In support of #puppymillawarenessday this Saturday, we thought this an appropriate topic to delve into…

The past decade has certainly brought the new adage “Adopt! Don’t Shop!” to the fore. More than ever, people are concerned about the abundance of poor dogs having to spend the rest of their days in the countless shelters out there. And this has brought about a new debate:

Is it still considered ethical to buy furry friends from breeders when we are fully aware of the abundance of loving dogs trapped in shelters and in dire need of loving families too?

Yip, it’s a tricky one. Whether you buy from a shelter or a breeder is obviously a personal choice. But before you go ahead in making this long-term commitment, it’s best to do your research so you know you’re acting in the best interests of your family and its next loving addition.

Reputable breeders are usually passionate about what they do and are mindful of the dogs and pups concerned, however, before buying from any breeder it is essential that we research their background! There are many backyard breeders out there who operate illegally and are uncertified to breed dogs. They do not put the dog’s best interests first and operate purely for profit. If a “breeder” you come across appears suspicious, report them to your local SPCA.

Benefits of Supporting Reputable Breeders

  • Reputable breeders are assumed to curtail the genetic health risks assumed to be rife in certain breeds, such as eye problems in Maltese poodles and hip dysplasia in bigger dogs like German Shepherds.

  • It’s expected that breeders have judiciously selected a pair of dogs to mate to ensure they achieve the probable and sought-after traits related to that specific breed.

  • Assistance in selecting the right breed for your family and lifestyle requirements.

  • The belief of exemption from genetic-related health issues, potentially lightening the future financial burden of associated vet bills.

  • Honest breeders keep the lines of communication open, and welcome any queries or challenges you may encounter with your furry friend, well after the handover has occurred.

  • Breeders are presumed to take the time to socialise the puppy by introducing it to children, adults, as well as other animals, which ultimately saves you from having to train your puppy to be sociable and friendly.

  • Breeders conduct in-house training of the pup so that you can merely pick up where they left off.

  • A reputable breeder will possess and share valuable information and advice regarding the puppy’s food type, food consumption, aspects of training, causes for concern and the like. This is especially helpful for first-time dog owners.

  • The general consensus seems to be that you have a clearer idea of a purebred’s lineage hence ensuring the typical physical and behavioural characteristics of the breed in question.

  • In purebreds, it’s understood that you can predict the size of the dog, the coat colour, texture and length, potential health risks, energy levels as well as its behaviour with children and other animals.

  • People find reassurance in knowing the puppy’s lineage so they can have an increased chance of a healthy breed.

  • It’s assumed that the behaviour and temperament of dogs of a certain breed are absolute, and therefore a thoroughbred’s behaviour is predictable. As an example, Huskies were bred as working dogs and required immense amounts of energy to pull sleds through dense snow. Anyone who owns a Husky can vouch for their boundless energy levels and enthusiasm, proving that this trait is still prevalent in Husky breeds.

  • Important to note is not all behavioural traits and temperaments are based purely on genetics. When the ‘nature-nurture’ debate comes into the fray, nurture reigns supreme in influencing the dog’s personality and temperament. If dogs, even purebreds, aren’t trained, loved and socialised, their behaviour may be completely different from the breed you signed up for.

Drawbacks to Consider

  • You should be prepared to conduct methodical research to find a reputable breeder and this process can be painstakingly time-consuming.

  • There is usually a substantial waiting list even before most thoroughbred puppies are born so you need to be organised to even get on that list in the first place. Take heed, you may be expected to meet the breeder, often several times, so they can decide whether you’re a suitable fit for one of their puppies.

  • It’s highly suggested that a binding contract be in place between you and the breeder. This again will be time-consuming to draft and then both parties are required to review and sign it.

  • The breeder route is overall very expensive. Thoroughbred puppies are generally pricier than shelter dogs. You could be looking anywhere between R3,000 to R25,000 for a puppy, depending on the breed.

  • If you haven’t thoroughly conducted your research or realistically adjusted your expectations, you may be disappointed to learn that the traits you relied on as a surety for your choice of breed, begin to take a toll:

  • As an example, you’re looking for a vibrant, intelligent dog to interact with and take for long runs, but when you find that you don’t have the time to do so any longer, you become frustrated that your Border Collie or husky plays up because they’re under-stimulated and now possess a surplus of energy. Or, perhaps you love the gorgeous long locks of a St Bernard but the constant cleaning of their shedding fur becomes a chore.

  • It cannot be stressed enough to do the necessary research before you decide on a breed: Amounts and frequency of shedding and grooming; energy levels; food consumption (will it fit into your budget?), weight concerns and genetic shortcomings are only a few of the invaluable guidelines to help you make the correct decision.

  • It’s also worthy to note that many purebreds weren’t always intended to be companions for us. They were initially bred with a purpose and with that purpose, they developed certain mannerisms. Working dogs such as sled and cart pullers, hunting, herding and the like, may still display the following behavioural traits which may lead to some vexation for their human parents:

– They may have excessive energy levels

– They may require constant stimulation and busy themselves around the home subsequently causing mischief

– They may act out in the form of:

  • digging holes in the garden
  • constant barking
  • chewing furniture or shoes

– They may not socialise well with other animals and/or children

– They may be unfriendly or even aggressive to visitors

  • Determining a purebred’s traits is not an exact science. In fact, you may often be surprised or even disheartened by how your furry friend turns out. There’s no guarantee that you’ll receive exactly what you’re looking for in the breed, so keep that in mind when opting to take the breeder path.

  • Contrary to popular belief, purebred dogs can still have a lot of health issues that present as the following (depending on the breed):

– Crippling bone and joint disorders (add the breeds for each in brackets)

– Eye diseases that cause reduced sight or total blindness

– Heart diseases that drastically shorten a dog’s life

– Endocrine system diseases like hypothyroidism and diabetes

– Seizure disorders such as epilepsy

– Skin diseases that cause frantic itching

– Slip disks and other back problems

– Digestive disorders that cause chronic diarrhoea and vomiting

– Kidney and liver diseases

– Blood-clotting diseases

– Cancer – the number 1 killer of many breeds

With this said, you need to be willing and able to support your furry friend both financially, to cover the vet bills and medication, as well as emotionally.

Stay tuned for our sequel article that addresses the why saving a helpless shelter dog is equally as gratifying as supporting breeders.