I want to start this post by saying that up until I purchased Stuck this year, I had never actually paid for a dog before - not even in adoption fees. Every dog I have had has been given to me. Every dog that I have had until this year has either come from a rescue or has been acquired secondhand.
My issues with rescues and shelters are as follows:
The No Kill Movement - Most shelters have moved to "no kill". While no kill does not mean that euthanasia doesn't happen, it does mean less dogs are being killed. That said, dogs with poor temperaments are taking up house in shelters and even rescues, they are not being euthanized, they are being adopted out to people. People are adopting a story and putting up with dogs who have horrible personalities.
Shelters warehouse dogs - I'm sure you have seen the posts "This dog has been in the shelter for 2 years, find her a home!" I'm sorry, you've been warehousing a dog for 2 years and you don't understand why the dog isn't getting adopted. I can tell you that it is either lack of exposure, a severe behavioral problem, or the shelter is too picky about the person adopting the dog. There are dogs rotting in shelters for years while other shelters are EMPTY!
Importing dogs from other countries - How is it that we supposedly have a pet over population problem here, but rescues and shelters can accept dogs from Spain, the Middle East, and Mexico?
Not keeping dogs long enough - So I know I just complained about dogs staying in shelters for too long, but here is the other issue I have. Shelters do not keep dogs long enough! Rescues aren't keeping them long enough either! We all know the general two week rule. "Generally" it takes two weeks for a dog to start feeling comfortable in a new home. However if you've had enough dogs come through your house you know that it can take much longer than that. But it's a minimum of two weeks for you to start seeing the dog's true colors. Many shelters are only required to hold dogs a maximum of 3-5 days before putting them up for adoption. I scanned in paperwork for a dog that came from my local humane society who had been there for a total of 9 days, from intake to adoption! That is simply not long enough to determine a dog's personality and where the best fit is.
Lack of support - I've seen multiple situations where people have purchased dogs from shelters in particular, and when the dog has severe behavioral issues - such as biting- the shelter offers no support. In one scenario a shelter worker told a friend of a friend that the dog could be taught not to bite when it had gone after the woman multiple times over a ball. The advice did not go beyond that and the woman ended up returning the dog. The dog was listed almost immediately again with no mention of a bite history on the petfinder ad.
We are not doing dogs any favors by randomly placing them with people. More often than not it is a bad match and the dog will end up in another shelter or will be rehomed via craigslist.
Another blogger said it best (I wish I had a link, this post was excellent!) that shelters should be the place you go to pick from the best of the best. They should be weeding out dogs that require mass amounts of behavior modification and training in favor of dogs who just make good all around pets. If you choose to take on a challenging dog - good for you! But the truth is average joe dog owner is not prepared mentally or financially to deal with a dog who has severe behavioral issues. And in my opinion, you should not have to become a dog trainer to have a dog. Yes, you should research getting a dog and you should expect to take it to a basic dog class, but you should not have to pour thousands of dollars into training nor should you have to go above and beyond just to have one.
What I like about responsible breeders:
They health test- Responsible breeders health test. While it is no guarantee checking hips, elbows, eyes, heart, knees, etc help stack the odds in your favor that you will have a healthy dog who is long lived and has a body that can keep up.
They know their genetics- If you go to a breeder who has been in their breed for a long time they should know a lot about the lines they are breeding. Especially a breeder who has an established line.
They are supportive- If you are dealing with a health or temperament issue a responsible breeder should lend you support. Most breeders will guarantee health and if your puppy/dog has a serious problem, offer a replacement or in some cases a refund. If you are dealing with a temperament issue they should be able to help guide you on what is normal and what is not for your dog.
They evaluate their puppies- This is especially important for those of us who do sports. A responsible breeder will watch their puppies closely to determine which puppy should go to what home. Not every dog in a litter will be a sport prospect and depending on the breed not every dog in a litter will be a good pet. They should expose the puppies to weird surfaces, loud noises, and basic handling such at trimming nails to help determine who should go where.
They take them back- If for some reason you cannot care for your dog or it is a bad match, a responsible breeder in most situations will take them back.
Stuck, my Malinois, is the first dog I have ever paid for. Stuck came from a breeder who health tests and actually does IPO with their dogs. They are breeding for working ability and sound temperament and body. Stuck is everything I could have asked for in a dog. She can turn it on for working but she can be a reasonably decent house dog. I can take her to public places and trust that she will be on her best behavior, she is reliable off leash even in the presence of prey. She is healthy, she has passed her OFA hips & elbows as well as a cardiac and eye exam. Stuck is an extremely stable dog. I couldn't have asked for a better Belgian Malinois, especially for my very first one!
I mentioned in an earlier post that I was going to likely be getting a puppy. Meet Atlas!
Atlas is the epitome of why I push going to a responsible breeder. He is super environmentally sound:
He loves people and so far I haven't found anyone or anything that has actually scared him. He is fine around loud noises, he has been on the treadmill. He is super food driven so he will do anything for food.
I got into contact with Atlas' breeder the night before his mom whelped him. His breeder contacted me when the puppies were on the ground and sent me updates as they grew. I was specifically looking for a male and was given the opportunity to have pick of the three males that they had. Every week they sent me videos and pictures and kept me updated about each boy's personality. They exposed them to weird loud noises, different locations, crates, car riding, and general handling. When I went to pick him out we met at a location they hadn't been to before which was awesome because I could see their personalities in an unfamiliar place. I chose Atlas because he was the only puppy willing to go through an agility tunnel - by himself without coaxing - and he was super chill even though he was in a weird place. His other brothers were fine too, but one of them was more laid back than I wanted and the other was too intense.
Working pit bull litters just don't happen. Most pit bulls are chain warmers in the backyard. Atlas' dad has his IPO1, his grandfather on his dad's side is a weight pull champion, his great grandsire on that side almost finished his weight pull championship and had a mondio ring brevet. Further back there is an IPO3 dog, two SchhB dogs, and multiple conformation dogs as well as some dogs with AKC OB titles. While his mom's pedigree is not filled with performance dogs she was a good match pedigree wise.
We drove to Michigan to pick Atlas up and he did great the entire trip home. He was super easy to crate train and is good for his nails to be trimmed. He takes everything in stride and loves any and all people. At this point I couldn't ask for a more stable puppy. Even if he isn't great at IPO he is a great dog to have around. I don't personally feel that I could have found a puppy like this in the shelter, especially not a pit bull. Given the state of the no kill movement a lot of the dogs in our shelters/rescues here have poor personalities. A dog with poor nerves is not going to be successful in IPO, period.
To get back to the main topic of this post, I will probably always choose to go with a purpose bred dog. It isn't that I will never have a secondhand dog again, if the right dog found me I wouldn't say no, but I do not feel guilty about going to responsible breeders to find dogs who can do the sports that want to do.
While I do feel that there are definitely rescue dogs out there who can do performance sports I think for high level competition they can be hard to find. There is so much to be said for good training foundations in puppies. I found this out when I was training my previous pit bull Seppel. He was a great dog and he tried his hardest to do the things I asked him to do but we played a lot of catch up because he did not have a good foundation for the sport we were doing. He also did not have quite the temperament that Atlas has, he had some hangups that I think were mostly genetic. There are a lot of pit bulls out there with sub-par nervous temperaments in shelters. In my opinion they should not be adopted out because they are not how the breed should be.
The breed standard says:
"The essential characteristics of the American Pit Bull Terrier are strength, confidence, and zest for life. This breed is eager to please and brimming over with enthusiasm."
Pit Bulls should not be nervous or fearful. They should not be a bite risk to people. Unfortunately a lot of the pit bull type dogs in shelters are dogs with anxiety and nerve issues. At least this is my experience here on the West Coast.
Another issue as well is dog aggression. While I did it once before bringing Seppel home I was very leery of taking a shelter or rescue pit bull type dog into my home. My biggest worry was that the rescue or shelter would not be able to determine level of dog aggression and that I would bring a dog home who would kill my cat or seriously injure my other dogs. Seppel just fit in so perfectly into my house I have a hard time believing I could have that again. He was high drive but he got along smashingly with everyone in my house.
Once again to go back on topic and then bring this to a close - I could not be happier with my decision to go to a breeder for both of my purebred dogs.
***No judgement to those in support of rescue. I know that there are many shelter and rescue dogs who have been successful in sports, I've done sports with my own dogs who don't have pedigrees. I mostly just wanted to share why I chose to go with a breeder instead of going with a shelter dog and to share my issues with the shelter/rescue system. This is based off of my own personal experiences.