Adopt Don't Shop

The “adopt, don’t shop” campaign originated to bring awareness to the ever-rising number of homeless animals and to encourage prospective dog-owners to adopt a dog from a shelter or a rescue instead of purchasing one from a shady website, pet store or a puppy mill.

The idea behind the movement being that by adopting a dog, instead of supporting the aforementioned parties, the population of animals without a home would dwindle.

Unfortunately, this movement has been picked up in recent times and completely blown out of proportion, demonizing anyone who wants a purebred dog, assaulting reputable breeders and dog owners alike.

People that are taking the “adopt, don’t shop” mentality to the extreme have completely ignored the crucial distinction between puppy mills, irresponsible breeders, and pet stores vs. reputable breeders.

The campaign was never intended to lump together reputable and preservation breeders with parties who only wish to make a profit off of breeding dogs with no thought given to their health, structure and temperament.

It is especially dangerous because that constant assault, toxicity and demonization is turning potential dog-owners, who want a specific breed, away from investing time in to research reputable breeders and is making them more susceptible to falling into a puppy mill’s trap, because they do not have the knowledge to recognise the red flags. 

The question that inevitably arrises from this misinformation and witch-hunting is “If all breeders are the same, why should potential buyers research anything?”

You might have noticed already that the original intention behind the movement does not touch upon reputable or preservation breeders. And there is a reason behind it.

A reputable breeder’s main goal is to produce dogs that are healthy, with a solid and balanced temperament, proper structure, that abide to that breed’s standard with the purpose to continue and improve the breed with each generation being better than the last.

The goal behind it is twofold – to preserve historical breeds and to produce healthier specimen with the long-term goal of eliminating health, structural and temperamental issues that plague the breed.

Without preservation breeders, many breeds would die out, resulting in the inevitable loss of genetic and breed diversity, the sudden loss of hundreds and thousands of years of selective breeding and the reduction of variety of working and companion dogs.

Why are dog breeds important?

To put it simply, breeds or purpose-bred dogs have been selectively bred to perform a certain task.

The differentiation between the different dogs with different skillsets is what we call breeds. From companion dogs to working dogs, each breed has been carefully selected for the specific skillset with which they aid our lives.

Companionship breeds, gun dog, hunting, herding and protection breeds all excel in the task at hand. While it is a nice sentiment to think that any dog can do any job, just like with humans, each individual excels at one thing while being average or bad in another.

Creating the false perception that any dog is suitable for any job is a disservice to dog breeds and their innate instincts and abilities.

It also leads to dogs being thrown in situations they are not well-equipped to handle. For example, the herding abilities that have been selectively bred in the two corgi breeds make them well-equipped for the task of herding cattle but they also make corgis a (generally) bad choice for a service dog – a job that requires a completely different skill set to succeed.

It is vital to know what each breed has been selected for so that the dog you have is well-equipped for the tasks they are going to be entrusted with throughout their life. Setting them up for success is crucial to everyone’s happiness.

Adopt Don't Shop

Different Breeds have Different Needs

To sum it up, there are truly different breeds for different needs. And there should be no shame in wanting a specific breed because they match your lifestyle, needs and requirements, plans about your dog, etc.

If you want a gun dog – get a gun dog breed, if you need a herder, get a herding breed, if you want a companion, gravitate towards such a breed.

Having a desire to be knowledgeable about a breed – their standard, structure, temperament, grooming requirements, etc. is admirable.

In fact, It is imperative that you truly research that information before diving in head-first into dog ownership. The 10+ year commitment of owning a dog should not be taken lightly.

The more you know about dog ownership and your future dog’s needs, the better equipped you will be to judge whether this is even the right time to own a dog and, if it is, how to fulfill your new companion’s needs.

Knowledge is vital because you cannot out-train genetics. You can mold and harness them, but you cannot train them out.

In other words, if you don’t want a dog with a high prey drive, don’t get a breed that was purpose-bred to go after prey.

This is one of the reasons why adoption is not for everyone.

Adopting a dog from a shelter is often a roll of the dice when it comes to what you get.

Structure, temperament, drive, instincts, and even health vary wildly from one mutt to another. All of these are a combination of nature and nurture, meaning you never know what genetics your newly adopted dog might carry, their upbringing before you.

That, in turn, makes it challenging to find a good match with a shelter dog if you are looking for something specific.

Furthermore, even if you know the mix, it’s a coin toss which traits will be dominant from which breed.

A 2-year-old German Shepherd/Labrador mix can take after either – will it have a shepherd drive and temperament or a Lab one? Will the structure be that of a shepherd or not? There is no way to know, especially if it’s a puppy. If it’s an older dog – what was its life before the shelter? Has it been socialized? Abused? Chained?

All of these can pose unique challenges not every potential owner is equipped to handle.

An abused shelter dog can have fear-related reactivity problems, it can have health issues because of the life it had.

Many shelter dogs are too much of a coin toss if you’re looking for something specific in a dog.

That doesn’t mean they do not make awesome pets – they do, and they deserve loving homes as much as any other dog. 

But they are not a good fit for everyone.

Sometimes shelter dogs work out great, but oftentimes they get returned to the shelter for one reason or another. It is often not the fault of the dog nor the returnee, it simply wasn’t “a match”.

It is not uncommon for a dog to get adopted and returned to a shelter 2-3 times before they finally find a permanent home.

Adopting a dog from a shelter is often comparable to blind dating, it requires patience before you find “the one”.

Adopt Don't Shop

The Adoption Process Isn’t For Everyone

The harsh reality of it is…

Not everyone is a candidate for adoption.

Rescues often have extremely high standards and requirements for potential adopters.

They can ask for in-home visits, tax returns/pay stubs, and may even ask for a written recommendation letter from your veterinarian — all in an effort to match their animals with the best homes and families possible.

The application process can take months before you know whether or not you have been approved.

That long and grueling process can be extremely taxing.

The dog you originally “had your eye on” from the rescue is likely long gone by the time you are given the green light, leaving you waiting for another potential dog to come along.

Should you be denied, you are back at square one again.

The entire process of adopting a dog is also emotionally draining. It isn’t for everyone and not every home is suitable for a rescue dog either.

The True Meaning of “Adopt Don’t Shop”

“Adopt, don’t shop” means that if you are going to purchase a dog from a pet store, puppy mill (where pet store dogs are sourced from) or a backyard breeder, adopt. 

If you are not ready to invest the time, energy and resources into obtaining a well-bred dog from a reputable breeder – adopt.

If you just want a dog as a companion – your best course is probably to adopt.

The “adopt, don’t shop” movement aims to fight the biggest offenders that contribute to the massive population of homeless and in shelter dogs.

Those are:

  • Puppy mills (and the pet stores that source from them) – Puppy mills are commercial breeding facilities that mass-produce dogs for profit. Dogs are often kept in cages most of their lives until they are no longer able to reproduce, at which time they are discarded. Puppies from these mills can suffer from health defects due to poor genetics or lack of veterinary care.
  • Backyard breeders – they usually fall into two categories: those that intentionally (or unintentionally) let their dogs mate for one reason or another – thinking their dog is “too cute not to have babies” or that it’s “very important for a bitch to have at least 1 litter before castration to ensure her health”, or they simply wish another dog and this is the path of least resistance in their eyes, the least amount of hassle. 

The second group is more dangerous. They are the “breeders” who reproduce their dogs intentionally with the sole purpose of making money.

They do not test for genetic diseases or dysplasias, they do not aim to better a breed, they do not care about the temperament of the puppies.

All they care about is profit. They also usually try to mask themselves as reputable and responsible, making uneducated people fall into their traps. 

Such breeders would breed for coat color (e.g. the new merle craze plaguing many breeds, including corgis) or eye color, or anything that would label their dogs “unique” or “rare” with no regard to how that affects the puppies’ health.

Because being “rare” means it can be sold for an exorbitant amount, often higher than what a person would pay for a well-bred, healthy specimen of the same breed.

  • Irresponsible dog owners – Surrenders make up a large percentage of animals found in shelters and rescues. Irresponsible owners fail to uphold the lifelong commitment to their pet for one reason or another. Pets are often surrendered due to behavior problems, which more often than not stem from a lack of training rather than genetics, or changes in their owner’s lives such as divorce, birth of a child, or relocation. Senior dogs are also surrendered because those owners often do not wish to deal with the hassle a senior dog brings.

What all of these have in common is that they produce puppies en masse. The more puppies they have to sell, the bigger the profit.

Also, once the puppy leaves their home or facility, they do not care what happens to it and take no responsibility for the lives they’ve added to this world. 

These are the dogs that inevitably end up in shelters.

Instead of scrambling to find homes for millions of homeless dogs (and shaming people who don’t adopt them), we need to start targeting those individuals who put those dogs in that position to begin with.

We need to stop backyard breeders and puppy mills from producing dogs in the first place.

Moreover, we need to start educating future dog owners about responsible dog ownership.

Dogs should not be an impulsive decision made overnight, but rather a thoughtful decision made after months and years of research and deliberation.

Future dog owners should understand and be prepared for a 10+ year commitment and anything and everything that comes with it from puppyhood to seniority.

We need to educate future dog owners so when the time comes for them to bring home a dog, they are ready. It is imparative that they know where they should and shouldn’t purchase a dog from.

We need to set future dog owners up for success and for that we need to educate them – not shame them for wanting a specific breed in the first place.

Adopt Don't Shop

Reputable Breeders Aren’t The Problem

Despite common misconceptions, reputable breeders do not contribute to the shelter population.

They are incredibly passionate about the puppies they bring into the world, and they feel morally responsible for every single one of them.

The litters they bring into the world are few, created after careful consideration of both dogs in the breeding pair, their health, structure and temperament.

These dogs are brought into the world ethically, with love, care, and after a lot of thought and consideration.

Such litters rarely (if ever) bring any profit and none of these puppies will ever end up in a shelter, because the breeder vows that if a dog produced by them ever needs to be surrendered by their owner, they will take it back.

“Adopt OR Shop Responsibly”

Instead of twisting the “adopt, don’t shop” remark and shaming anyone who wants a purebred dog, we should go back to its roots and transfer our anger towards the actual villains in the shelter dogs’ story – irresponsible owners, puppy mills and backyard breeders.

We should educate prospective dog owners so that they can avoid obtaining a dog from such a shady place. If a well-bred dog is not for them, they should look into adoption.

Condemning the awful breeding practices of the aforementioned parties and preventing them from continuing is the way to reduce the shelter population. 

Owning a well-bred dog is not condemning another dog to shelter life. It’s not contributing to the shelter or homeless dogs population.

Reputable breeders are not the problem. They are a part of the solution and we should not turn prospective dog owners from them.

They possess a wealth of information, love and care for the lives they bring into the world.

We need to stop the cancel culture towards responsible breeding. Let’s cancel out the shady parties.

That’s how we help reduce the numbers.

We have to start promoting responsible dog ownership and that starts with educating people.

Adopt OR shop responsibly.

Veselina Krasteva (Lina)

Bachelor of European studies and Master (to be) in Digital media and videogames, my passion lies with dogs... and good grammar. When I'm not busy writing, you can find me pampering the queen of the house - Olivia, my Pembroke Welsh Corgi. You can also find me buried in a good fantasy book or a great game.