Shelter Vs Breeder – My Experience With Both

If you are a dog owner or have done even a little bit of research into dog ownership, I can almost guarantee you’ve seen the adopting from a shelter vs breeder debate. It is a hot topic. 

The whole #adoptdontshop thing has gained a lot of traction. For me personally, I am definitely against puppy shopping as in puppy mills, backyard breeders, or pet stores. But when it comes to reputable breeders, I don’t consider that ‘shopping’ in the same way.

I now have done it both ways – Max is a rescue. And when I say rescue, I mean rescue. An organization rescued him and his litter from a gutter on the side of a road in Vieques, Puerto Rico when he was just 4 weeks old.

When his litter was old enough, they were then flown to a shelter in Canada where my husband and I found Max and adopted him at 8-9 weeks old. I have no idea what his parents looked like, what breeds he is (aside from being a ‘sato‘), or if he has or will have any genetic health problems.

Olive is a purebred German Shorthaired Pointer, and I bought her from a reputable breeder after a lot of research and waiting. I can see her family history generations back. I met her mother, her other siblings, and her parents are show dogs and have their health clearances.

I’m not here to debate “Adopt Don’t Shop,” because that’s not what this article is about. I am here to give you my experiences with both a rescue puppy and a puppy from a good breeder so that maybe your decision can be a bit easier.


Shelter VS Breeder – The Max & Olive Story

Most articles (see here and here) that talk about adopting a shelter dog vs buying from a breeder are talking about adopting an ADULT dog vs buying a PUPPY. But when I got Max, he was about the same age as when I got Olive (~8 weeks old).

Although puppies in shelters are not as common as adult dogs, and there are lots of reasons why you should adopt an adult dog, that’s not what I’m talking about here. I’m talking about adopting a puppy vs buying a puppy.


Max, at around 14 weeks old

I’ll be honest with you. When it comes to advantages of adopting a puppy vs buying a puppy, there aren’t many. In both cases, you’re going to have to do a lot of work.

Rescue puppies are no different than any other kinds of puppies – actually in most cases, they are often a bit more work because they likely have some baggage. And just like a puppy from a breeder, they still need to be house trained, crate trained, taught commands, etc.

Of course, rescuing a puppy from a shelter is a great thing to do if you can. There are way too many dogs and puppies in shelters. However, most very young puppies are actually adopted quickly. Max’s litter had 8 puppies – and they were ALL adopted in one single day.

With Max, we were happy to help a puppy in need. But it didn’t come without some drawbacks. We did not know (and still don’t know) his breeds (aside from being a “sato” dog). We didn’t know how big he would get (our vet guessed 40 lbs…he’s 60!) We don’t know what his parents looked like or what their temperaments were. He was, in all aspects, a mystery dog.


Olive, around 11 weeks old

When you get a dog from a reputable breeder, you know what you’re getting (more or less, of course all dogs have a unique personality). I researched German Shorthaired Pointers for years – and Olive is pretty much exactly what I expected. High energy, snuggly, extremely food motivated, already an escape artist, relatively easy to train, and a bit wary of strangers.

Now, this probably makes it seem like I’m pushing for breeding over adoption. I’m not. But after experiencing both, I can’t lie and say that things haven’t been different (for ME – everyone will have a different experience!) Raising Olive through the first few weeks has been significantly easier.

She has no baggage, her temperament was easily predicted, and I was able to prepare for her unique needs as a GSP right away. That doesn’t mean I would never adopt again. I love Max and I love the unique bond we have that came with a lot of hard work getting him to trust and love us.

In my experience, adopting a puppy was a lot harder. Max has been leash-reactive since the day we adopted him. His bite inhibition was horrible, as it’s likely he was separated from his mother too early. He was very fearful and even at two and a half, we still struggle with some anxiety issues.

Of course, Olive is NOT perfect. With most breeds, there will be some health problems you risk facing. For example, hip dysplasia is common with many sporting breeds – even those who have been well-bred. In my case, GSPs are also prone to separation anxiety, and I can already see that in Olive – something we are actively working against.

Whether you choose to adopt or buy from a reputable breeder, it’s VERY important that you do your research. Adopting is not for everyone, just like certain breeds are not for everyone. I know there has been a HUGE push for adoption, but it’s okay to decide that you would like a particular breed, especially if you plan to do a specific thing with your dog – like showing or agility!


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