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

  1. Chris

    Thank you! After eight "rescues" over 34 years, this time we wanted a specific breed that's just not found in any shelter. We worked with a magnificent breeder and have a great, extremely well-adjusted puppy with a fantastic temperament. When we got our rescues (only back then we just called it adoption) we were younger and better able to deal with the various issues. And some of them had NO issues. All were wonderful, loved pets who lived long, full lives, and we will always cherish the memory of them and tell their stories. But now we have a purebred, and we adore him, and should not feel the need to apologize for that.

  2. Don FullPot

    I'm sorry. I disagree completely with the statement that lumps all breeders and pet stores into a broad category of irresponsibility.
    We purchased a pure bred Chinese Crested from a reputable breeder out of state. We wanted a show-quality dog, and she has parents and grandparents with extensive show history and championships. Sorry, but there is no way to get that from a shelter.
    And all breeders and pet stores are NOT irresponsible and concerned only with the bottom line. Many are genuinely caring about the dogs that they breed,and will even refuse to sell them to an individual if they feel that the fit isn't right for the animal.
    The lesson here: Don't make broad generalizations. About anything...

  3. anacoluthia

    Great article with great points, but I have to say that I bet she was being judgmental because of the controversy surrounding labradoodles, not the purebred aspect. I, and most dog people I know, wouldn't consider a labradoodle to be purebred. Any "breed name" that is made of two breed names slapped together (yorkiepoo, puggle) is not an actual breed.

  4. J Wildberry

    In my country, we ENCOURAGE people to buy from breeders! That must sound crazy to anyone living in countries with shelter issues, so let me explain.

    I never knew people were this judgemental of purebreds (and their owners) until I watched the comments under a Norwegian basenji video with 16 puppies (3 litters). Among all of the "cute!" comments, people mentioned how it was wrong to breed when dogs were dying in shelters every day, and those poor puppies who wouldn't find good homes, because...16 puppies.
    I live in Norway, and while people rehome their dogs here as well, it's nowhere near the scale I see in other countries. Most of the dogs that are rehomed are done so privately, not through shelters (we only have a few). Most of the dogs that are rehomed are young males of big, demanding breeds or mixes, usually in their rebellious teens.

    Norwegian dog forums and pretty much anyone you meet that has some knowledge of dogs will tell you to do research into breeds before you get one. That you have to consider how much mental training and exercise you can offer your dog every day, and other things like grooming, training, energy level and everything breed related. To consider life changes that might happen to you during the next 10 years, like moving, new jobs, relationship changes, babies... to consider whether you have enough money to pay for insurance and doggie health care. Can you still handle having this dog if these things change? People advice you to check the breed's club online, visit breeders, ask questions, and only get dogs that have been registered with the kennel club so that you have papers on their heritage, can check what health tests that have been done, etc.

    While this system might sound perfect, well, it's not. We have a lot of things that could be better, but informing people to do their research and helping them to find a breed they can handle is the best way to prevent the kind of problems we see in other countries, like the US.

    From my perspective, I think it's sad that responsible people who buy purebred dogs from good breeders are seen as part of the problem. They're not. The people who abandon their dogs are the problem. The people who let their female dog loose when she's in heat are the problem. The ones who breed their dog because it's sooooo cute and they want a puppy from him/her, they're the problem. The people who buy from these people are the problem. But ones that buy from respectable breeders that health test, carefully select a mating partner (and often has to travel quite far to do it), raise the puppies well, chip and vaccinate their puppies? They're not the problem, nor are those respectable breeders they buy from.

    I hope everyone keeps promoting shelters, but please remember to place the blame where it should be, and don't look down on people who have made a different choice. They're not hurting your cause or adding to the problem.

  5. Tressie Dutchyn

    Puppymillers and backyard breeders aside, I have found more legit breeders with ethical practices than I have found rescue organizations with ethical practices. The scourge in rescue are those that import dogs by the truckloads with no behavioural assessment, superficial health checks and don't quarantine the dogs, nor keep them in a foster home for sufficient time to get to know what the underlying issues are, behavioural and otherwise.

  6. Jenny Haskins

    I am (or was) a Back Yard Breeder. My dogs where well bred, with registered pedigrees. They were raised in the back yard with their mum and in some cases dad, and the other dogs in the family. With good starts to make good family dogs or obedience/agility dogs.
    I wanted my bitch's daughter and granddaughter and if I was still young would also want a great granddaughter (Well I DO want her - but I know I'm in no position to take on a new young exuberant large puppy.)
    Not "show stock" though because I am appalled by the current standards for my breed. I am also thoroughly appalled by the in-breeding in most KC registered breeds.
    But my dogs have also included farm breed dogs (one intentional breeding/one an accident), several pet-shop pups (where else did we ever buy pups from? If you didn't know someone with pups, you went to the pet shop!). One from the pound, one a breeder reject, and one found in a ditch and raised by hand. All good dogs 🙂

  7. Mandi Merlenbach

    There is no such thing as a reputable pet store that sells dogs because no reputable breeder would ever sell their dogs to a pet store.

  8. Iskra Krznaric

    wow, so nice!
    I have purebred dog. Although I've been saving animals my whole life, while it came to owning my own dog, alone, in apartment, while working a lot in the office, working with horses and high amount of different people and animals, traveling frequently, ect. I choose a purebred. I was looking through a shelters for quite some time, cause I couldn't imagine myself buying a dog, but just couldn't find a match... So I ended up buying a 6m/o dog, highly socialized, confident and with no problems.(it also took me quite some time to find her) Guess what, I still had great amount of work ahead of me to make her fit to follow me around on my day-to-day life. There is no way I would manage that with the dog that had slightest problems...and I'm so happy I have a reliable companion despite my chaotic lifestyle. (I belive she's happy too).
    Otherwise I wouldn't have a dog, at all, since I consider it irresponsible to take in a dog that you can't take care of or won't provide a quality life.

  9. Missy Mazii Sparrow

    Hi and yes thank you, our old Dobie was a rescue, she came to me with lots of problems but was loving and gentle and eventually had 2 small boys crawling all over her, sadly she died aged 15 leaving us with a problem, 2 small boys who missed their Newty-dog. About 18 months later we were ready, if you ever are, to hear the sound of paws on floors again. We looked for a rescue dobie but the nearest was 7 hours drive away and 7 years old, so what? Well our oldest son is disabled and the thought of bringing home a dog that was potentially unfriendly with him was enough to put us off, how unfair to drag a dog halfway across England so something bad to potentially happen and to be sent away from a new family or worse. Eventually we found a family 2 hours away whose pets had puppies, yes she's a purebred, kc reg and all the rest of it but pops is and always was our little girl, she is not a show dog/designer dog/status dog she's a big soft baby who learned to accept our disabled son from being a puppy because we thought that was the safest way for both dog and family. We might have a smaller rescue later on, I have nothing against them but at the time this was the most sensible thing for us.

  10. Melissa Kime

    Here's the fun fact that everyone forgets... all dogs come from a breeder. Someone who bred (accidentally or intentionally) two dogs together. Rescue dogs don't fall from the sky with their sad tales of woe that people eat up like banana splits. The thing being, all breeders are not created equally. You pay extra for one that gives a shit. As a reputable breeder (I can list for you the names of every dog I've ever created and know the families who still have them, and at any time if they need somewhere to live, that place is my home!) I take offence to the idea that well bred dogs end up in shelters. They don't. The dogs might be purebred, but they certainly aren't well bred. Breeders of well bred dogs are something special.

  11. Liz Lufrano

    Why are you vilifying "pet shop" dogs? Some people don't have a breeder located near them and have no choice of where to buy the dog breed that will fit in their family or purpose they need. "Pet shop" dogs come from reputable USDA inspected breeders who Guarantee their puppies. I've owned dogs I purchased at "rescues", pet shops, and (gasp!) bred my own show dogs, and I love them all... and they didn't care where I got them. When someone says their dog is a "rescue" I think they say it for their own PC pat-on-the-back... the dogs couldn't care less!

  12. Flashdog

    I have a beautiful, four year old Shetland sheepdog that I got from an excellent breeder and I am very proud of her. Once in a while somebody coos chidingly, "Is she a rescue?" I literally laugh and say, "Oh gosh no! If you find a dog that looks and acts like this in a rescue, know that the dog was stolen." I have owned many dogs in my lifetime. They came to me in many ways. One was tied up and forgotten in a horse barn and the owner told me to go ahead and take her. One was the puppy of a friend's dog, the last of 11, and nobody wanted her so I took her. One was purchased from an animal shelter. (We don't "adopt" in my pack. We live in the real world. If you walk into a shelter, pick out a dog, and pay money for her, you PURCHASED that dog.) I greatly admire breeders, but I didn't think I could afford a well bred dog. As a result, I have paid TONS of money sorting out weird health problems --- and, of course, we couldn't check into a rescue dog's health history because who knows where she came from? I have spent large amounts of money and hundreds of hours working through or (worst case scenario) managing behavior problems. One day a kind breeder was watching me try to shepherd a crazy, neurotic dog through an agility course. A short time later, she approached me with a beautiful Sheltie puppy. "You deserve a stable dog," she said. "See what you think of this one." Because she knew me well and she knows her puppies well, she recognized that this dog was exactly perfect for who I am and how I live. Because she wanted the dog to have the best possible home with someone who would understand her and love her, she made me an outrageously good deal that I was able to afford. I have never had a dog like this. She is (as a stranger remarked one day) so healthy she glows. She has no bad habits, no fears, no quirks, and no baggage. She runs agility with me, does therapy work in two different assisted living homes with me, and is always close to me -- by her own choice. (She is presently asleep under my desk while my other dogs have opted to go outside and play.) I am NEVER going to buy an unknown grab bag of headaches from a shelter again. I say that with no guilt whatsoever. I did not cause any dogs to be in a shelter. (All mine have lived their whole lives with me and died peacefully in my arms.) The number one reason dogs are dumped into rescue is "behavior problems". I did not mess some dog up by using bad training practices (or NO training practices) and I feel no obligation to spend my life and my money cleaning up somebody else's disaster --- while they go get another dog to mess up. No thanks. I love good dogs. I love purebred dog breeders. I'm a believer.

  13. Heidi and Harry

    Thank you for writing this article. I started out looking for a dog at my local humane society with the understanding there are no guarantees with any dog and hopes to maybe do diabetic scent training some day. One lady at the shelter was so negative towards me when I mentioned possible doing diabetic scent training, I actually went home and cried because I had already gotten attached to several of the dogs just by interacting with them behind their cages. After visiting several times and never receiving a phone call that I could come and spend time with the ones on my list outside their cage, I started looking online. I found a Havanese dog breeder who encouraged me to visit as often and as long as I wanted. She and her husband and two daughters have been breeding Havanese puppies for many years now and work very hard to have healthy socialized trained puppies. They are as careful about who gets them as they can possible be and I had to sign a contract ensuring proper feeding, grooming, vet care, etc. So I picked out one puppy from the two that were available and Harry is now my best friend. His breeder continues to be my best resource for questions and we have visited several times since I brought him home and are treated like family. There are still no guarantees for future diabetic scent training, but we are doing well with obedience training and I am hopeful. Bottom line we love each other and I feel incredibly lucky to have found my little Harry.

  14. J Wildberry

    This is very true. Reputable breeders take great care in finding good homes for their puppies, and if one needs to be rehomed they want to be able to get it back, or at least help with the rehoming process. This is a very good deal for the buyers too, since a reputable breeder usually have a lot of connections within that breed's "circle." Meaning it will be easier to find a good home for it.

  15. Deborah Dorman

    I really like this article. I had many reasons for getting my puppy from a breeder. I needed a very small, non-shedding dog that would take "normal" training. I knew several things: that allergies might be a problem (and cleanliness) with a shedder, that I would be taking the dog by plane (under the seat) to my Dad's in Florida, that I would still be working for a few years, and my husband, who does not share my love of dogs or training dogs, would be the one at home with the dog. So, if a rescue dog had issues to resolve, this would be very difficult and unfair to my husband and the dog. I also had some time constraints, as I travel about once a month for work, and wanted to be home for the first eight weeks or so, and had certain chunks of time available for that. So I could not keep looking each week until I found just the right rescue dog. In spite of all that, I did spend about two months looking on line at rescues, and even contacted a few, but they had been adopted. For our family, at this time, getting the dog from a reputable breeder with the characteristics we wanted/needed was most important. We have a happy, healthy little girl who loves everyone and fits our lifestyle, and I hope to train her as a therapy dog when I retire. I should not be ridiculed for this decision (which I was). FYI, she is an eight pound Cavapoo.

  16. Big Blob

    Im sort of getting super irritated by people claiming all shelter dogs have issues! THIS IS NOT THE CASE! I have adopted shelter dogs who have had no issues! The younger they are, the less likely they will have issues.

  17. Geraldine Weihrauch

    I have a purebred collie I just love the collie breed. And there are not as many collie breeders as other breeds. I just do not understand people being so nasty towards purebred dog owners. I did not cause the problem of overabundant mixed breed dogs. My first collie came from a pet stop I did not know any better then but she was a good for . When you loose your 15 year old family member to old age it is difficult. After that I Found reputable collie breeders When you have a huge hole in your heart from loosing this very special friend not just any bread will do . Many breeders are reputable .I have never purchased in line dogs and always go where the pup is get to see pics of at least one parent and siblings. I just think people expecting you to take just any dog so that one out of thousands of mixed breed dogs will not dye. I happen to live all dogs but only have room for one since dogs take a lot more care than kitties they are more like your child.

  18. Geraldine Weihrauch

    I agree I happen to love collies and except for my first one have purchased from reputable breeders. With a rescue you do not entirely know what you are getting. But good breeders you know what to expect due to breeding that adorable pup. My dog is a bright shining star and I will never accept just any dog

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