Breeder or rescue?

Breeder or rescue?

It’s the great debate: should you rescue a dog or buy from a breeder? Here are a few important factors to consider when deciding.

Do you get uncomfortable when someone asks “how did you get your dog?” Often people who get dogs from sources other than rescue tend to express shame, justifying their choice by saying things like: “I tried to get a rescue dog, but they denied me!” or “I tried to rescue, but I couldn’t find the right dog.” The truth is, both rescuing and buying have their merits and drawbacks! Let’s take a closer look.


The first pro of working with an animal rescue, of course, is that you might save an animal that would otherwise be euthanized. There are plenty of wonderful dogs available in shelters and rescues that are waiting to love and be loved – it’s just a matter of searching for the right one!

Now let’s look at some of the cons of adopting. It’s not uncommon for a rescue dog to have behavioural issues due to his past, and not enough professional help available to help him. On top of that, the screening process that rescues and shelters use can be strict – not all good homes have a fenced backyard!

Buying from a breeder

There are two different types of breeders: registered purebred breeders and unregistered hobby breeders (also sometimes derogatorily called “backyard” breeders). Working with a registered breeder helps ensure that the dog you buy is healthy, with a predictable temperament (personality and instinctual behaviours). Going this route also offers a higher likelihood of genetic testing, and registered breeders are often willing to take the dog back into their care if there is a problem. Hobby breeders may breed working dogs, specific mixes, or make claims of purebred dogs. They vary in knowledge about breeding and rearing puppies and may be less likely to take the dog back in case of a problem.

Of course, not all registered breeders are perfect either, so it’s important to do your research before making a choice!

Questions to ask when looking for a dog

The most important questions to ask anyone you are sourcing a dog from include:

What veterinary tests have been done? Can I talk to the veterinarian who last saw this dog and see the records? The person selling or adopting out the animal should provide you consent to talk with the veterinarian. It is helpful to hear from a veterinarian if the treatments they recommended were followed, and if they have any concerns about the future health of the pet. If the dog has no individual vet records, consider it a red flag!

What steps have been taken to socialize the dog? What behaviour issues are presenting? What is the dog’s personality? For puppies, there are great checklists for socialization. Anyone selling or adopting a dog should have an idea of the dog’s fears and fear response. They should also be able to tell you what training methods they have been using. Look for them to talk about positive reinforcement methods and consider avoiding those who use methods to train that cause pain, like e-collars and prong collars.

The key to success when bringing any dog into your home is to have as much information as possible, to use positive reinforcement methods to support them through the adjustment (lots of treats!), and to always be curious about what is motivating their actions.

If you liked this post, please check out our other posts on choosing an animal charity, leaving funds in your will for the care of your pet, and how to screen a rescue organization. If you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider making a donation to the Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada today.

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As the volunteer president of the Animal Welfare Foundation of Canada, Amy is committed to see a better life for animals in Canada. With a Master’s of Public Policy degree from SFU, Amy also works as the Executive Director of the Vancouver Humane Society in British Columbia and provides support to animal-related policy improvement projects across the country.