Thursday, May 31, 2012

Breeders Versus Rescues: Why all the controversy?

Often times, people who really have an affinity for a specific breed consider finding a breeder for a new puppy.  In rescue circles, they are met with harshness and negative judgment over their choice to not get a new dog from a shelter or a rescue.  The debate is an intense one, and I can see both sides.

The plight of the person going to a breeder, is that they are seeking a dog "true to the breed".  They want to avoid any breed influences which may alter what they know and understand about the dog they are looking for.  This level of breed consideration is to be commended, as understanding your breed before you look for a new pet is key.  In addition, there are many breeds that are uncommon.  A person has a right to seek what they desire, and someone adopting from a breeder shouldn't bear the brunt of every irresponsible dog owner who has surrendered a dog to a shelter.  We must ask dog owners to be responsible, adopt wisely, and keep their dog forever.  Their "duty" is to the dog they select, and not to fix the world of unwanted dogs.

Conversely, it seems that many who go to breeders are looking for a "look" and general characteristics, but are tolerant of deviations.  The question becomes, why buy a Boxer when you can go to Boxer rescue?  They are very common dogs, and there are many in rescue.  We are not in fear that without breeders this breed will go extinct, for surely breeding our dogs is an important aspect to ensuring our amazing breeds continue to exist.  In addition, there are dogs in rescue who originally came from breeders (and likely not because of any fault of the breeder, short of poorly selecting the adoptive family.  But people can really surprise you, even after a ton of vetting).  If you shop your local shelters and rescues, you stand a good chance of finding your purebred dog.

I've been seeing a ton of people lately breeding the designer dog mutts.  I guess this is the only thing I don't really understand.  Why do you need a breeder if your dog is a mutt?  "Well, I want the best of both worlds".  Okay, but you can still find that easily in rescue, you just need to look and invest some patience and time.  "This dog is a shepherd, Rottweiler mix".  Okay, good.  Do your research on both.

Frankly, the frustration from rescue regarding people who purchase from breeders is that most people aren't looking for a "breed".  They are looking for a "great dog who is good with kids and other dogs".  If your requirement so simple, why not adopt?  Especially when adopting a 1 year old dog gives you a far better idea of what you can expect.  We can love our breeds, but each dog is unique and meeting them past puppyhood offers us such valuable insight into how they are naturally, personally, going to be unique.

With regards to the Great Pyrenees breed, I find myself shocked when people look for us for recommendations on breeders.  I must give people an ounce of forgiveness, because they have not seen the amount of Pyrenees that are in rescues and shelters right now.  I will have this breed my entire life, and I cannot foresee ever needing to contact a breeder so they can make more puppies the world doesn't need.  I respect the show ring and the need to continue the "true breed", but outside of those who want to show, I just don't get it with Pyrs.  I can also easily assume that those looking for livestock guardians really need to find a Pyrenees who is from a great stock of guardians.  Your livestock is too valuable to trust it to a 2 year old Great Pyrenees from a shelter with no livestock history. 

Great Pyrenees available in shelters and in rescue tend to be "true", and when I see Pyrenees mixes, the Pyr part has always seemed to be far less Pyr than is obvious.  When I still worked in rescue, we came across a lot of dogs who didn't do so great as livestock guardians.  Perhaps they let their farmer down, and didn't guard their sheep as they should have.  We saw a ton of Pyrs born on farms to unspayed bitches, who when they reached just about 6 months old the farm/family surrendered them.  "Why are there so many Great Pyrenees in rescue?" people would always ask.  Well, I'd tell them, we found that a lot of farm Pyrs aren't altered, as the thought tends to be spaying or neutering may hamper their ability to be true to their guardian jobs.  This may be true, I have no experience with them as livestock guardians in that setting.  Not altering your pets, naturally, leads to a lot of unwanted dogs.

The person looking to adopt must understand why they are met with such disdain from the rescue community.  Those in rescue see dogs day in and day out who are amazing, great dogs.  These dogs are sent to die, while people buy designer puppies and say they are "just looking for a great dog".  As humans, we cannot deny that so much of our motivation is superficial.  If it weren't so many breeds today would be far more functional and far less fluff.  To add, over-breeding of certain types of dogs seems to often reflect a trendy influence, ie. a movie that came out showcasing the protagonist to be a certain kind of dog, resulting in children across the nation screaming that their parents get this cutely-depicted creature.  The motivation is unforgivable, but regardless, you *certainly* will find that dog in rescue anyway, due to the trend.

I love my Great Pyrenees breed.  I do not want breeders to stop altogether.  If there weren't vanguards for the breed out there, eventually a breed may be subject to extinction.  Dawn, who was no fan of breeders, often said wonderful things about "whoever is breeding Bernese Mountain Dogs" in Colorado.  She said while she saw many of them in loving homes, she never saw them in rescue.  This meant that the breeders were choosing their adoptive families closely and carefully, and breeding only to that well examined demand.  This is how it should be.

The world of dogs needs a few things.  First, we need responsible breeders who breed to a well-vetted, specific demand.  Owners who *know* the breed and aren't looking for the breed for trendy or otherwise ill-advised motives.  Secondly, we need people to be responsible and smart when they look for a new dog.  If you are purely looking for a gentle temperament and a playful friend, please visit a shelter or rescue.  Does it *have to* be a standard Poodle?  Does it *have to* be a Goldendoodle?  If so, why?  Ask yourself.  If you, like me, found your breed soul mate, be sure you have shopped your rescues first.  You may be surprised at what you find.  Great, true, dogs of your breed selection that are young and impressionable.  Lastly, keep your dogs.  Spay & neuter your dogs unless you are using them for responsible breeding. (I personally believe all female non-show/breeding dogs should be spayed, as there are real health risks such as greatly increased risk of mammary cancer and pyometra in unspayed girls, regardless of if you truly *know* she will never escape and breed.  I think a well-tempered male dog can be left in tact if the owner is 100% sure he cannot escape to the lure of the gal in the area,  however I think it's illegal in most counties to not alter your dog regardless.)

Never make the naive assumption that if you surrender they will find a "better home".  They stand a real risk of finding themselves euthanized.


  1. Thank you. I have had my share of rescue dogs. They were beloved members of our family. Now that we are looking to have a ranch, we have begun looking at Pyrs for the desirable characteristics specific to the breed. We have been met with tremendous judgement for considering a breeder. We have not ruled out a rescue dog, we just feel like we shouldn't be judged for considering our options.

  2. Great article. We have a Pyr whom we bought from a breeder. She is a phenomenal dog, possessing all the wonderful characteristics the breed is prized for. We thought long and hard as to whether we should adopt or to consult a breeder. In the end, the decision had a lot to do with how meticulous and caring the breeder was about maintaining the breed's integrity and genetic health. She (the breeder) also guaranteed that, should we not be able to care for our Pyr. (god forbid), that the dog will always have a home with the breeder on her ranch. We plan on keeping our Pyr forever, of course. It is an interesting debate - the fact that we bought from a breeder, meant our dog will never end up in a shelter. On the other hand if we had bought from a shelter, there would be one less dog for the shelter to care for.

  3. Regarding the fact that Great Pyrenees are found in shelters at a far greater rate than Bernese Mountain Dogs... I've raised both a Bernese Mountain Dog and a Great Pyrenees. Both are female. Both came to our home as puppies. The Bernese Mountain Dog was just plain easier to live with. She was so much more "in tune" with me, and such a "people pleaser". The Great Pyrenees, being very independent by nature, has often tested my patience. Her barking, at times, has made me want to pull my hair out. Because I understand that this is normal for her breed, and that it is my responsibility to deal with her behavior, I choose to put in the extra work she requires. Many people don't know what they are getting into when they get a Pyr..... and they are not willing to deal with the challenges. Berners are just plain easier (in my experience, anyway).
    That said, I think of it this way: If one of my children was more difficult than the other, would I give her/him up for adoption? No way! It is like that with Toda Bear (our Pyr) too. I love her. This is her home. We are her family. Always.


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