Shop or Adopt?

spaniel puppy

Over the past few years, an increasing number of dogs have been introduced into homes around the UK. The national lockdown brought on by the 2020 Coronavirus pandemic saw the number of households with pets reach an all-time high. According to the Pet Food Manufacturer's Association, this number reached a whopping total of 3.2 million. There are, of course, many positives to owning a pet, particularly for those living in isolation during the pandemic. Dogs make for the best companions and encourage people to get out of the house for walks daily. 

However, this sudden rise in pet ownership has resulted in an intense debate. Should you buy your dog from a breeder or adopt one from an animal shelter? There are pros and cons to both sides of this argument. Still, more and more people are becoming aware of the dangers associated with dog breeding. The higher the demand for puppies, the more significant the increase in puppy farming and people breeding illegally. As the number of dogs being bought increases, so does the number of dogs having to be given up. This has led to shelters operating over capacity and animals being turned away. 

The Los Angeles organisation, Last Chance For Animals started the 'adopt don't shop' campaign. It brought awareness to the ongoing issue of puppy mills in the US. It brought attention to the terrible conditions animals are subjected to when they are bred purely for profit. It also encouraged people to consider the benefits of rehoming a dog to prevent unethical breeders from making money. It has since become popular on social media platforms. Unfortunately, it is being used as a way to point the finger at people who choose to buy pure breeds instead of cross-breeds. 

The Debate

The decision to get a pet is not one to be taken lightly. There is a lot you need to take into consideration before making your decision. As well as deciding what kind of pet you want, you must research the most suitable breed that will work best with your lifestyle. After this, you must decide whether to buy your pet from a breeder or adopt them. Depending on your circumstances, there are advantages to both, and it is essential to remember that great dogs can be found from either source. 

Prospective dog owners often look for a puppy they can raise as their own and will accompany them throughout their life. This makes them more inclined to buy from a breeder, as this is typically the best place to find newly born puppies. This raises issues for the dogs waiting to be rehomed and puppies being bred illegally. As in any industry, some people do not operate within the acceptable standard. The number of illegal dog breeders is rising in the UK as the price of popular breeds of dogs continues to increase. People for the ‘adopt don’t shop’ campaign argue that those choosing to buy their new puppy from a breeder promote dangerous dog breeding. This happens when they are unaware of what a reputable breeder looks like. 

This has led to a spark in the argument against dog breeding in general. As more and more dogs are given up for adoption, some people find it their duty to rehome a dog before considering buying one. The issue is more complicated than the ethical standpoints. ‘Pro-buy’ arguments promote the income of honest and skilled dog breeders. It is also challenging to rehome a previously owned dog, depending on their previous training and owner. If they have been neglected, this can result in behavioural issues that are (sometimes) harder to out-train in an older dog. 

Both Have Their Benefits

Both sides of the shop or adopt argument are grounded in valid points. You must objectively consider both sides of the debate before deciding how to acquire your dog. Here are the positives to each side of the argument:

Shop

  • You get to meet the parents - this is an excellent way to establish whether or not the breeder is legitimate and to analyse their behavioural qualities.
  • Health & genetics testing is carried out on the parents & litter.
  • Your puppy will be well socialised and trained- this is a great way to avoid behavioural issues.
  • Higher quality Pedigree dog breeds - this is necessary if you are considering entering your dog into competitions.
  • It keeps legitimate dog breeders in business - many make it their life’s work to raise and take care of healthy & happy dogs. 

Adopt

  • You are rehoming a deserving dog - dogs can find shelters distressing and would much prefer to be in a loving home.
  • You are creating space for another dog to be able to be rehomed - many shelters struggle, and many dogs have to be put down.
  • Adopting dogs funds charities like Dog’s Trust - they do fantastic work protecting vulnerable animals' lives. 
  • Many shelter dogs come fully trained - older dogs that have already been house trained are much easier to look after.
  • It will save you a lot of money - adopting a dog is much cheaper than buying from a breeder.
  • Their temperament is already established - that way, you will know if you are getting the right dog for you.

The Rising Issue of Puppy Farming

When puppy breeding is done correctly, it can be very positive. Healthy, strong genetics can be established, making for some of the best dogs. However, there is a lot of money to be made in dog breeding, which can attract the wrong people. Puppy farming is the name given to any form of dog breeding which prioritises profit over the welfare of the dogs. This kind of breeding is dangerous and produces puppies with a long list of health issues that are then neglected and sold for cash. Puppy farmers will make every effort to keep prospective buyers in the dark about the origin and treatment of their new dogs. 

It is more important than ever to research your potential dog breeder to ensure they are reputable. There are so many puppy farmers operating under the guise of legitimate breeders that it can be difficult to know who to trust. This method of breeding continues to be used as a result of a lack of thorough background checks by owners. In a recent survey, only 1 in 4 dog owners admitted that they didn’t carry out any research before buying a puppy. There is a long list of reasons why puppy farming is terrible, and its prevalence today is one of the reasons for the ‘adopt don’t shop’ argument. 

If you are unfamiliar with the trade, it can be hard to know whether or not your prospective breeder is legitimate. Here are some signs you should be aware of to help you identify a reputable dog breeder.


A good dog breeder will:

  • Show you the litter's mother - this lets you know the puppies were bred there.
  • Not rush you into a decision - they want to ensure their dogs are going the right home.
  • Show their Local Authority License - this shows they are a legitimate business.
  • Take time to get to know you & answer any questions you have - you must know everything about your future dog.
  • Have all the genuine paperwork/ certificates - this will show proof of vaccinations, worming treatments & microchipping.
  • Will only part with the puppy after a minimum of 8 weeks - taking a puppy away from its mother before this is illegal.

The Increase of Dogs In Shelters Post-Lockdown

With the surge in new pet owners over the past two years has come an influx of furry friends being given up for adoption. Lockdown left many people in the UK with more time on their hands, as they could not leave the house and go to work. This resulted in a rapid increase in the number of pets being bought. Dogs, in particular, take a lot of looking after. For people who’ve always wanted one but could never commit the time, many found themselves in a position to own one. 

As everyday life has seemingly returned to normal, those who previously could not take on the full-time commitment of a dog are having to give up their beloved animals. Dogs are typically given away to shelters when the responsibility gets too much to handle for their owners. They are a lot of work and require training and attention, which is difficult to achieve with a nine-to-five job. 

Dog sitters aren’t the cheapest, and leaving your dog for hours at a time is not recommended. They can become highly anxious and distressed. It’s not only the unexpected burden of looking after a dog that has led to this rise. The sudden increase in demand for ‘designer’ breeds has meant a lot of opportunity for profit for backstreet puppy farmers. Those who unfortunately bought their dogs from illegal breeders will have had to deal with additional difficulties such as ill health and behavioural issues. These can make the already challenging job of owning a dog even harder. 


The Problem This Poses For Legitimate Breeders

The ‘adopt don’t shop’ mentality comes from the right place. The ongoing issues with puppy farming and the increase of dogs put in shelters have all contributed to a shift in opinion on buying your animal. Dog adoption should never be ruled out as an alternative to buying your new pet from a reputable breeder. So many wonderful dogs are waiting to be rehomed and can become a great addition to a family. For those who are strongly pro-adoption, it can be difficult to understand why others may choose to purchase their pet from a breeder instead. This sometimes leads to such people being attacked for this decision. Still, it is crucial to understand the ethics and reality of legitimate breeding fully. 

Dog breeders are running legitimate businesses, usually their full-time job and source of income. They do this because of their love for dogs and take every measure to ensure their puppies go to the right home. Breeders care for their dogs as if they were their own, and in some cases, if a puppy isn’t bred well enough, they will raise it instead of selling it. Dog breeders will always deal directly with the buyer. Puppy farmers often sell to an intermediate who will want to make a profit.

Dogs bred properly and ethically have the highest quality of life. Puppies raised in mills begin their life with trauma which can cause many behavioural issues down the line. A puppy raised with its mother during the first weeks of its life will be happy, healthy, and loved, making for a much milder-mannered dog. For those who argue that breeding, in general, is unethical, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Good breeders only have the best interest of their pups in mind, and they will not sell to anyone they feel will not be able to safely and responsibly look after a dog. 

It is not uncommon in puppy mills for the mother to be made to have as many consecutive litters as possible. After this, she is then discarded. Reputable dog breeders own and care for the mother of their litters and won’t force her to have continuous pregnancies as this is traumatic. Once a female dog has bred puppies, the owner will continue to look after her as a pet. These people who have a passion for their animals don’t deserve to be put under the same umbrella as puppy farmers. Their approaches to breeding dogs are morally opposed. Yet, legitimate dog breeders are struggling due to the ‘adopt don’t shop’ mentality. 

Why Adopting Isn’t Right For Everyone

Taking on a shelter dog can pose a challenge like no other. It can be tempting to want to adopt a dog and want to give them the chance to have a better life. However, you must be aware of the difficulties of adopting a dog. Unlike newborn puppies, shelter dogs already have a previous owner, sometimes multiple owners. This means they will be older and will have formed a bond with that owner. Most dogs in shelters are there because their owner simply can’t look after them anymore, or have even passed away. However, there are cases where dogs have been removed from their homes due to concern for their welfare. 

Dogs that have had a traumatic start to their life are much more likely to suffer from behavioural issues brought on by neglect and even abuse. This can make it extremely hard for them to trust another human and, as a result, much harder to form a bond with and train. For most dogs in this situation, the shelter staff will work hard to regain this trust. They will do their best to ensure these dogs don’t end up in another traumatic situation. However, taking care of these dogs is highly challenging. Some may realise that they have taken on more than they can manage. This leads to these dogs having to be rehomed yet again, which is added trauma for them. 

Rescuing a dog has the potential to be one of the most rewarding things you will ever do. But, it is always important to understand just how much of a task you may be taking on. It is always recommended that you ask as many questions as possible about your dog and take the time to get to know them before adopting them. This will give you more insight into how they behave and whether or not you will be able to care for them at the level they need. 

So, To Shop or To Adopt?

The truth is, there is more than one way you can responsibly get your new dog. There are positive and negative aspects to both adoption and breeding. What matters most is that you are making the right decision based on your needs and the dog's needs. Raising a dog is a challenge, so it is always worth your while weighing up your options to ensure you make the right choice.


If, along the way, you do come across an illegal breeder, you must report them to your local authority or rescue charity. No dog deserves to be bred in terrible conditions purely to make money. 


It is essential that whatever you decide, not everyone will have the same opinion. No one deserves to be criticised for their choices. Regardless of whether a dog is bought from a breeder or adopted from a shelter, they deserve the same care and affection. Not to mention, they are all equally cute!