are. So if you’ve decided on a specific breed, and figure that a mix of that breed from a shelter is “close enough”… you may not even be getting a mix of what you think you’re getting. That goes back to the same problem of the dog’s personality not being compatible for your lifestyle.
If you decide that a English Setter would be the best breed fit for your family as well as a good companion for you in the field– you will not be able to find that in a shelter unless you’re willing to wait for years. And still – someone intentionally bred that dog. It was not a mistake. But aren’t you glad it’s there? If you want to do a dog sport like fly ball or agility with your dog and want a border collie puppy to train that has good enough conformation and structure to compete long-term without injuries – you’re not going to find that in a shelter. If you decide a standard poodle would be the perfect companion for your family that has mild dog allergies, but is also a big enough dog to keep up with your active young children and join you on your boat on the weekends… you will not find that in a shelter. If you decide you want a Cavalier King Charles spaniel as a happy go lucky family companion but want to make sure the parents are free of the heart conditions and seizure conditions that are common in the breed – you will only find that through a breeder that health tests and offers genetic guarantees. There are situations where a rescue dog can agree with what you need, but there is also a very great need for purebreds. Our family needs a dog that is on the large side, but is also good with children, strangers, and any type of other animal from ferrets, to ducks, to goats. We need a dog that can look over our small farm and children without wanting to eat the other animals, wander off to track something in the woods, or be aggressive towards visitors. We also wanted a dog that wasn’t overly active so it could be happy inside on rainy days or days we are unable to get out and about as much. We have rough collies. They are perfect and I wouldn’t trade them for anything.
Imagine if all breeders stopped breeding.. what will we be left with? The same problem we have now. Too many mix breed dogs and pit bulls that are bred out of ignorance. The people who don’t spay or neuter their dog and let it breed are not going to stop being irresponsible just because breeders stop breeding purebreds. The people who breed their mutt just so that “ my dog can experience being a mom” or because “ my kids want to see puppies born” are not going to stop breeding just because you’ve stamped out the responsible ones.
Let’s fight the other side of this coin. The problem is over-filled shelters. But there is enough homes for millions of dogs in the US. If there were fewer accidental, unwanted litters… these homes would be filled with purebreds. If we work harder on getting pet owners to be more responsible, the shelters will not be overflowing. There will be a want and demand for purebred puppies no matter how many homeless dogs die in shelters. So how can we eliminate what there isn’t a demand for ? The adult mixed breeds that breeders are NOT responsible for. The dogs that are sold for $50 on craigslist as cute puppies and then dumped later because someone made an impulse buy. I know it’s easier to go after breeders because we’re easy to find. We’re at dog shows, we have websites, we defend our passions online. But sorry, we are not the real problem. Get out there and help educate pet owners. Educate those pet owners who don’t care if their dog gets bred or what she’s bred to. Educate those pet owners who don’t even know how long a dog is pregnant for, but is expecting a litter soon “because Daisy should be a mom at least once”. Educate those pet owners who dump their animals at shelters instead of taking the time to find them a home. I know fixing the real problem is hard because it’s widespread – but it’s not fair to attack the ones who are breeding dogs properly, and rewards those who dump dogs at shelters by insisting that everyone go to a shelter to get a pet. All the media attention on adopting is giving people a false sense of security that if they dump their pet at a shelter – it will surely be rescued. No. It won’t.
Another myth that is floating around that I’d like to address is that “ there are no bad dogs, only bad humans”. Or “ a dog is about how you raise it”. That is simply not true, and circulates a lot around the bully breeds in particular. Again – this is not something that anyone professionally trained in the dog world will agree with. Different breeds have very different personalities and instincts – how you raise them is not going to take out the genetic form of personality. You can train well to curb a behavior, but if it is part of the breed you will never be rid of it. No matter how you raise a hound – it will always have a tracking instinct and a distinct bark or yowl. No matter how you raise a husky – it will have the instinct to run and roam. No matter how you raise a Westie – it will always have the urge to chase small furry things like a pet hamster. Sometimes the instinct and drive is desired, sometimes it isn’t. Yes, you can train a dog behaviors to make these instincts manageable – but they are still there. The problem is, when you get a shelter dog you have no idea how strong the instincts are in the particular line the dog came from. If you pick up a pit or pit mix puppy from the shelter – that dog is going to be a lot more prone to being dog aggressive if it’s father was a champ in a fighting ring. You just don’t know what genetically ingrained behaviors you’re bringing home that you’ll have to work with if you have no chance to get any information on the dog’s pedigree and what they’re being used for. If someone wants an Australian shepherd to actively work their farm, they won’t buy a puppy with parents who have never seen a farm animal. If someone wants a German Shorthair Pointer to hunt quail with them, they’re not going to buy a puppy out of a stud dog that is gun-shy. If you want a Papillion with an outgoing personality that can go out everywhere with you and enjoy it, you won’t buy a puppy that had it’s mother dog hiding in a corner barking at you when you arrived to meet them. If you want a Doberman to guard your home, you won’t buy one from parent dogs who greet you at their gate like you are their long lost best friend. Genetics play a huge part in behavior – don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
If we stop breeding – all the wonderful and admirable traits we have developed in purebred dogs over centuries will just be gone. Please learn to appreciate the importance, history, and purpose behind each purebred dog. Dog breeders will not easily give up their right to preserve the breeds they love. So find a new way to fight the dog overpopulation battle – the breeders will be fighting back.
And a side note – if you’d like to donate to help homeless pets… donate to your LOCAL animal shelter or private rescue group directly. You know those ads you see on TV to donate to the Humane Society of the United States … Scam. They do not run not ONE single pet shelter . Humanewatch.org or do a little of your own research.
Written by (and used with permission by):
Blue Ridge Collies, VA