Should You Adopt or Should You Shop?


I write regularly about how to responsibly buy a puppy. In-particular about how to find a reputable, honest breeder and avoid the puppy farmers. However, whenever I do this, here are always comments advocating rescuing a dog over buying one. The #adoptdontshop movement brings out some strong opinions!

So, are they right? Should you adopt? Is buying a puppy the wrong thing to do?

adopt or shop

Should you adopt or should you shop?

My feeling is that it depends very much on your personal circumstances and choices, but lets consider the two options;

I write about puppies because I see so many in my clinics. I know people are out there buying them, and I want to ensure they make informed choices.  Newly rescued dogs I see far less frequently, although we have plenty on our books. This may be that when you take a dog home from the kennels, they are fully vaccinated and health checked, so there is no need to take them immediately to see a vet.  However, it is also true that there are far fewer dogs in kennels than there are puppies for sale.

According to the recent RSPCA ‘Sold a Pup’ report, there is a market in the UK for 700,000 puppies a year.  The total population of dogs in rescue varies and is difficult to estimate but is certainly much less than this.

If you take on a dog from the kennels they will have been vaccinated, microchipped, wormed, de-fleaed, and most likely neutered. Responsible rescues will also assess them behaviourally and match them to their ideal new owners to ensure a successful outcome. Some even provide on-going support once you have taken your new pet home.

Adoption fees vary but are rarely more than a couple of hundred pounds, far less than you can expect to pay for a puppy and you will still have to cover the cost of all their routine veterinary care!

And don’t think you can’t get a puppy from a kennels. Many centres will have litters born in their care or very young dogs already looking for their second home.

However, it is true that if you adopt a dog, they inevitably are to some degree, an unknown quantity. While many end up in kennels due to no fault of their own, others will have had issues, maybe health or behavioural, or both.  This may have been the fault of their previous owners or breeding but this is a common, and valid, concern for prospective owners.

Also, re-homing centres are, quite rightly, fussy about who they allow to adopt!  Failed adoptions can be really confusing and stressful for the dogs, not to mention a logistical nightmare for the rescues themselves. So, some people can find themselves rejected by the rescues and thus have no choice but to chose a puppy if they still want a dog.

(That said, some of the very best breeders are equally picky when it comes to prospective purchasers and will have no problem turning up away if they think you aren’t right for their pups!)

But – if you do decide you want a puppy, is this really so bad?

I don’t think so.

However, you MUST research your chosen breed carefully to ensure it is for you and only purchase from a responsible and caring breeder.

This pie chart shows where pups are coming from in the UK. Note that just being licensed or Kennel Club registered doesn’t necessarily make for a good breeder!

Many pups available for sale in the UK are bred in such appalling conditions with so little care, they are left with health and behavioural problems for life. Which mean they are often relinquished to rescue when their new owners realise they can’t cope, thus feeding the cycle and contributing to the numbers of dogs the charities have to deal with.

It won’t be easy finding a well cared for and properly socialised puppy out of the sea of available dogs.  However, it is probably true that once you have found a decently bred litter, they are more of a blank slate than an adult rescue dog.

But don’t forget having new puppy isn’t easy!  Crying at night, regular ‘accidents’ and chewed possessions are all part and parcel of owning a young dog. You will also be responsible for all their training and socialising.   All of which can be stressful and time consuming!

Simply buying on a youngster doesn’t mean they won’t have issues and if they do, it could well be your fault!

So, my take home message is, you must do what you feel is right for yourself and your family. Adopting a dog can be an extremely rewarding experience and so many of them have so much to offer. However, there will always be an element of the unknown.

That said, buying a puppy is not the ‘easy’ option. In fact it probably comes with more potential pitfalls, but, done properly and with you as a committed owner, you will be getting more of a ‘known quantity’ and, as a parent myself, I can totally understand why people with young families would prefer this option.

Whether you chose to #adoptdontshop and take on a rescue or #seethemsuckling and get a puppy, remember you will be taking a big responsibility.

Every dog, regardless of where they came from who will rely on you for guidance, training and care for their entire lives but will more than repay you in love, loyalty and companionship!

You can follow me on Twitter; @cat_the_vet and find me on FaceBook;  Cat_The_Vet

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