Friday, February 19, 2010

Guilt & Purebreds?

The NYT printed an interesting opinion piece in the wake of the two PETA protesters storming the ring at Westminster just before Sadie the Scottish Terrier was selected BIS. The piece is called “Feeling Guilty about Your Purebred Dog.” Liz posted it on her facebook page and I felt compelled to share it here.

Four individuals involved with dogs in some professional manner chime in:

Mark Derr – Author of “A Dog’s History of America

Ted Kerasote - Author of "Merle’s Door: Lessons from a Freethinking Dog

Stanley Coren – Professor of psychology and author of “The Intelligence of Dogs,” “How Dogs Think,” and “The Modern Dog”

Francis Battista – Best Friends Animal Society

It’s interesting; when Bug first came home to me I felt a lot of guilt about choosing a purebred over a rescue (again). I *felt* as though some judgment was passed by certain people. I think the judgment I *felt* was mostly of my own construction. I wrote an entire post about it at the time that I never published.

Since then I have resolved my feelings of "guilt."

For me personally, I have specific activities I want to take part in with my dogs (agility & herding). (If I were just interested in competing in agility breed would be less of an issue.)

It is important for me to know what health issues I will face with my dog.

I want the support of a breeder.

I also want to support responsible breeders. Responsible breeders are not the ones populating the shelters. Most responsible breeders will take back a dog no questions asked.

Lest you think I grew up with only purebreds and that is where this stems from….growing up we had about 50/50 in terms of rescues and purebreds: 2 purebreds (GSD & Beagle), 1 purebred rescue (GSD), 1 backyard mutt (Lab x GSD), 1 rescue mutt (BC x who knows what). None of them had unusual health issues. Our first GSD was put down due to cancer and the last mix/rescue was dysplastic and ended up dying of cancer at 13+ (and she was a BIG dog).

I support rescue. I think it is incredibly admirable and selfless that people devote themselves to rescue and choose only to rescue. However, for me I think it is more important to know the origins of my dog on multiple levels and to have the support of a breeder. I would certainly consider breed rescue in the future.

This is my opinion.

What is yours? I think this is a pretty loaded topic and could make for some really interesting discussions.


Sara said...

This is a spirited topic! I have one of each - a rescue and a dog I got from a breeder. I got them at different times in my life. Each time, I chose the dog based on what I needed in my life at that point. I think that is what is most important. Choosing the dog that is right for you, so the dog does not end up needing to be "rehomed".

Judging others for their choices seems fruitless, no matter what side you are on.

Crazy Cardiness said...

It is a slippery slope isn't it? I find it odd how the media now makes us feel guilty over everything we do. I love dogs and the genetic base of dogs. I love seeing how things are inherited through family lines. Most of all I love my Cardigans. I want to herd with them, I don't really care if they are registered or not but working them can be done either way. I want my dog to look like a Cardigan and work like one too. So I will tell people if you don't care what your dog looks like, what their health history is, or what they will do then get a mutt. If you prefer a dog with an expectable future, then get a dog from a breeder, whatever breed it is that you choose!

Diana said...

I have 2 of both, rescue and breeder. It may just be me but the dogs I got from the breeders are much more social and not reactive. There is sometimes lots of bagage with rescues that you have to work through and maybe I dont what to do that again. I dont feel guilty at all for having a purebread breeders puppy. Its the best decision for me. Diana

Sam said...

I don't think people should feel badly one way or another about the dog they wind up with (so long as it's from a reputable place). I really dislike when people look down on purebred owners and give the PETA excuses (which, like you said, are untrue - reputable breeders do not add to the shelter population). On the flip side, I don't like when it goes the other way, either - some (not all, obviously) purebred fanciers look down on mixed breed dogs and say that they're all full of health/behavior problems, and that's not right either. I think that both purebreds and mixed breeds have their place.

I will probably always have both. I like the rags to riches feeling of working with a rescue who maybe did come from undesirable beginnings, but I also like a breed that has a specific function, a puppy that I can get from a young age and mold into what I want.

I thought what PETA did was disgusting. I really dislike AR groups like them. They do so much harm and no good.

Kathy said...

talk about a loaded topic!! LOL, I do feel some guilt for choosing a purebred dog, and I did wrestle with the decision, but the rescues I could get a pup around here are not ones I would choose to support-a breeder who dumps off her pups in rescue, so not what I would really consider rescue dogs....and I do a lot of fostering, transport and volunteering at the shelter so I feel like I pay my dues. My problem comes from trying to find out the truth to really support a responsible breeder, one that treats their animals as pets-where the parents have a good life, where litters are planned for specific reasons not for color or to have pups to sell. I do have some rescues in my pack and there is nothing like finding a great dog in the rough and working through things...guess it is one of those things where we all have to think carefully about what we deceide and what our needs are at the moment and then try to pick our dog in the most responsible manner and try to really go in with open eyes

penni said...

My dogs and I "go and do". They must all be able to come to the office with me and meet clients and other tenants, so I really can't coddle temperament issues (which occur frequently in rescues). I love to track, do obedience, herd, and, yes, I do show them in conformation. Two of my dogs are registered therapy dogs. Not any one of those requirements alone would disqualify a rescue (except conformation), but the combined requirements dictate that I be able to predict what a dog will be like and what it will be capable of accomplishing. So, it's purebred dogs for me.

The other predictability issue for many people is size and coat quality. I have a dear friend 70+ who got a little puppy from the shelter. She was assured it was a terrier type and would remain small. Well, she is bigger than the average GSD and weighs 90 pounds. My friend cannot stop the dog in an emergency, but she loves her. It's a bad combination and is the result of rescuing.

Bless the people who rescue, there are lots of animals needing homes. My dogs, however, are my hobby in addition to being my companions and I choose them with that in mind.

Blue said...

Westminster certainly sparks a lot of debate. So many people feel so strongly about it. What PETA did was uncalled for. Like anything, the world of the purebred dog is FAR from perfect but there are also a lot of really good people involved in it too.

Just Another Dog Blog had a similar discussion recently. What I thought was interesting is it seems like performance dog people - people who are looking for something very specific - seem to want a dog from a breeder. People who are looking for a dog solely as a pet seem more inclined to rescue because their requirements are less specific. It's not always the case, but I just thought it was an interesting trend. It makes sense though. Purebred dogs exist because people bred them for specific purposes.

My next dog will probably be a purebred. I want to continue herding, so a purebred makes the most sense. The decision between a breeder or a rescue group is going to be tough. I think it will depend a lot on whether I want an adult or a puppy at the time.

When I adopted Iris, I was looking for an adult dog so a rescue seemed like a good way to go. Personality wise, Iris is EXACTLY what I was looking for. But she definitely has baggage in terms of behavior and health, neither of which I was really prepared for.

If I do another rescue, I think I will go through a breed rescue that uses foster homes. At the very least, I'd like to have a better idea of the dog's personality before I get home. None of Iris' behavior issues were evident in the shelter. I wouldn't trade Iris for the world, but I think I'd like to stack my odds a little next time.

(My word verification is "cargi." Maybe a new abbreviation for cardi corgi?)

Kim said...

I'm a rescuer all the way...All Americans all the way :) I've never bought a pet. And actually, now that I think about it, I've never had a puppy under 6 months either. Mostly because at those times I liked the idea of finding a dog with a known personality. None of the dogs or cats I've adopted ever had health eldest was a stray I found myself and she's almost 12 and still in nearly perfect health. I only retired her from agility last year. My newest is a rehome and I searched a long time for her...I wanted both an adult dog and an agility prospect...she's both and perfect.

But rescues are whats worked for me...and I admit I've enjoy a bit of a "challenge" at times ;) I just can't bring myself to "buy" a pet when I know there are many out there that not only need a home, but could be perfect for my lifestyle. Plus, there is so much unknown in whether the puppy you bought will be the agility prospect you dreamed for. I've seen many pruebreds end up with health issues of their own...early on or later in life.

But, with that said, just because I don't make the decision to buy from a breeder doesn't mean other people should ever feel guilt over doing so. You need to go with what works for you, not what's worked for others.

manymuddypaws said...

good discussion, can't believe I didn't see it sooner....

i agree with the others that said it needs to be a personal choice, and whatever choice you make needs to be done with no guilt.

I have both, and worked with rescue for a very long time.

I love my rescue dogs as much as my bought and paid for dogs. I've had bad luck with both the bought and paid for dogs (my first two shepherds were messes) and my rescues (poor sam).

Either way- if you rescue, or buy you need to do research. It is our responsibility to know what we are getting into.

Researching a specific breed and then a breeder or researching a rescue, and finding out everything you can about the dog you are getting is the best you can do. Sometimes you get what you want, and sometimes you don't.

I will say that with rescue it is really nice sometimes to start with an adult dog- what you see is what you get, and that is a good thing sometimes. Even in purebreds you don't really know what you are getting when you get the 8 week old puppy home...

but starting fresh with a well bred, well raised puppy is a beautiful thing- there is generally no baggage, and they are like little sponges.

I don't feel guilty at all for the dogs I've bought, I don't think it makes me any less of a dog lover, or owner.

My next dog will be a purebred, because I am specific to what I want. And I enjoy CKC competitive events which require a purebred dog. Although it could be a rescue adult dog if the right dog came along at the right time.

Training my Mammoth said...

I have a big issue with it, on behalf of the purebred side. Layla is my first dog that I've gotten from a breeder. All of my other dogs - actually, all of my other PETS, regardless of species, were all rescues. Every single one. Most of them were "special needs" cases, too, not just regular rescues. I wanted to try conformation as well as agility and obedience, before AKC was allowing mixes, so I got Layla from a breeder - a reputable breeder, not a puppy mill, and not a pet store. So I find it very upsetting and worrisome that when I do go to a dog show, I have to worry about ridicule, judgment, prejudice, and in some cases even some fanatic letting my dog out of her crate or slipping her something (I know two separate people personally who have had that happen to them) just because they've seen the one dog out of so many that happens to be purebred.