“She’s a Rescue”: The Vilification of Purebred Dogs

shutterstock_364827554"She's a rescue." I found myself wanting to say the words out loud as Daisy, my Labradoodle, and I passed a girl walking her mixed-breed dog. She had looked disapprovingly at my fluffy little nugget and then shot me a judgmental glare.

Let me tell you my story. I have a highly reactive, anxious boxer mix that I adopted from a shelter about six years ago. When looking for a companion for her, I wanted to find a highly social, confident dog that could complement my other dog's challenges. I wanted a dog that would enjoy doing pet therapy work. I knew I wanted to find a dog in need of rescue, and wanted a dog that I could get temperament information on in advance so I didn't end up with another reactive dog. I happened to find an adult Labradoodle who was being surrendered by her owners and who was the perfect fit for my household. I do understand people's frustration with the flood of "designer dogs" these days, but I chose Daisy based on her temperament, not her breed. And while "doodles" are technically mixed-breed dogs, I'm lumping them into the "purebred" category as they have become such popular breed mixes. So why did I feel the need to justify anything to this complete stranger? (And technically, to you all right now!) Why have "purebred" dogs become so vilified?

The reality is that while my Daisy was a rescue, many people pay a big chunk of change for similar dogs. But here's where I'm about to get a bit controversial: not everyone is going to go the rescue route when they get a dog, and that's ok. 

Right now I'm visualizing all the readers of this article gasping collectively. Stay with me, people! Keep all hands and feet inside the vehicle. This ride ain't over yet.

Here's the deal. I've been involved in animal rescue since I was a child. I started watching Animal Cops after school every day, and that was the end of it for me! I have never personally purchased an animal from a breeder, and have no intentions of doing so in the future. I always encourage anyone looking for a new dog (even if they're looking for a specific breed) to check out their local rescue group or shelter. I'm always happy to go with them to help them evaluate dogs and make sure they choose a dog that will be a good fit. It's true - with patience and persistence, you can almost always find the dog you're looking for in a shelter.

I started to invest real time and energy into rescue in college. As a result, I became the walking, talking Sarah McLaughlan animal rights commercial we've all had to sit through (and mute) at some point. And it turned me into kind of a judgmental pain in the a**.

"Do you really want to buy a purebred dog when so many others are dying in shelters?"

"I can't believe so-and-so bought a dog. That's so irresponsible."

"I hate people who buy dogs from breeders."

Sound familiar? If you've been in the animal rescue world in some way, I'm sure you've made (or thought) similar statements. And considering the horrific things those of us in the rescue world have to see and hear about in shelters, it's understandable. But on the day when that girl looked at my dog and made a very clear judgment about her, and about me, I realized that I've been that girl, and that it's not helping anybody.

I know a fantastic force-free trainer who just drove to another state to pick up a working-line Border Collie puppy that she had carefully selected from a truly responsible breeder. The puppies are raised in a loving home, are bred with temperament and the true breed standards in mind, receive proper socialization and veterinary care, and the breeder considers herself responsible for every single puppy she brings into the world for the duration of their lives. And the puppy chosen by that trainer will live a full, enriched life where he will truly be able to work in the way he was born and bred to. And how can I complain about that?

I want to take a moment to address those of you who are dead-set on buying your next puppy from a breeder. You owe it to yourself and to your future pup to do extensive research and make sure you're supporting a breeder that's truly supporting their breed. Here's some more information about choosing a reputable breeder.

Now, if you've purchased a puppy from a pet store, a backyard breeder, or online, guess what? It's ok. You didn't know better. If you had known better, I'm confident you wouldn't touch a place like that with a ten-foot pole. But since you're here now, reading this article, you're no longer going to be able to say that you didn't know better. Puppies purchased from these places are bred strictly for maximum profit, their parents are often neglected and poorly socialized, and you're essentially pouring your money into a machine that's going to continue to exploit the helpless, innocent animals that didn't ask for the miserable life they have to endure. Maybe you didn't know any better, but now you do. So stay the heck away.

Here's my point. We can be pro-rescue and also be understanding of those who don't share our same views. It's easy to judge someone who's set on getting their next dog from a breeder. But the harsh reality is that it's not up to us to determine what dog is right for every family out there. We only see through our own personal lens. And that lens is a product of our own experiences - experiences that not everyone else shares.

What we can do is provide the best information possible to help people make an educated choice about their next dog, whether it be a shelter dog or a dog from a breeder. The more information a family can get in advance on how to choose the right dog for their family means a lesser chance that the dog will end up rehomed or in a shelter.

So without judgment, educate them about how they can find the dog they're looking for through a shelter or rescue group. Walk them through your local shelter. Educate them about what truly constitutes a responsible breeder. Tell them about puppy mills and the industry they're supporting if they buy from a pet store or online. You may find that all it takes is a bit of education and awareness to steer someone towards rescuing their next dog. Judgment and condemnation only serve to drive people away.

So, let's stop vilifying purebred dogs and instead focus on working together to improve animal welfare and take a stand against irresponsible breeding practices. Imagine the possibilities!


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Positively Expert: Alex Andes

Alex Andes is the owner and head trainer of Peach on a Leash Dog Training & Behavior Services in Atlanta, GA.


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