Breeders vs. rescue adoptions, which method is better

Every year around the time of the Westminster Dog Show, the debate of adopting dogs from shelters versus purchasing one through a breeder is brought up. Each side has their argument, but for somebody looking to bring a dog into their life for the first time, it’s a question that needs answering. Which way of finding a dog is better? Rescue adoptions or breeders?

The first question that you have to ask yourself before even considering to adopt a dog using either method is what kind of dog do you want? This doesn’t always mean which breed to you want (though that can certainly help), but what kind of temperament are you looking for in your dog. Are you looking for a guard dog or one that will cuddle up next to you in bed at night? Do you want a dog you can carry around in a bag or one that small children can ride? With these things in mind, here are the arguments for both the breeder and the rescue adoption.


Breeders tend to get a bad reputation because of puppy mills that have gained notoriety for turning out puppies en masse that are often less than healthy. While a certified breeder is very different from a puppy mill, looking into a breeder’s credentials is a crucial first step when looking to get a dog from a breeder.

One advantage to going to a breeder is that they can give you the dog that you’re looking for, usually with documentation to prove the health of the dog. If you’re looking for a Boston Terrier or a Poodle, you can find them at breeders that specialize in these particular breeds, and you can even find breeders that specialize in mixed breed dogs such as Labradoodles (Labrador and Poodle) or Puggles (Pug and Beagle). The dogs purchased through a breeder tend to have fewer surprises for the new owner, and often come with guarantees to their health and temperament.

The disadvantages to a breeder are the price (some dogs can cost you more than $1000), and the chances of finding yourself getting a dog not from a quality, licensed breeder but a puppy mill, which is why it’s imperative that you do your homework on where you’re getting the dog from.

Rescue Shelters

Rescue shelters are a great place to find a dog that’s just looking for a new home. That being said, there a few things to keep in mind before you visit a rescue shelter to adopt a dog. See if the shelter is sponsored by the state or county you live in, is recognized by the SPCA, or is an independent shelter. Those that are recognized by the SPCA and are sponsored by the state or county tend to have stricter standards by which they operate, and while many independent shelters are well run, there are enough bad apples to cause concern.

Many shelters will show their dogs on their website, and this is a great way to see what dogs they have available for adoption, as well as find out what their fees and standards for adoption are. While most shelters can’t vouch for the bloodlines of the dogs they have available for adoption, the better shelters will spend time with the dogs to see if they’re good with children, other dogs, like a particular type of dog treats, or have bad habits like chewing that will need to be curbed with chews like bully sticks.

The downside to rescue shelters is that there are no guarantees about the dog you’ll be adopting. You may get a great dog that somebody spent a lot of time with, is well trained, and is in the shelter because it ran away or the previous owner couldn’t keep it, or you may get a dog that has been abused and had to be taken away from its previous owner. While most shelters will take a dog back if you discover a trait that you can’t live with (like being destructive or biting your small children), it can still be a frustrating process for a first time dog owner.

So What’s the Answer?

The answer is that there is no answer. While getting a dog from a breeder or a rescue shelter has both pros and cons, the decision ultimately comes down to what you want in a dog. If you’re looking for a purebred dog, a breeder is probably your best option, whereas you’re just looking to bring a dog into your life without concern for the breed, then a rescue shelter is the best way to go.

Whichever you choose, be sure to do your homework on the breeder or shelter you’re adopting from to make sure they are a quality location so that you know the dog you’re getting is one that will be with you for years. Whichever you choose, you can never go wrong by bringing a dog that needs a home into your life and showering it with love and dog treats.