We recently blocked a comment on our Facebook page (Gail Fisher's All Dogs Gym if you want to "like" us), not because of the commenter's opinion, but rather because of her tone and nastiness. In response to my article last week about selecting a reputable breeder, the FB "friend" wrote: "Don't breed or buy while shelter pets die!! There are an estimated 8 million companion pets in shelters, but snobs like you still have to have a purebred dog because shelter animals are not good enough for you."
Honestly, we wouldn't have blocked the comment if the "friend" had stopped after "8 million companion pets in shelters," rather than name calling and denigrating anyone who doesn't agree with her. Many people prefer to adopt dogs from shelters, and it's their right to believe that's best. But a shelter dog is not for everyone. There is no one-size-fits-all in dog ownership. To believe that only shelter dogs are worthy of having homes is tantamount to saying that couples shouldn't give birth to their own children as long as there are orphaned children in group homes and orphanages around the world.
I am not opposed to adopting from a shelter - and know many wonderful dogs that have come from that environment. I, myself, have "rescued" many dogs. My very first "own" dog came from Bideawee in New York City, and I've written in the past about the advantages and disadvantages of adopting from rescue services and shelters. I'll reprint these columns in the future.
One downside, however, is that adopting from a shelter is limited by what the shelter has available when you're looking for a dog. For example, in the Manchester Animal Shelter, the preponderance of dogs are pit bulls and pit bull mixes. What if you don't want a pit bull? Or what if you don't want a dog that's been shipped from a different state and may be rife with behavioral and health issues?
The FB "friend's" supposition that "purebred dogs" are somehow never "shelter animals" is misguided as well. Many shelters and rescues have both purebred and mixed-breed dogs available for adoption, and most breed organizations have rescue arms for those who want to adopt a "pre-owned" dog. Snobbery or "not being good enough for [us]" has nothing to do with why someone might favor a purebred dog over a dog from a shelter, or want a puppy versus getting an adolescent or adult.
The most common reasons for choosing a purebred dog (and my own preference at this time) is because the potential owner is looking for specific physical, behavioral and personality characteristics. It might also be that the family wants a dog with specific breed propensities because they want to participate in dog sports and activities. Perhaps they want to have a sled dog or a herding dog. They might want a dock diving dog or a retriever. They might want to do dog agility or another competitive dog sport. Each of these activities is fun for both the human and the canine, and each requires a dog to have specific physical and behavioral characteristics. Not that you could never find what you're looking for from a shelter, but the chances are less certain than dealing with a reputable breeder who pays attention to the very characteristics the owner is looking for.
While I have adopted a number of "pre-owned" adolescent and adult dogs in the past, this time I want a puppy. I want to be responsible for his upbringing, and I want to do all his training. I want to give him the best possible start in life to maximize his full potential.
I've adopted problem dogs, dogs with issues, even a serious biting problem, in the past. At this time in my life, I don't want a dog to rehabilitate. Not that I won't deal with any issues my puppy might have throughout his life, but I choose not to start off dealing with unknown and unknowable problem behaviors that result from some prior owner's mishandling or misunderstanding of the dog. This is my choice - simply because I choose it. It is not based on snobbery or my much-loved rescued Shiba mix not being "good enough for [me]." He is. And my new puppy will be, too.
Gail Fisher, author of "The Thinking Dog," runs All Dogs Gym & Inn in Manchester. If you would like a topic addressed in this column, email firstname.lastname@example.org or write c/o All Dogs Gym & Inn, 505 Sheffield Road, Manchester, NH 03103. You'll find past columns on her website.