Meet my whole crew. Rescues, every last one. Yes, I know I have a lot of dogs. Every single one has a job and a purpose in our household. From left to right: Delta (Labrador retriever)–my husband’s dog, rescued from a shelter after being found stray. Snicker (some kind of terrier-y mix)–my youngest son’s dog and agility companion, rescued from a foster organization after she was surrendered following a divorce. Sully (Australian shepherd)–my newest addition and my own agility dog, adopted from Midwest Australian Shepherd Rescue after being surrendered. Dott (border collie/cattle dog)–my middle son’s agility, obedience, showmanship, and rally dog, rescued from a shelter after being abandoned during Hurricane Harvey. Daisy (sheltie mix)–my oldest daughter’s agility, obedience, showmanship, rally, and trick dog (working on her Master Agility Champion title), rescued from a foster organization after being found stray with a puppy she raised. And finally, Baxter (pit bull)–Baxter is a little bit of a misfit in the house since he wasn’t found as the result of a search for an agility dog. In fact, Baxter doesn’t really care for agility. He came to us because he was inappropriately placed by the shelter. An energetic pit bull was too much for the older couple who adopted him, and while he was on leash, he pulled the man down. A black pit bull has two strikes against him when trying to get adopted (black and pit bull) and I couldn’t stand to see this sweet guy go back to the shelter. Now Baxter is my Steady-Eddie guy whom I use to socialize reactive dogs.
With my crew of rescue dogs, it might surprise people to learn that I do not equate the word “breeder” with a swear word. Why not? It turns out that it’s a long answer, but to start, I think it’s important to point out that I also do not equate breeder with puppy mill. So maybe we need to start with my definition of a responsible breeder.
When I look for a responsible breeder, I look for someone who
a) is knowledgeable regarding what they are breeding, and what that breeding will produce
b) uses that knowledge to produce superior animals (in soundness, temperament, and purpose)
c) works tirelessly to ensure that each puppy produced finds a loving home that fits its energy level and purpose
d) has a forever clause that the puppy can be returned, no questions asked, if the placement does not work out.
A responsible breeder does not contribute to number of dogs in rescue organizations and shelters because every puppy they produce has a purpose and a forever home. Many people would say that they shouldn’t be producing any puppies at all because those owners should be rescuing instead of buying. I disagree. Here’s why.
Puppy mills and irresponsible breeders (whether negligent or clueless) will continue to make puppies, whether responsible breeders do or not. Why? Because they make money, and I promise that no matter how long you spend educating the world, there will still be people who pay for those puppies. And here’s the real kicker. A lot of those people are rescue organizations who are “saving” the puppy from the bad breeder. That’s the most crazy part of the anti-breeder movement. They are supporting the bad breeders, who will take their money and go on to make more.
Which brings up another important point. Cost is not indicative of quality. We often see people pay twice as much for a mixed breed designer dog with no health screening. Well-bred purebreds are expensive because of the cost of making the litter: genetic and health screenings (which can become a problem when used poorly, but that’s a subject for another day), regular obstetric care for mom, and so on. Responsible breeders usually do not make money breeding puppies. They often lose it.
If everyone in the world was shamed into refusing to buy a well-bred dog, we would lose something special. All those breeds of dogs that were created for a purpose, for temperament, and for soundness, would disappear. We would be left with unpredictable results of mixed breeds. It would be a sad world for me, a person who lives with six rescue dogs, half of which are mixed breeds. I would be saddened to see the history disappear, I would be saddened to see the purposes of those dogs disappear, and I would be saddened that the breeds which were developed over a long history of human companionship and symbiosis were so easily discarded.
Are there bad breeders? Absolutely. What an enormous disservice it was to Sully for his breeder to place him with an older couple who had no plans for his energy and drive, and no skills to manage them. But let’s look at the opposite side. What about Baxter? Another dog with lots of energy and drive, placed with an older couple without the means to manage him. But Baxter was placed there by a rescue. And now some of you are saying, “But that’s not how a rescue should be run! It doesn’t mean that rescues are bad!”