Should you adopt a dog from a shelter or buy one from a breeder — which is better and why? The answer is neither — it’s all about personal preference, and both rescue dogs and pedigree dogs come with excellent benefits. We’re not in the “who’s right” game — we love dogs and encourage you to find the right dog for your living situation. Weighing the pros and cons of adopting vs buying a pet can help you with this tough decision.

Adoption vs. Breeder Statistics

If you are a numbers kind of person, here are notable statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), Shelter Animals Count, the Humane Society of the United States and other authorities on pet ownership, animal shelters, and breeders:

Pet ownership in the U.S.

  • About 38% of U.S. households have dogs. (AVMA)
  • Americans own about 76.8 million dogs. (AVMA)
  • Breeders are responsible for about 34% of domestic dogs in the U.S. (APPA, according to Dogster)
  • Rescues and shelters are where Americans get about 23% of adopted dogs. (APPA via Dogster)
  • We get about 20% of adopted dogs from friends and family. (APPA via Dogster)

Dogs in animal shelters

  • Each year, approximately 3.3 million dogs enter animal shelters. (ASPCA)
  • About 1.6 million dogs find forever homes each year. (ASPCA)
  • Each year shelters in the U.S. euthanize approximately 670,000 dogs. (ASPCA)
  • Around 620,000 of shelter/rescue dogs return to their owners. (ASPCA)
  • An estimated 25% of dogs in shelters are purebred. (Humane Society of the United States)

If you’re interested in buying a purebred through a breeder, research the breeder so you don’t unknowingly support a puppy mill. Ask family, friends, or your veterinarian for breeder recommendations and ALWAYS visit a breeder’s facility so you can see where your puppy was born and raised. 

Puppy mills

Puppy mills are large commercial breeding facilities that put profits above the welfare of dogs. The difference between puppy mills and breeders is in the way the owners and operators care for the animals. Puppy mill breeders highly focus on profits, while reputable breeders care for their animals by providing good nutrition, grooming, exercise, and veterinary care until the animals find their forever homes.

  • An estimated 10,000 puppy mills, both licensed and unlicensed, breed dogs in the U.S. (HSUS)
  • Each year, USDA-licensed facilities produce approximately 1.3 million puppies. (HSUS)*
  • Breeding female dogs produce an average of 9.4 puppies per year. (HSUS)

*The United States Department of Agriculture requires that dog breeders become licensed if they own more than four breeding females and they sell puppies. The ASPCA estimates that the USDA licenses about 2,000 breeders in the U.S. 

Benefits of Adopting an Adult Rescue Dog

Adopting a pet from a shelter is one of the most significant decisions you can make as a pet parent. The majority of shelter dogs are mixed breeds, although you can find purebreds in them. Shelter pets often come with the stigma of having behavioral issues. While this can be true, many people surrender dogs to shelters because of changes in living situations, not because of their dogs’ behavior or temperament. Adopting a rescue or shelter dog brings many benefits such as:

  • Many shelter dogs already have some training.
  • Most dogs have had their essential vet needs met, including a microchip, vaccines, and spaying/neutering.
  • Shelter staff can share info with you like a dog’s personality, so you know what to expect when you welcome your dog home.
  • Some rescues and shelters allow for returns if you find the dog is not a good match for your situation.
  • Mixed breed dogs typically have less inherited health problems.
  • You can save the lives of two dogs — the one you adopt and the dog that takes their place in the shelter or rescue.
  • Adult dogs tend to be potty-trained.
  • The love and gratitude rescue dogs provide their new family are immeasurable.

Pros and Cons of Purebred Puppies

Pros of buying a dog from a breeder

  • You can meet or learn the history of a puppy’s parents to get an idea of what traits may have been passed to your puppy.
  • Many reputable breeders offer health guarantees or genetic testing to ensure your pet won’t inherit diseases or negative traits.
  • Pure breeds tend to share behavioral and temperaments, so you’ll have some idea of what your dog’s personality and temperament will be like.
  • If you want your dog to compete in show competitions, your pet will need confirmation (papers) that it is an AKC-recognized breed.
  • Good breeders socialize their puppies and teach them basic training commands.
  • Breeders breed dogs for conformation (dog shows) and stable temperament, so you’ll have an idea of how your puppy will behave as an adult. However, many things can affect a dog’s behavior.

Cons of buying a puppy from a breeder

  • Purebred dogs from a breeder tend to cost substantially more than one from rescues or shelters. This is perhaps the number-one con against purebred puppy adoption.
  • Puppies are a lot of work, whether they are mixed or pure breeds. Expect to do lot of work when you bring a puppy home. Even if your pet’s previous owner socialized and potty-trained them, you will need to continue to train, treat, repeat once you bring them home.
  • Finding a reputable breeder can be difficult.
  • Despite a reputable breeder’s best attempts to create the “perfect” dog, you don’t know if your purebred will inherit health or behavioral problems. 

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