#adoptdontshop sounds good, right?
“Why breed or buy while shelter dogs die”? Well there’s some really good reasons to breed or buy, but more importantly, if you care about dogs in shelters, there is a LOT more you can do beyond sharing (misleading) hashtags
1. Do your breed research.
There are hundreds of dog breeds. Some we know, like Golden Retrievers, others are more rare, like the Large Münsterländer. Every breed is unique, with their own needs and quirks. It is important to thoroughly research any breed (or the suspected or known breeds in a shelter mutt) you may be bringing into your home. A good breeder will tell you the ups and downs of their breed.
They won’t want their dog’s going to a home where they will not thrive. You should know all of the potential health risks associated with your breed or mix, and weigh whether or not you can handle those risks.
Breed also has a lot of influence on behaviour, and there are too many people being surprised by their corgi puppy biting their ankles, or their cairn terrier killing mice in the yard.
Whether you are buying from a reputable breeder or adopting from a good rescue or shelter, know what you’re getting into!
2. Educate friends and family on proper socialization
A lot of serious behavioural problems can be prevented or mitigated by proper early puppyhood socialization. The most critical time is between 3 and (roughly) 12 weeks. During this time, puppies’ brains are incredibly plastic, and they are quickly sorting the world into things that are safe and things that are unsafe. The experiences they have during this time can set them up for life.
Do you know a friend or family member who is looking to get a dog? Talk to them about programs such as Puppy Culture or Avidog, and encourage them to find a reputable puppy class. Puppy class is a huge help for pet owners, as it provides them with much needed support and insight, and provides their puppies with excellent learning experiences.
3. Promote pet friendly housing
In a time of soaring income inequality and a housing crisis, an increasing amount of dogs are surrendered to shelters because their owners cannot find pet friendly housing.
Speak with your municipal and provincial/state level representatives and encourage them to protect pet owning renters.
Share petitions and informational posts about pet friendly housing on social media, and talk to your friends, family and coworkers about the amount of pets being surrendered due to housing instability.
Pets are no more intrusive or destructive than children, and pet owners shouldn’t have to give up their feline and canine family members to have safe housing.
4. Speak up for preservation breeders
A lot of people have an emotional reaction to the idea of breeding animals when so many are in shelters. But in most of the western world, we don’t have a pet overpopulation problem so much as a pet retention problem. Our first three points that we talked about, all of those factors result in dogs being surrendered to shelters, sold on craigslist, dumped, or even euthanized.
People buy dogs they don’t fully understand, fail to provide proper socialization and training, or are forced to get rid of their dog when they move. When someone who thought they were getting a dorky, laid back pet lab realizes their tall, lean, irrepressible field lab is not going to stop destroying things and screaming on the end of his leash, they take him to the shelter. When the cute puppy grows up to be terrified of strange kids and eventually bites a visitor, they take him to the shelter.
These issues can be prevented and mitigated by buying the right breed, from a breeder who follows a scientific socialization process and places their puppies in homes who are able to provide for their specific needs, and then enrolling puppy in a good puppy class. There are obviously no guarantees with behaviour, but we can stack the deck in the puppy’s favour.
Good preservation breeders also have a policy in their sales contract saying any person who is unable to continue to care for the puppy will return it to the breeder, who will either keep it or rehome it with someone else who has gone through their screening process.
Breed clubs also usually have an active rescue network which pulls their dogs out of shelters, tries to identify and locate the breeder, address any health or behavioural concerns and place the dog with an appropriate home.
There’s one more aspect here. Most dog breeds aren’t super popular. For every Australian Shepherd, there is a Smooth Collie, for every Yorkshire Terrier there is a Norfolk Terrier. What happens to the amazing specialized skills and personalities of each of these breeds if we just stop breeding? What happens to the amazing wealth of knowledge their breeders hold? What happens to the communities of friends and fanciers? I, for one, don’t want to lose those.
5. Support organizations that support pet owners
Just as there are no guarantees in behaviour, there are no guarantees in life. No one should have to surrender their dog due to lack of resources.
Donate pet food and supplies to food banks, and support organizations that provide low or no cost vet care. Ask your vet if they have a fund for low income pet owners who are having a hard time covering their pet’s care or medications.
Fight the idea that poor people should have to give up the “luxury” of a pet. (Pets are not luxuries, they are family members)
We in the training industry can do our part by offering scholarships to our training programs, seminars and conferences.