Rescues vs. Purebreds: What's right for you?

23 August 2023 - 5 min read
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According to the RSPCA, 7,412 dogs walked through their doors in 2021, up by 11.9% on the previous year. However, even though rescues increased, the numbers being rehomed dropped by 6% compared to the previous year, to 4,567. For the pup you bring home, adoption is a dogsend.

Nonetheless, perhaps you’d prefer to purchase a purebred dog from a breeder. Maybe you’ve got your heart set on a specific breed or on a pedigreed puppy. Maybe you have allergies and need a dog with a hypoallergenic coat. Or perhaps you’ve got your sights set on Crufts. As long as you buy from a responsible breeder, you don’t deserve a guilt trip—all dogs deserve loving homes.

One thing’s for sure: If you’re still deciding between adopting a rescue dog or buying a purebred pup, you need to make a choice that aligns with your needs and lifestyle.

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Benefits of adopting a rescue dog

The increased number of pets entering rehoming centres is thought to be driven by the impact of Covid-19 and the cost-of-living crisis according to the RSPCA.

During Covid-19 pet ownership spiked, however due to the cost-of-living crisis some pet parents are now struggling to pay for pet care costs.

Furthermore, pets are emerging with behavioural issues stemming from lack of socialisation, training and generally being out and about, as a result of the pandemic lockdowns.

If you choose to rehome a dog, you'll be providing them with a home filled with love and hope. For nervous dogs impacted by the pandemic, you'll be able to use your patience, dedication and understanding to bring comfort and happiness.

By bringing home a rescue dog you'll also be freeing up vital resources for rescue centres, enabling them to provide essential support to other animals in need.

There can also be practical benefits to choosing rescue centre adoption. Compared to purchasing a puppy, it’s easier to get a precise sense of your rescue dog’s temperament and behavioural tendencies before they come home with you. That’s because centre staff members spend days and weeks observing the behaviour of the dogs in their care, which means they can help match you with a dog who suits your preferences.

And sure, training a rescue dog can sometimes carry special challenges, especially if your pup has experienced abuse or neglect. But in other cases, rescues may actually need less training than an average puppy. In fact, you might be able to find a shelter dog who’s already been through house training,recall training, lead training, socialisation or all of the above.

So if you’re not eager to train a puppy from scratch, adopting the right dog could save you lots of aggravation.

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What to consider before adopting from a rescue centre

Adopting a shelter dog is a commendable choice, but it requires careful thought and preparation.

  • Rescue centre compatibility: Research and visit different centres to find one that aligns with your values and goals. Each centre may have its own policies, adoption procedures, and available dogs. Ask the workers about their approach to animal care and get a sense of their transparency. You can review information about the centre online.

Choose a rescue centre that clearly prioritises the well-being of animals and offers a supportive and transparent adoption experience.

  • Health and behaviour evaluation: Ask about the rescue centre's health and behaviour assessment processes. It’s crucial that you understand the dog's medical history, temperament, and any potential challenges that lie ahead of you.

Some shelters provide post-adoption behavioural support or other resources to help a dog adjust to their new home.

  • A matching lifestyle: Don’t adopt a dog whose needs and energy level are completely incompatible with your own. Take a good look at your home and lifestyle.

If you live in a small flat or if you don’t have time for lengthy outdoor exercise sessions, you probably shouldn’t adopt a large, hyper-energetic dog in your prime of youth. But a smaller, lower-energy pup—or perhaps a senior dog might be perfect for you.

  • Consider existing pets or family members: If you have any other pets or family members, you’ll need to consider their needs and preferences when you choose a dog. Where applicable, be sure to pick a dog who can get along with children or other furry family members.

  • Previous training and socialisation: Ask the rescue centre about the dog's previous training, socialisation, and behavioural history. This information can help you understand the dog's background, potential areas for improvement, and whether they’re the right pup for you.

  • Spaying or neutering: Your adoptive dog might already be spayed or neutered—and you should ask. Otherwise, most centres will spay or neuter your dog before you adopt them, and you should take them up on the offer. Widespread failure to spay or neuter dogs is a big reason why so many pups wind up in rehoming centres in the first place.

  • Veterinary care and vaccinations: Ask about the dog's medical history, vaccinations, and any ongoing medical needs. Confirm that they’re up-to-date on vaccinations and routine care. You’ll want to secure any paperwork the centre has regarding the dog’s veterinary history. (Psst…this is very important for pet insurance.)

  • Meet and greet: If you can, spend time with the dog you're interested in—many rehoming centres offer meet-and-greet sessions. It’s a great way to gauge your compatibility and forge a connection before you bring them home.

  • Adoption fees and paperwork: Make sure you understand the centres paperwork and requirements and provide the correct documentation. You’ll likely need to pay an adoption fee. This helps fund the centre and it’s typically much less expensive than buying a puppy from a reputable breeder.

Just make sure you’ve prepared your home for the dog’s arrival, stocking up on all the food, supplies, bedding, toys, and comfortable spaces they’ll need. Be sure to take them in for a routine vet appointment as soon as possible and get them caught up on any vaccinations or parasite prevention if need be.

Once you bring your new rescue dog home, be patient during their transition period. It may take some time for them to adjust to their new environment and routine.

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Benefits of adopting from a responsible breeder

While adopting a shelter dog is a wonderful thing to do, it’s not right for everyone. Prospective pet parents may have specific needs or preferences that lead them to purchase a purebred dog from a responsible breeder.

First of all, some pet parents simply have their hearts set on a specific type of purebred dog—and more specifically, a purebred puppy. There’s nothing wrong with that. If you’re desperate to befriend an eight-week-old French Bulldog, it’ll be pretty hard to find one at your local shelter.

Some families may also benefit from purchasing a dog with a predictable temperament. While all dogs are different, reputable breeders usually strive for behavioural consistency in all their pups. All you’ll need to do is research the behavioural differences between different breeds. This foreknowledge can be especially important for families with specific dynamics, like those with young children.

Purchasing from a breeder may also be wise if you’re struggling with certain allergies or health concerns. Certain purebreds and crossbreeds, like Cockapoos, can be borderline hypoallergenic. If you’re a chronic allergy sufferer, it may be impossible for you to live with any other type of dog.

By the way, there’s a reason we keep using the words “reputable” or “responsible” when we describe ethical dog breeders: These are the only types of breeders you should purchase from. Dogs who come from unethical breeding operations, like puppy farms, often endure physical and emotional hardships, leading to suffering, health issues, genetic disorders, and behavioural problems.

Now’s a good time to read our guide to purchasing a dog from a responsible breeder.

What to consider before purchasing from a reputable breeder

Just like adopting from a shelter, purchasing a purebred or crossbred dog from a breeder requires careful thought and research. Here are some things to consider:

  • Reputable breeder research: You should conduct thorough research to identify responsible breeders who prioritize the health, well-being, and ethical treatment of their dogs. The Kennel Club's list of Assured Breeders is a good place to start. You can also seek referrals and read online reviews.

Whenever possible, be sure to visit the breeder. Observe the space and cleanliness of the surroundings, as well as the overall treatment and condition of the dogs.

While you’re there, ask to meet your prospective puppy’s parents. You’ll gain insights into the potential temperament and size of your pup. It's also important to know whether the parents, particularly the mother, are in good, healthy condition. This will tell you a great deal about whether you’re about to buy from an ethical breeder.

  • Breed compatibility, lifestyle, family and health: Research different dog breeds to find one that matches your lifestyle, activity level, and preferences. You’ll also want to make sure your choice is compatible with any existing pets or family members, including children. If you have special health needs—say, you want a hypoallergenic pup due to allergies—only certain breeds will meet those needs.

No two dogs are alike, but it should be easy enough to learn the general traits of any given breed.

  • Health: Ask about the health and certifications for the dogs being bred, and confirm that they’ve been tested for hereditary health conditions common to their breed. In the UK it's not a legal requirement to health test dogs, but the Kennel Club strongly recommends that puppy buyers choose from breeders who do.

  • Puppy socialisation: Ask the breeder how they’ve gone about socialising the puppies from an early age. Exposure to siblings, different environments, and people—even in the first few weeks of life—can help give rise to well-adjusted, confident puppers.

  • Ask questions: Don't hesitate to ask the breeder about their breeding practices, philosophy, and commitment to their dogs' well-being. A responsible breeder will be open and transparent. If they seem evasive, turn tail and leave.

  • Financial investment: Understand that purchasing a puppy from a reputable breeder may involve a higher initial cost than adoption from a shelter, sometimes much higher. Take stock of your financial situation—you’ll need some money left over to take care of your dog. After all, pet parenthood can be extremely expensive, especially when you factor in the cost of veterinary care.

Purebred or rescue dog - either way, you're now a pet parent

Whether you’ve adopted a shelter dog or a pricey purebred, now you’re in the enviable position of being a dog parent. This means a life filled with love and companionship, but also commitment, training, and veterinary costs.

Dog insurance can help with that last one. No matter how well you take care of your pup, accidents and illnesses do happen, and some of them can cost a leg and a paw to treat. Fortunately, insurance may help ease the financial burden of treatment.

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