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Adopting vs. Buying a dog... What's the best option for you?

Adopting vs. Buying a dog... What's the best option for you?


These options can spark debate amongst dog lovers, as the adopt vs. shop debate has a deeply rooted history in dog ownership. There are advantages and disadvantages to both sides. People have success stories about raising dogs they’ve adopted and those they’ve purchased from breeders. As a potential dog parent, you need all the information you can get to decide between buying a dog or adopting one from a shelter.

Let’s briefly explore some basic notable points from both angles.



If you want to buy a dog from a breeder, be prepared to get a puppy. It is rare to get any adult dog from a breeder. Reputable breeders may not have any immediately available litters, and you may have to join a waitlist to get the breed you want. You just have to make sure that you are buying from a responsible breeder who is breeding to better the overall health, structure and temperament of their breed – not from one who is just trying to make as much money as possible off of each litter.


These are business outlets where puppies are made for the sole purpose of generating funds for the owners. Dogs are kept in horrible condition and not shown to the general public. Puppy mills will often advertise online with pretty photos and very little overall information. You often aren’t able to see the parents of the puppy or their littermates. They are often sold earlier than 8 weeks of age, and use rental units or staged houses to do their meet and greets with prospective buyers.

Puppy mills are illegal, but that doesn’t stop people from running them. Puppies born in these conditions not only are at risk of life threatening parasites and neurological medical conditions, they also are raised with little to no social skills. There’s no health screenings, no shots, no temperament testing or training invested into the parents and no pedigree. The dangers of buying a dog from a puppy mill are serious; many puppies pass away prematurely or require thousands of dollars in intensive care once their conditions come to the attention of their owner. You may not be able to see these conditions when you initially view the puppy, but it’s important to do your research so you can make an informed decision.

BYB (Backyard Breeders) is a coined term to reference breeders who’s sole prerogative in breeding is to make money. Similar to a puppy mill, the dogs rarely come with health screenings, veterinary care or social skills. These breeders will list litters very often. They will continuously breed the same dogs, and if you’re allowed to see the parents they will often be in questionable shape. Also like puppy mills, they often crossbreed their dogs and will show you a litter of mixed-bred puppies. Although all dog breeds are descendants of other dog breeds, mixing two breeds just because they look cute is not responsible breeding. Backyard breeders and puppy mills directly contribute to the amount of unwanted dogs filtering into shelters across North America because they will sell puppies to anyone that can pay for them; they don’t do background checks or ask any questions when it comes to placing their dogs into new homes. Many backyard breeders will claim to have purebred dogs, but with little to no documentation to prove that. It's important to know the appearance and breed standard of the dog you're looking to get in order to notice signs of bad breeding in the dogs you're visiting. 



Responsible breeders do not contribute to the unwanted shelter dog population because they will always take back their produced dogs if a situation is deemed unfit or if the owner can no longer care for the dog. Responsible breeders will confidently be able to tell you the purpose of their breeding program and exactly what they want from the families that are taking their puppies home. They are often registered with the CKC or AKC and provide extensive documentation on their dogs. They test for genetic conditions that their dogs may be predisposed to, and always provide a contract when purchasing. They will keep in contact with you, often asking for updates on their dogs as the years go by. Signs of a responsible breeder are:

  • They will take you to see where the puppies are raised to meet and interact with the parents.
  • Their dogs are friendly, well-groomed, and live in a clean environment. They do not seem stressed or unaware of their surroundings.
  • Most good breeders raise their dogs in their homes. If the breeder has a kenneled environment, they will gladly show you to their kennels where you can view how the dogs are living on a daily basis.
  • They will be able to provide information on how their dogs are socialized and what experiences they've had up until the adoptive age - which is never under 8 weeks of age, and often 10 weeks or higher. 
  • They have adequate knowledge of the breed and expect you to have knowledge of the breed as well.
  • They will always provide a contract for you to sign.
  • They will question your experience with dogs and why you are searching for this specific breed.
  • They almost always have an online presence, whether it be a facebook or Instagram page, or their own website. They have reviews or followers that own their prior production.



  1. You know the breed of your new dog.
  2. Meeting the parents of your new dog gives you a good idea of what to expect both in appearance and temperament.
  3. You can get a breed of dog that is tailored to what you want from them; hunting, agility, obedience, search and retrieve, scent detection, protection/ IGP, etc. all are instinctual characteristics of certain breeds. If you plan on being a handler you may want a specific breed from a specific lineage to perform those tasks.
  4. You get a puppy with sound social skills that you can be sure was raised without abuse, neglect or trauma.
  5. If you plan to take your dog to the show ring, it is important to buy from a breeder since documentation on lineage is required.
  6. Your new dog will be health tested for genetically-linked conditions. 



  1. Responsible breeders put lots of money and care into their dogs, and puppies from these breeders are not cheap. You will almost never pay less than $4000CAD for a responsibly bred puppy, and that amount varies between breeds. This can go as high as 10-20k depending on what breeder you’re working with, and higher amounts for well known breeders with a high demand, or dogs that come IGP trained.
  2. You need to qualify as an owner. Responsible breeders do not provide puppies to just anyone, and you need to be able to show that you’re serious about the lifelong commitment. Some breeders do not let you pick the puppy you want, and instead place you with the puppy that best matches what you're looking for based on the early onset of their temperament. 
  3. You will need to uphold your end of the signed contract. Some contracts list conditions such as having to bring your dog to a veterinarian within the first 48 hours of taking them home in order to not void the contract. You will need to be financially able to provide the level of care set out by the breeder and the contract.
  4. You may have to wait months or even years if the breeder does not have available puppies, as they do not breed often and can carry extensive waitlists.
  5. It is becoming increasingly difficult to tell the difference between a responsible and a backyard breeder, as many online scammers steal photos and descriptions of breeders for their own personal agenda. They may pose as a responsible breeder and can try to adapt how they appear in order to trick people into thinking they are trustworthy. Puppy mill sellers are known to go to great lengths to hide their true origins from the general public, and can even appear as a rescue agency with a higher than normal adoption fee.



Every year, millions of dogs end up in animal shelters or on the streets. Some get adopted into families while many more get euthanized due to lack of shelter space, preexisting health conditions or behavioural challenges. The notion that all shelter dogs are mixed breeds (or mutts) is not true, however. Over 25% of shelter dogs are purebred.

Not all dogs needing adoption have been through trauma either; dogs can end up surrendered if their owner passes away, or has to move to a situation that doesn’t allow for pets. Some owners surrender their dogs just because their life circumstances have changed, and they can’t keep up with their dog. Dogs awaiting adoption have been vetted, well cleaned and generally are receiving good care. Many dogs staying in foster homes have already grown somewhat accustomed to a new home environment, and often look much different than their initial intake photos.



  1. Adopting a dog in a shelter is cheaper compared to buying one from a breeder. The shelters will cover sterilization and microchipping in their fee, but generally set a rate that is always under $1000CAD. This is a great option for people who don’t care about having a dog with a pedigree, but just want a home with a companion.
  2. You get to save the life of a dog by adopting one. Some of the dogs you see listed on Pet Finder (for example) are at risk of being euthanized if they don’t find a home.  
  3. Most of the dogs in shelters come with some sort of basic training foundation. You don’t have to start from scratch with housebreaking your dog, especially if you get an adult dog who already has lived experience with training.
  4. Adopting an adult dog means you get a dog that already has their temperament, quirks and general demeanor. You can select a dog based off of that, and it lessens the “surprise” factor of getting a new puppy. This is a great option for people wanting a laid back dog or a dog that is older and lower in energy.
  5. Most shelters will help you get a dog that matches your personality and lifestyle, which takes the guessing work out and allows you to get support in your searching process.
  6. Many dogs in shelters have a clean bill of health, and live long and enjoyable lives with their families.



  1. Some of these shelter dogs are sensitive due to their past experiences with people and other dogs. You have to be patient with them and let them open up at their own pace. This may take longer than it would with a dog who was raised with these skills.
  2. It might be hard to determine the breed(s) of a shelter dogs. This is a disadvantage if you plan to enter the show ring with your dog, and with dogs who don’t have a known lineage it’s hard to say what their energy levels or temperament will be.
  3. Shelters and rescue agencies may have strict requirements for adoption, such as prior breed experience being a must, having to have a backyard, not living in the city, or a home with no children or other animals. These restrictions can immediately rule you out as a candidate for some prospective pets.
  4. Because many shelter dogs haven’t had the greatest upbringing or were bred by breeders who weren’t responsible, they may experience more health related issues than those who came from responsible breedings. That does NOT mean that all shelter dogs will experience health problems, and it also doesn’t mean that purebred dogs won’t experience them either.
  5. Not all breeders are the same, and not all rescue organizations are the same. Some operate more responsibly than others, and it's worth researching reviews and feedback on the rescue organization you're looking to adopt from the same way you would with a breeder. 



Whatever route you take to get your dog, do it responsibly. Take an informed approach, being sure to ask questions and answer them. Take the time to make the decision that feels the best, and be prepared to continue the foundation laid out for you from either your rescue organization or breeder.