Once you’ve made the decision to bring a new dog into your home, the next big choice that you will face is where to get them from.
It’s an age-old debate but your two main options are rescue vs breeder. Will you buy a dog from a breeder as a pup or adopt one of the many dogs in need of a loving home from a rescue organization?
Each option has benefits and drawbacks and it’s important to carefully consider what is right for you and your family. To help you, we’ve put together a handy guide to adopting vs buying a dog.
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Should I adopt an adult dog or buy a puppy?
There are certainly benefits of pet adoption! Firstly, you know what you are getting. The dog will be fully grown, have an adult coat, and established adult behavior patterns.
There should be no big surprises, especially if the dog has been temperament assessed by the shelter staff.
Of course, the dog will need time to settle into your home and his character will blossom over time, but he should be through the puppy chewing stage and is less likely to need toilet training.
One big consideration when adopting an adult dog is that he has already had a lot of life experience- some good, some bad. You may not have much information about his past so you will need to spend time getting to know him.
He may come with some behavior issues, it’s one of the main reasons dogs are returned after adoption, and you will need to be willing to work through these, in this case, you should choose a reputable dog rescue shelter that provides good post-adoption support.
When you buy a puppy, you will have a lot more information about him from the start. You will know where he was bred, who his parents are, and what life experience he has had (as long as you choose a responsible breeder).
There is also the sheer joy of bringing home a fun-loving puppy, their cuteness, their antics, they are without question absolutely adorable.
Puppies are a ‘clean slate’ in comparison to adult dogs, so you can ensure they are well socialized and trained from the beginning, but they will inherit certain characteristics and tendencies that you can’t always predict.
Some owners do get a bit of a surprise when their puppy grows up larger or smaller or fluffier or more energetic than they expected!
The tendency to develop some behavior issues can also be inherited and may not become apparent until the puppy matures- a good reason to meet both parents.
Of course, in the adopt vs buy dog debate, the other option is to adopt a puppy from a shelter. While this is an incredibly rewarding thing to do, bear in mind that you will have little information about the puppy, who his parents were, and where he came from.
It will be harder to predict his size, appearance, and adult behavior, so you need to be committed and willing to accept him however he turns out!
The pros and cons of adopting from a shelter
It goes without saying that adopting is a wonderful thing to do and there are lots of great reasons to adopt a shelter or rescue dog. There are many thousands of dogs needing new homes and when you adopt a rescue dog, you give them a second chance in life.
Many dogs will have suffered neglect or even abuse and you may be able to give them the first safe and secure home they have ever known. Not only are you giving your new dog a fresh start, but you are also freeing up kennel space so that another dog can be rescued.
Shelters will do their best to match you with a dog that suits your lifestyle and experience. Most rescue dogs are neutered or spayed, microchipped, treated for parasites, heartworm tested, vaccinated and temperament assessed.
This is usually included in the adoption fee and some shelters also offer a bag of dog food and a month’s insurance.
Adoption fees vary according to the age, size, and health of the dog but you can expect to pay from $100 to $500. This is usually far cheaper than buying a puppy from a breeder and you won’t have to pay the additional costs of neutering and microchipping.
Plus if it doesn’t work out with your rescue dog, the shelter will usually take them back.
Suggested reading: Best pet adoption websites
If you have your heart set on a certain breed, you may have to wait a long time for one to become available for rescue. The majority of dogs in rescue are mixed breed.
Although there are a great number of dogs waiting to find their forever home it can actually be quite a lengthy and difficult process even if you are not fussed about which type of dog you get. Read our article why is it so hard to adopt a dog from rescue? for more information.
You may be able to find a dog through a breed rescue organization but you are still likely to wait longer if you have specific ideas about the type of dog you are after.
Although you will have some basic information about your new rescue dog, you won’t really start to get to know him until he comes home with you. A rescue dog will need time to settle into your home and you will need to be prepared to support him through this process.
Your home will be unfamiliar to him at first, so you will need to be patient as your new dog finds his feet. He may or may not be toilet trained and he may not want to be left alone when you go out. He won’t understand house rules and he will need time to learn.
You can expect it to take at least 3-6 months for a rescue dog to really settle into a new home so you do need to be committed. Read our article on the first 24 hours with rescue dog for an idea of what to expect and how to prepare.
You may need the help of a dog trainer or behaviorist to work through any issues that arise, unless this is included in the post-adoption support you will need to factor in the additional cost.
The pros and cons of buying from a breeder
When you buy a dog or puppy from a breeder, you will usually have far more information about them than if you adopted from a shelter.
You will know what breed they are and have the opportunity to meet one or both of the parents. Sometimes breeders will have other related dogs on site too, which will give you a good idea of the appearance and temperament of genetically related dogs.
A good breeder will have started the socialization process with the puppies and will be able to tell you about any health tests that the parent dogs have had. This is vital for many pure breeds as they can be prone to inherited diseases.
Check the American Kennel Club website for a list of reputable breeders and for information on health testing. A good breeder will care about their puppies and will provide you with support once you take your puppy home- the level of support will vary from breeder to breeder.
In addition, a good breeder will agree to take the puppy or dog back if you are unable to keep him.
Suggested reading: How to find a reputable dog breeder
The main negative aspect of buying from a breeder is the cost. You can expect to pay from $400 to $2000 or even more for some breeds.
There may be breeders offering cheaper puppies out there, however, these should be viewed with suspicion as they may be unscrupulous ‘puppy mill’ breeders who do not breed responsibly and keep their dogs in poor conditions.
Paying less for your puppy in the beginning is likely to cost you heartache and vet bills later. Once you have bought your puppy or dog from the breeder, you will then also have the additional cost of neutering or spaying, vaccinations, micro-chipping, and an initial vet check.
These are usually included when you adopt a dog from a shelter so you can see that buying from a breeder is certainly more costly than adopting a dog.
Occasionally a reputable breeder will offer one of their ex-breeding or ex-show dogs up for sale. These dogs usually cost significantly less than puppies and they can make really good pets.
Just check that they are well socialized and have been out and about, as some ex-breeding dogs have never left the breeder’s premises and therefore may be more likely to develop anxiety-related problem behaviors when rehomed.
In conclusion- how to decide whether to adopt or shop
Your decision in the dog adoption vs buying debate is a very personal one and it will depend on your individual circumstances and dog-owning experience. Take into consideration how much money you are able to spend and how much time you are able to commit to your dog.
All dogs need a certain amount of attention, it’s just that rescue dogs can often need a little bit more. Adopting a dog from a shelter can be an emotional rollercoaster at times and there may be challenges along the way, but it is an incredibly rewarding experience.
Suggested reading: Questions to ask when adopting a rescue dog
If you are the kind of person who likes a bit more certainty and a less bumpy ride, then buying a puppy from a reputable breeder may be the right option for you.
Whether you decide to adopt or buy your new best friend is an individual choice, try not to be influenced by the opinions of others as you have to do what is right for you.
Consider all the pros and cons of adoption vs buying a dog, talk to shelter staff and contact some breeders before you make your decision. Finally, don’t rush your decision, and be prepared to wait for the right dog.