I want to adopt a pup, but I don’t know where to look! Where do I start? What do I look for? Anything to avoid? Red flags I should have?
Being a new pup parent is already stressful enough (thankfully, we got you covered! Check our or post on First Dog Parents right here!), but the anxiety starts even before your pooch starts peeing on the carpet!
The internet is scattered with stories about finding abandoned pets in need of a loving home, but this isn’t the most common way to adopt a pup. The first question you should ask yourself is: Shelter, or breeder?
There are reputable breeders that are passionate and loving with their animals, with a high level of ethics and knowledge, just like there are sketchy and unreliable ones, also called “backyard breeder”, amateur breeders that have little to no knowledge in proper and ethical breeding, leaving dogs sick, with disabilities, or in pitiful condition.
So should I adopt from a shelter? Well, you can, but that may also not be what you want.
To help you in this decision, we have broken down the different adoption types in 3 categories: Benefits, cons, and debunked myths. There are a lot of sayings about both breeders and shelters. For the most part, they’re myths! And they should not stop you from adopting from one or the other.
Adopting From A Shelter
Myths or Truths
- The "kill" in "Kill shelters" means they don’t care about the animals
We actually wrote an entire article about this, check it out here!
- Shelter dogs are mutts
Although there’s a lot of mixed breeds in shelters, that isn’t always the case. The Humane Society estimates that about shelters have about 25% of purebred dogs
- Shelter dogs are old
Just like they can be puppies, teenagers or adults! Shelters have dogs of all sizes and ages, which is great when you don’t have the strength or stamina to handle a puppy! Adult dogs tend to be calmer and can even have training from their past owner!
- Shelter dogs are sick or untrainable
Dogs can be surrendered to shelters for a wide range of reasons ; the owners may have passed away, they were abusive, they lost their homes. The dog may have health issues and the vet bills were too expensive, so the dog was surrendered. The shelter should be able to tell you where the dog comes from and if the dog is sick, as well as if it is treatable.
- Shelter dogs are dirty
Most shelters are spotless, from the lobby to inside the kennels, and dogs are cared for with love and proper hygiene. A lot of shelters have volunteers that come brush and clean the dogs. They’re check for ticks and fleas. Unfortunately, not all shelters have enough funding to keep their pets clean and well groomed. Those dogs are usually the ones in the biggest need of a loving family and are most ready to give you all the love they have and more.
Benefits of Adopting from a Shelter
- It’s less expensive to get a dog from a shelter than a breeder
Shelters will usually charge an adoption fee but have already covered vaccination and neutering. On certain dates throughout the year, at pet fairs or Black Friday, some shelters even have a no-adoption-fee adoption day!
- You don’t have to go through the puppy phase if you don’t want to
Because shelters are populated with dogs of all ages, you can pick the dog that corresponds more to your lifestyle, and it isn’t always a puppy.
- Most dogs are fully vaccinated and spayed
- You can get to know the dog and his behavior
Shelters often have areas where you can be with the dog, spend time with him and get to know his behavior and temperament a bit better. It is in the shelter’s interest that you find the perfect fit and don’t bring your pooch back, so they want to make sure you fall in love with your pup before even stepping out of the shelter’s door.
- You are saving 2 lives (3 if you include yours!)
By adopting a shelter dog, you are saving his live, plus the life of the next dog who will now have a spot in the shelter. Add that to the warmth you now feel in your heart (it’s contagious, and not treatable. It’s called being in love, and it will never go away! Not with your pup at least!)
- They might have a difficult or traumatic past
You don’t always know what the dog went through in his past, or if, when and what it might trigger in his behavior. Like a human, patience and love are keys, and your partnership will only come out of it stronger.
- You might not know the exact breed
And if you are not interested in dog shows, or don’t care for a specific breed or look, then it might not even be an issue for you!
Adopting from a Breeder
- Dogs are only there for massive breeding
Good breeders don’t always have puppies ready to be adopted and often have a waiting list until the next available litter. Good and ethical breeders don’t milk their breedable dogs until exhaustion. That is a practice often seen in puppy mills and backyard breeders who lack the knowledge to know when to breed and when to stop, as well as how to make sure your litter is healthy, as well as the parents.
- Dogs from breeders are insanely expensive
They do tend to be more expensive than shelters and range anywhere from $500 to $1500, sometimes more.
- Breeders, backyards breeders, puppy mills, pet stores puppies, what is the difference?
Backyard breeders are inexperienced, amateur breeders who have little to no care in the health of his animals. They often will want to experience the birth of new puppies but will often lack the experience to actually care for them, leaving them with active puppies wreaking havoc on their property.
Often times, backyard breeders will realize too late that taking care of puppies is a full time job and will either abandon them or surrender them to shelters, increasing the already overflowing pet overpopulation issue.
Puppy mills are commercial dog-breeding facilities where the sole purpose is to breed, breed, breed. There is a lot of abuse in puppy mills and not all are regulated by the US Department of Agriculture. It is reported that less than 3,000 out of over 10,000 are regulated in the US, leaving countless dogs in jeopardy.
They are known to neglect their dogs, often times leaving them in small, soiled cages without physical and mental activities and stimulation. That can lead to mental disorders in the dogs and behavioral issues later on. Because of the awful conditions of puppy mills, a lot of pups die before they have a chance to get adopted. When the dogs can’t breed anymore, they tend to be left starving, locked in, without a chance at a better life.
Unfortunately, a lot of pet store pups come from puppy mills, and often lack basic information about the animals they are selling.
Good breeders are nothing like what was described above. They are passionate, loving, they don’t overbreed and stimulate their dogs with the proper mental and physical activities. They have good references from vets and families that adopted their dogs. They are also referenced in dog directories like the American Kennel Club. They go through a lengthy adoption process with documents proving the dog’s lineage, health, contracts that bind you to have the pup neutered when it gets old enough, and a guarantee that if you cannot take care of the pup anymore, they will take it back.
Because they often only focus on one or two specific breeds, they are highly knowledgable about the specifics of that breed and will be able to answer every single one of your question. You can see the property where the dogs live and how they are cared for, and good breeders will carefully select the parent they want the pup to go live with.
They put so much love and effort in every single one of their animals that it goes beyond the adoption process. They won’t ship the dog off somewhere unknown and will want to know you better!
- You see the puppy’s environment, where he spent his first months of life
- You see the parents and can guess how your pup is going to look once adult
- The breeder provides you with documents showing you the lineage of the puppy, and can even sometimes offer a few DNA testing to prove that the pup doesn’t have inherited diseases or issues.
- Your puppy will most likely already be used to having other dogs around and will tend to be more social and at ease with other dogs.
- If you want to go to dog shows and competitions, you will need proper documentations that only a certified breeder can give out.
- You are adopting a puppy, and that comes with energy and training required!
- You will need to pay for vaccination and neutering
- Certain breeders require proof that you are having your pup neutered within a certain timeframe.
- Finding a good breeder is difficult
- Breeders will usually charge much more than shelters
Adopting a dog isn’t a decision to be taken lightly.
It takes money, it takes energy and it takes time. If you are considering adopting a puppy, that’s 10 to 20 years of having a constant companion. Your companion will need training, regular health checks, exercise, and so much more.
If you aren’t sure if you can be a dog parent, start by dog-sitting one of your friend’s dog, or reach out to a shelter to ask if they have a fostering program. They will have guidance and advice for first time dog parents like you, who have every right to be anxious to adopt!
One thing for sure, is that having a new pup in your household will bring you joy and pride, and there’s nothing better than a cute Dog Mom hat and a super stylish array of pup tshirts for humans that you can wear on walks with your new best friend! (My personal favorite? The Beware of Pitbulls T-shitrt, right here!)
We designed the PawRamp to help your dog walk safely up and down high areas without hurting their back, helping to prevent injuries caused by jumping on and off furniture, it is specifically engineered with your dogs back and joint health in mind. The PawRamp is the #1 choice for Dog Owners!
- Lightweight, Portable & Handmade
- Rubber grips to keep the ramp secure and in place
- Ridged carpeting for maximum paw grip
- Packs flat to less than 3.5 in for easy storage