I’m getting damn tired of two particular groups of people.
Group A: The people who have an aneurism if they hear that some terrible person somewhere got their dog from a breeder.
Group B: The people who have an aneurism if they hear that some dumb person somewhere got their dog from the pound (or, in the case of my neighbours in Kiev – a garbage bin, literally).
I’ve been lucky enough in my life to have had both a very well-bred dog, and a mongrel from a shelter. The criticism of the breeder industry in the world is valid – there is pet overpopulation, there is the commodification of pets (treating them like pretty toys when they are living beings with needs), there are irresponsible breeding practices (the horrors of puppy mills, cramped conditions, inbreeding, and other forms of abuse), and there is the overall notion that a pure-bred animal is somehow more worthy than a mongrel.
I’ve volunteered in a shelter, and it was an eye-opening experience, to say the least. If you simply want a companion (or know anyone who does) – always, always check out the shelter first. And if you want a specific breed, check with a rescue group affiliated with it. This is my recommendation for most people, as is spaying or neutering your pet. This is the humane, responsible thing to do.
Specific breeds are created for specific purposes. And, I would argue, specific dogs (the definition of a breed is often too wide) are there for specific people. While I’m not a professional in any capacity, I’ve often found myself counseling people withh PTSD (the counseling usually involved trying to get them to an actual qualified counselor – just in case you think I’m some sort of shaman). Oftentimes, people with specific psychological problems are encouraged to get specific types of companion animals. You can’t always find a mild-mannered, athletic, obedient, medium-sized guard dog at a shelter or a rescue group, for example. Meanwhile, you might have a need for such a dog for a variety of reasons, not the least of it being a psychological need for a very docile, understanding companion.
Other people, those who do not feel safe when stepping out on the street, will get a super-intelligent guard dog – such as a German Shepherd for example (or a variation thereof). Chihuahuas are, believe it or not, guard dogs as well – both ferocious and devoted, and will alert you to any outside noises. They are great for someone living in a cramped space.
In Kiev, people will sometimes adopt or buy the offspring of a dog that guards their local parking lot. It will be a mongrel in appearance, but it would be acquired for a specific reason – its mother and/or father are seen as good protectors, and if there’s anywhere you need protection, it’s in Kiev. The thinking is similar to breeder-type thinking, except the pay will usually be smaller.
People with small children, meanwhile, will invest in a more docile, “family-friendly” pet – and raise it from puppyhood on. Excluding those individuals who buy dogs as substitutes for toys (the dumbasses, in other words) – a dog is good for both companionship, protection, and learning responsibility. And no, you can’t always find the perfect rescue dog wherein kids are concerned.
I adore dogs – but I also have very practical (or, what I consider practical) views on them (no, I’ve never referred to myself as a “pet guardian,” and no, please don’t try to convert me at this point in my life). My first dog was bred for protection. The shelter dog, meanwhile, was a risk – a rewarding risk, a terrific risk, but a risk nonetheless. I was in a position to take one, and I did it, and I have no regrets. Moreover, the presence of my shelter dog encouraged me to volunteer, and to take a closer look at breeder practices, and at the way we treat animals in general.
All of this, however, does not give me the right to automatically pass judgment on people who make the decision to go to a breeder – as long as the breeder in question is reputable enough.