Breeder or Shelter

Breeder or Shelter? Many people struggle with this question.

I am a breeder and have been a breeder for over ten years. I am not able to support my family through the “profit” of breeding. In reality, to properly care for our dogs, it is not cheap. In turn, the money that comes from the dogs is used for the dogs. Truthfully, most reputable breeders put a majority of the money “made” on a litter back into the dogs and caring for them. Properly breeding dogs is not an easy or inexpensive job. The joy of breeding comes from the pups and the families that light up when they come and get their new baby. On the other hand, breeding responsibly is time-consuming, complicated, and extremely tiring.

How is being a breeder worth all of the effort?

Breeding healthy, quality, and wonderful puppies and the joy they bring to their new families is totally worth it.  I breed because I LOVE my breed. My goal is to pass the joy of this wonderful breed on to others. I am willing to take the time, blood, sweat, and tears that come with breeding pups. Years ago, breeding was acceptable. On the contrary, being a breeder was admired by those who understood the time, education, and commitment associated with doing it correctly.

However, in recent years, a stigma has been attached to the word itself.  I have heard…

“You breed dogs?  People should adopt”

“Breeders are untrustworthy and just in it for the money”

“Adopt, don’t shop”

“You should save a life, not support a breeder”

After reading many of the posts and articles that are out there on this subject, I figured I would address the issue myself.

The Facts

Much like other political issues, the negative reactions associated with all breeders are emotion-based and not supported by facts. Here are the facts:  Yes, there are backyard breeders and puppy mills out there. These are the people that you should not adopt/purchase a puppy from. Nonetheless, there is a negative segment in almost every business or profession.  Not every lawyer is good, some are swindlers.  All professors are not good, some choose to indoctrinate.  Not all servers, mechanics, contractors, etc.,  are good.  I could go on and on.  The truth of the matter is, not all people are good.

However, on the other hand, in each of these factions, there are some WONDERFUL people.  In turn, there are some WONDERFUL and REPUTABLE breeders.  These are people who breed because they care for the breed, they want to better the breed, and they work to bring amazing dogs into the lives of other families. 

These breeders house their dogs indoors, allow their dogs to be part of the family, keep their dogs under the care of a veterinarian, and health test their dogs.  They are people who truly care about their pups.  Their puppies are born and raised indoors, given the supplemental nutrition needed to allow them to grow healthy and strong, and socialized from birth. These breeders TRULY care about the health of their puppies. 

“Breeders are against shelters.”

It is ridiculous to think that breeders believe that quality bred puppies are the only worthwhile puppies. I, as a breeder, have rescued and fostered many dogs and had many rescue dogs myself.  These dogs are spayed or neutered. I am an approved foster for my local animal shelter. I breed dogs and I also help rescue them. rehabilitate, and find homes for the homeless dogs I help.   

My local shelter knows I specialize in nursing mothers & puppies. I would be called by my local shelter when they had a nursing mother or an expecting mother. I would retrain and whelp, care for them until their spay or neuter appointments, and then help place them into responsible homes. At the same time, I am still breeding my purebred dogs. Breeders are NOT against adopting a shelter dog. They are not against shelters in general. It is evident that there is a need for these organizations. However, it is not the ONLY answer.

“Breeders only worsen the problem.”

There are some that believe that breeders actually cause a bigger issue with homeless animals. It is said that breeding puppies only cause the shelters to fill up faster. This is hogwash! I can tell you, that my dogs do not end up in shelters. In over 10 years, I have never been called by a shelter once, about any dogs I have bred.

Breeders Take Precautions

All of my puppies are microchipped before they leave my house. Although the chip is registered to the owner, it is also registered to me since I am the one who purchased them.  If a dog gets out, the shelter first contacts the owner. If the owner does not respond, I am then contacted. The reason my dogs do not end up in shelters is that I take the time to make sure that my puppies go to good, quality homes. 

In addition, ALL of my puppies/dogs can be brought back to me at any time. If something happens where the owners can no longer take care of their puppy or dog, I will take it in. There is absolutely no reason for the puppy/dog to end up in a shelter. Bringing a puppy/dog back to the breeder if it, for any reason cannot be kept, is a common requirement for reputable breeders. In turn, the idea that reputable breeders cause issues within the shelter system is ludicrous.  

Purebred pups are the answer for some…

Another argument is that if people did not adopt dogs from breeders then there would be more homeless dogs adopted.  This is not completely true. Just because purebred pups are not readily available does not mean that people will not still want a purebred dog.

There are many that see the need in knowing a puppy/dog’s background. They want to meet the dam and sire, they want to know they were never abused, neglected, or homeless. Some want to be sure that the puppy comes from a healthy situation. This is important as it can make a significant difference in the personality and the health of a puppy/dog. Additionally, they want a specific breed of dog due to the dog’s associated traits.

Do not forget that Reputable is the Key

Sadly, I cannot say that backyard breeders and puppy mills do not cause issues with the shelter system. However, this is only something that can be fixed by those that adopt/purchase animals from puppy mills and backyard breeders. If they do not have the clientele, they will not breed. This is because these people are in it for the money, not for the puppies and the families associated with these pups. This is one reason why those who do want a purebred pup should make sure that they get their puppy from a reputable breeder.

There is a need for quality breeders…

Dog are companion animals, therapy animals, hunting partners, police, seeing-eye dogs, and more. Other than as a companion, many shelter dogs will not fill the requirements necessary for the additional reasons to have a dog. A strong majority of the dogs used for military, police, therapy, hunting, etc. are not rescues, they cannot be.  

To train dogs for a specific purpose, you often need a clean slate. This means that the dog cannot have a traumatic experience or neglected puppyhood in their past. Sadly, this describes MOST of the dogs in the shelters. In addition, to train dogs for a purpose, you need to start when they are young and you need to know the ingrained behavior traits associated with the breed that you are working with. This is much harder to find in shelters. For these reasons, breeders are necessary. 

Just a Pet…

At this point, your brain may be saying, “I just want a pet, I do not need a dog to be trained for a specific job.”  I get that.  Out of the pups that are adopted from me, the majority of them are not used as anything but companion animals. These pups are a part of the family, they are loved, spoiled, and treasured. This is WONDERFUL and I am thankful to those who take my babies home.

Nonetheless, even though these pups will not have a job other than loving their owners, it is still beneficial that they go to their new homes with a clean slate. This helps allow these pups the be wonderful pets because there are no traumatic experiences in their past. 

Puppies raised by a reputable breeder are raised by a caring family, socialized with other animals and people, and have never been abused. They are loved and cared for from the moment they are born. These puppies do not have to worry about their next meal and are not abused.


Although shelters do their best, they cannot guarantee an animal’s health. They provide the animal with shelter, food, some vaccines, and veterinary care. However, they cannot give each animal abundant attention, ensure that there is no abuse in their background, or know where the animal came from. 

One additional aspect of breeders is that they allow a breed to stay pure. Finding a purebred dog in a shelter is possible, but it is not as common as finding cross-bred dogs. If breeders were no longer in the U.S. then, in time, there would be very few purebred dogs in the U.S.  As a result and due to the requirements of having to sterilize all shelter dogs, dogs themselves would become a rarity in the U.S.

If this extreme was ever brought to pass, any purebred dogs in the U.S. would have to be from another country. If purebred dogs are considered expensive now, think about what they would be if all purebreds had to be imported.

Cost Differences

Yes, it is true that it costs more to buy from a breeder than it does to adopt from a shelter. There are a number of reasons for this.  

First, a breeder does not have access to donations and government funds. All of the costs associated with raising a well-bred puppy are the sole responsibility of the breeder. This includes the cost of their original dogs, housing, food, vet care, care for parents, flea & tick prevention, heartworm prevention, health testing, bedding, toys, collars, vaccinations, deworming, and everything else associated with owning a dog. Shelters receive funding from other sources. This is how they are able to adopt out the animals at a much lower cost. 

Me, Myself, and I

Another difference between a shelter and a reputable breeder is who takes care of the animal. At a shelter, there is a staff.  These people care for these animals and make sure that they get what they need while they are there. They give them the attention they can, they often have a trainer on staff, they have a vet on staff, and they have someone who cleans kennels and exercises the dogs. 

Breeders fulfill all of these requirements for their puppies. We give the attention, we pick up the poop, we mop up the urine, we deworm, give attention, show affection, and truly love the babies we produce. The benefit of this is that there is no one else to relay the information to, so nothing is missed and communication is never crossed.

We also load the pups into our vehicles to get them to the vet, we provide the warm place to sleep, the blankets to sleep on, the hundreds of loads of laundry, and the initial training.

We LOVE our Mommas and Papas

Reputable breeders also care for the parents of these pups. We ensure that the parents are health tested, get proper veterinary care, are loved, cared for, fed well, socialized, and housed. We know the pedigree, personality, and state of health for each of the dogs that produce these puppies. A shelter does not do this.

In addition to the difference in cost from a breeder, there can also be a long-term additional cost for you with a shelter dog. It is possible that shelter dogs may need extensive additional training, vet care, and/or the replacement of  household items due to the destruction caused by the new dog.

Benefits of Adopting from a Breeder

When you purchase a puppy from a reputable breeder, you know what you are getting. When you look at a shelter, many of the dogs are German Shepard Mixes, Lab Mixes, Chihuahua Mixes, Pit Mixes, etc. The shelter does not DNA test, they guess. They take the physical traits associated with a specific breed and assume that somewhere in the dog’s background is this associated breed. 

Shelters cannot guarantee the health of the parents, the breed of the specific dog, or what the dog has been through in its life. A breeder can do all of this. If you are looking for a Golden Retriever and the traits associated with the breed, a reputable breeder can guarantee this. If you are looking for a Chihuahua, a Labrador, a Brittney, a Bulldog, or anything else, a reputable breeder can provide proof of the lineage of that puppy and their parents.


Reputable breeders will guarantee their pups. This guarantee usually covers the breed-associated health issues. This means that your puppy is covered if something unexpected happens. A shelter will not do this.  

When adopting from a shelter, you have to sign a contract that states that you know the animal may have preexisting conditions or personality disorders that have not been noticed. There is no guarantee or replacement should the animal expire. Additionally, although shelters say that you should bring the dog back if there are any issues, when doing research on this topic, there are some horror stories.

Once again, I will bring up the term “clean slate.” Puppies from a breeder have been loved and cared for from the start of their life. They love and trust humans. They want human attention and they turn to humans for their needs. A breeder sends home a puppy without fear issues, without aggression issues, and without ingrained vices. A shelter cannot offer this.

What to Look for in a Breeder

Throughout this article, I have referenced reputable breeders. There is a difference between a puppy mill, a backyard breeder, and a reputable breeder.

For the puppy mills, the difference is obvious. These are people that only care about the buck. They do not care for their dogs, their animals are in cages, the dogs are not taken care of, and they should all be arrested.  

Backyard breeders are not that extreme. However, they are also rarely reputable. Backyard breeders are those that “want to experience one litter,” their dog just “accidentally” got pregnant, or they do not want to put the money and research in that is required to health test the adults and to make sure that they are bettering the breed instead of harming it (even if this is not intentional). Even if a person has been breeding for years, this does not necessarily make them reputable.

A Reputable Breeder Will:

1. Work diligently to better the breed (not encourage issues within the breed by breeding affected dogs).

2. Put the health of their puppies before anything else.

3. Screen the homes of their new puppy owners either through application or interview.

4. Require a contract to purchase.

5. Have breeding experience, or if starting out, have the guidance of an experienced breeder.

6. Raise their puppies and dogs indoors.  

7. They will not chain, cage, or keep their puppies/dogs in outdoor runs.

8. Require that you do not resell, re-home, or give up your puppy/dog without previous approval.

9. Allow you to bring a puppy/dog back to them at any time.

10. Be available for questions and guidance for the life of your dog/puppy.

11. Want you to keep in touch after you take your puppy home.

12. Guarantee their puppies.

13. Make sure the puppy sees a licensed veterinarian before going to their new home.

14. Provide multiple de-wormings and first vaccines (at 6 – 7 weeks) for their puppies.

15. Not unnecessarily vaccinate their pups before 5.5 weeks of age.

16. Allow you to meet the puppy’s dam and sire (or at least the dam if the breeder does not own the sire).

17. Be able to show animal lineage through pedigree.

18. Health test their animals.

Warning Signs

If a breeder…

1. Will not let you come to their house…ever.

2. Will not let you see the parents of the puppy (or at least the dam if the breeder does not own the sire)

3. Tells you something illogical like “Ichthyosis is only an annoying skin condition, it is not a major issue” The reality is ANY genetic defect that can be avoided when breeding should be! Two dogs affected with any issue that is double recessive should not be bred together under ANY circumstance.

4. House their dogs in kennels and does not make them part of the family.

5. Does not have adult dogs that are registered with AKC (the American Kennel Club) or an equally strict registry.

6. Has a USDA license and sells their pups to a pet store.

7. Allows puppies to go home before 8 weeks of age.

8. Advertises a “rare” color and charges more money for this color.

Other Notes

1. Some say that breeders that do not show are not in it for the betterment of the breed. This, IS NOT the case. Many breeders do not like the show world. It is an extremely expensive pastime that is filled with stress, judgment, and some people that are REALLY not nice. For some, the title is not worth it. In turn, for people like me (who do not want to submit themselves to the show world), purchase dogs with titled lines to breed into our lines. This way, we get the pedigree, but not the pain of the show world.

2. If a breeder is going to allow you to unabashedly come over to their house and play with their puppies before they are 6 weeks old, they are risking the health of their puppies. This should be a red flag.

3. ALL reputable breeders will ask for their puppies/dogs to be returned to them should the owner not be able to keep it.

Breakdown of Pros and Cons

It is a Personal Choice

In all reality, the choice is ultimately yours. You are the only one who knows what you are looking for when it comes to bringing a dog into your home and family. If you choose to adopt from a shelter, that is wonderful. If you choose to purchase from a reputable breeder, that is also wonderful.  

DO NOT allow people to shame you due to your personal choice. As with anything else, you need to do what is best for you and your situation. I have had many people who have taken one of my puppies into their homes that have a rescued dog already in their home. I also have people who finally decided to bring home a purebred puppy due to past experiences with their rescued dogs. They truly loved their prior pets, but they lost them early due to health issues or the dog had significant behavior issues. No matter what your decision is, you need to be happy with your choice.

I truly hope this information has been helpful to anyone who reads it. The final point is that all dogs deserve to be loved whether they come from a breeder or a rescue organization. One dog does not deserve love more than the other.

For those who think all breeders are bad and should be shut down, they are not looking at the long-term issues associated with this action. In addition, they do not realize that MOST of the dogs found in shelters are NOT from reputable breeders. They are from puppy mills, backyard breeders, and irresponsible pet owners.  

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