Purebred Puppy Guilt


I used to breed and show Irish Terriers 20 years ago but boy am I glad I don't breed dogs anymore. Currently there is such an anti-breeding sentiment regardless of what a person's breeding practices are, to the point of where even suggesting that you want a purebred puppy brings backlash.

Just the other day I was on a photo shoot with my Maltese Andrew at a park in Los Angeles with a friend and her Pomeranian. A woman who appeared to be a dog walker, with half a dozen or so Chihuahuas and Chi-mixes in tow, interrupted the photo shoot and asked, "Did you rescue those dogs?" My friend responded honestly, "no, actually we didn't." The woman responded, "well you should be ashamed!" and stormed off. Without even knowing us or anything about us, because we had purebred dogs that weren't rescues, we were bad people. Had she bothered to stop and talk to us we would have gladly shared with her that we fully acknowledge and support the need to rescue dogs. The night before we'd volunteered our time to assist the Best Friends Animal Society holiday fundraiser in town, just one of many rescue fundraisers we'd assisted in raising money over the past few months.

Though the dogs I currently live with are not rescues, I have rescued dogs in the past and have also been a foster home for several rescue organizations as well. But the feeling that I, or anyone else who chooses to have a purebred dog for whatever reason, must somehow defend our decision is a little unsettling. It seems that anyone who expresses an interest in getting a purebred puppy from a breeder is strong armed, bullied or guilt tripped into getting a rescue instead. This became very apparent when the Obamas mentioned getting a dog. All of a sudden they were inundated with outright demands from rescue and animal rights groups that they should do the right thing and get a rescue not a purebred puppy from a breeder. In fact, PETA went so far as to say that it's elitist to buy a purebred puppy.

No other president has been pressured in this way. In fact, all of the last four past presidents have had purebred dogs (Bush Jr. and his Scotties, Clinton and his Labrador, Bush Sr. and his Springers, Reagan and their Cavaliers, etc) and none of their characters were questioned because of that. VP-elect Joe Biden recently got a German Shepherd puppy and has been chastised vehemently by some.

It's indisputable that the pet over-population, number of dogs in rescue and euthanized each year is disgraceful. However there are some very legitimate reasons a person might choose to get a purebred puppy from a reputable breeder, and yes, I do believe there are still reputable breeders out there who love and do all they can to preserve the integrity of their chosen breeds. This depiction of all breeders as money-grubbing puppy millers is unfair. I personally know many people who lose money showing and breeding dogs, but they continue because they love that breed. They have impeccable breeding practices, scrupulously clean and hygienic kennels and puppy nurseries, and implement proper pre-breeding genetic testing and screening to decrease the risk for their breeds' predisposed health problems. Further, they properly socialize the puppies in their litters, closely screen prospective puppy buyers, and impose tight spay/neuter contracts. These types of breeders may not be typical, but they do exist.

If someone, particularly a new or first time dog parent, wants to research and select the best breed for his/her particular lifestyle, find a reputable breeder like those mentioned above, and wants to experience raising a dog from a puppy to adult, why should he be made to feel guilty about that personal choice?
Since we know that a large portion of dogs end up in rescue and shelters because of training and behavior issues, wouldn't the cause be better served by educating prospective puppy parents about responsible dog parenting, and rather than berate them, help them find the proper training resources to ensure their puppy will have a forever home with them?

As I read about the increasing number of pets abandoned because of our current economic crisis it confirms for me that it's our relationship with our dogs that is at fault here. Even if facing foreclosure, could you ever fathom just up and abandoning your dog? For me that would be like abandoning my child and I just could never do that, no matter the circumstances. I'd leave no stone unturned and would not rest until they were cared for. I would beg, borrow, and yes, maybe even steal to make sure they were safe. If it came down to it, they would eat before I would eat. If you are reading this, I'm likely preaching to the choir. I truly believe that people who have taken the time to train their dogs, work with their dogs and form partnerships with their dogs, don't abandon their dogs. Unfortunately there are a tremendous amount of people who lack that kind of relationship with their dogs, and that is what needs to be addressed. Just think what a positive impact that could make.