There are so many dogs in rescues and shelters who need homes, I’m told. Why, I am asked, didn’t I get one of those instead of buying a purebred dog?
Well, here’s one way to think about it:
Ask the same question to a car enthusiast: Why didn’t you just go down to your local used car dealership and get some car there? Why do you need a new car of a particular make and model?
Or, how about asking a guitarist: Why did you have to buy that particular guitar? Couldn’t you have gotten a used guitar from Craigslist?
To a woman who needs professional clothes for work: Why did you have to go out and buy new clothes? Can’t you go to Goodwill and get your clothes there?
Of course these folks can get a used car, a Craigslist guitar, or Goodwill clothes. And sometimes, those are excellent choices for a lot of reasons: getting used things is “green”, it recycles good stuff to new uses, and it keeps stuff out of the landfills. But most of all, sometimes you can get well-made, workable, second-hand items that fill the need you have.
But often, you can’t.
And even though dogs are living beings and not inanimate objects like cars, guitars, and clothes, the principle is the same.
I know because I’ve taken both paths.
Before I got my purebred Irish Water Spaniels, I had a Malamute-mix and a German Shepherd-mix. Both I bought from backyard breeders. I didn’t know any better about why I shouldn’t do that. But now I do, and I won’t do it again.
One of the dogs turned out to be a dearly loved, sweet companion, and the other turned out bad — really, frighteningly bad. It was all luck — we had no knowledge about the breeds, about the mixes, about the parents, how the mother was housed, fed, or cared for, about the environment the puppies had been initially raised in, about what they’d been fed or any training or socialization they might have been given (or not). And the people who bred them weren’t responsible breeders who cared about any of that or who could give us any ongoing information and support.
We did a bit better with our third dog. She was a sweet Chow-multi-mix rescue from our local shelter. The shelter workers helped us pick her out, and she was a calm, placid companion for us for several years. But she also had some issues and problems, and we had no one who had known her from puppyhood to help us figure out what was going on. And since she was a mixed breed, we couldn’t really research what might be typical for her breed.
Like the car enthusiast, guitarist, and professional, when it was time to get a new dog, we had specific requirements.
We decided we wanted a water dog. A puppy who would grow up to be a size down from our previous dogs. A dog who would go for walks and hikes, and who would love the water and go with us on our boat. We wanted an active dog who would play and retrieve a ball, and one who wouldn’t shed as much as our previous dogs. We didn’t want a protection dog or a lay-about dog or an ordinary dog.
Researching on the web, it quickly became apparent to me that there were three purebred breeds that would be right for us. At the same time, it became equally apparent that getting a mixed-breed would much less predictably get us what we wanted than getting a specific kind of purebred dog. And getting a dog that wasn’t right for us would be frustrating for us and sad for the dog.
I’ve told the story of how we got Cooper throughout this blog, so I won’t go into that again.
But I do think it’s important to stress how valuable and helpful it has been to stay in touch with the breeders of our Irish Water Spaniels. When the dogs have health or behavior puzzles, I have people to ask advice from, people who knew our dog from his first moments, who know our dogs’ parents, and can tell us how their parents, and grandparents, and great-grandparents behaved. People who have such long experience with Irish Water Spaniels, that they can tell us what is typical and what isn’t, and what kinds of behaviors to expect. They can tell us what kinds of medications to avoid, what kinds of foods are best, and what health problems we might see.
Staying in touch with our dogs’ breeders has expanded our social universe in ways we’d never had predicted. Plus we get to have the fun of sharing pictures and stories with people who actually want to hear about our dogs as many times as we want to share them.
I had none of this with my three previous dogs, and I couldn’t have had, because none of those dogs were purebred dogs bred by responsible breeders.
I have now co-bred two litters of Irish Water Spaniels. I hope I can serve these same functions for the people to whom I have entrusted my puppies, people who specifically chose purebred Irish Water Spaniels, plus my co-breeder and me and our puppies in particular, because the breed and the puppies meet their new people’s own specific requirements.
(written in response to this article: http://caninechronicle.com/world-news/september-chairmans-report/)
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