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Adopting a Dog From a Shelter vs Buying One From a Breeder

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Breeder dogs vs. Shelter dogs

Choosing to bring a dog into your life is a major decision with many of options. The breed, size, and decision to buy the dog from a breeder or adopt it from a shelter are common examples of these options. Adopting a dog from a shelter or buying one from a breeder are both worthwhile choices.

Thus, to decide, you must be aware of the distinctions. And when making this choice, you and the dog's best interests must come first. Below, we'll look at the differences between shelter and breeder dogs. In addition, we will look at the variables that might help you make an informed decision.

Breeder dogs vs. Shelter dogs

A dog breeder is any person or corporation that breeds and sells particular dogs to new owners. Breeders typically offer purebred dogs. In other words, dogs whose parents are of the same breed. Purebred dogs have the exact or very similar physical and behavioral traits to their breed's foundation stock. As a potential owner, you're aware of the typical behavior and temperament of the puppy. This makes it easier for you to choose a dog that fits your home and your lifestyle.

Australian Shepherds, for example, are known to be highly energetic and thus require regular exercise. As such, they aren't recommended for inactive or sedentary people. You want to choose a breeder dog over a shelter one if you are looking for a specific breed that fits your lifestyle. Some breeds, like American Pit Bull Terriers and Labrador Retrievers, commonly show up in local animal shelters around the United States. Australian Shepherds also end up in shelters commonly due to their boundless energy.

In a nutshell, breeder dogs have predictable physical and behavioral traits, as well as health issues. Purchasing a dog from a breeder means you know what to expect. Moreover, buying a puppy is often the preference as many people want to ensure the dog is trained how they want their pet trained.

Conversely, shelter dogs are often dogs that have been abandoned or surrendered by their owners to local animal shelters. People relinquish their dogs to shelters for various reasons including:
  1. Lifestyle changes
  2. Allergies and health concerns
  3. Financial hardships
  4. Lack of time
  5. Behavioral challenges
  6. Inadequate training and socialization
  7. Housing restrictions
  8. Personal tragedies
  9. Lack of compatibility
  10. Clash with kids or other pets
According to CNBC, higher housing costs force more American pet owners to surrender their dogs. In January 2024, an animal shelter in Ohio said the amount of people calling to surrender their dogs was out of control. Aside from owner-surrender dogs, shelters also intake stray or lost dogs and dogs from hoarding or abuse cases. Unlike breeder dogs, shelter dogs' behavioral traits are unpredictable. Plus, shelter dogs are often mutts, in other words, mixed breeds.

Per recent statistics, approximately 3.1 million dogs enter U.S. animal shelters nationwide every year. Of those, approximately 390,000 are euthanized each year. About 710,000 dogs who enter shelters as strays are returned to their owners. Per Forbes Advisor, approximately 2 million dogs are adopted from shelters in the U.S. annually.

APPA reports that 23% of dogs are obtained from an animal shelter while 34% are purchased from breeders.

Benefits of purchasing a dog from a breeder

Three cute puppies in a basket

As I mentioned earlier, buying a dog from a breeder is a worthwhile choice that comes with its benefits. If you are looking for a specific breed or have specific needs, you will likely need to go to a dog breeder. Dog breeders are the best source from which to get puppies, which are rare in animal shelters. If you're looking to raise your dog from puppyhood into adulthood, you will likely need to go through a breeder.

Breeders provide access to a wide range of breeds and bloodlines, which allows you to find a dog that meets your specific lifestyle. In addition, knowing the lineage of a dog gives you a better idea of what to expect. Besides, breeder dogs have the advantage of early training and socialization. Reputable breeders typically begin to socialize their puppies from a young age. This early socialization can contribute to their readiness for a life in a family setting.

Benefits of adopting a dog from an animal shelter

Dogs at an animal shelter

Choosing to adopt a dog rather than buy is a responsible and compassionate choice that comes with its benefits. By adopting, you're helping a dog that currently does not have a home and is potentially on death row. Technically, by adopting, you save a life and provide a home to a homeless pet, the knowledge of which is a rewarding feeling. In addition, by adopting, you help combat the issue of animal overpopulation.

Moreover, shelter dogs are often cheaper than breeder dogs. For example, getting an Australian Shepherd from a reputable breeder may cost you between $1,000 and $2,000. Adoption, on the other hand, may cost you between $200 and $300. If you want a dog but don’t feel like spending up to a thousand dollars, then you will likely need to go through an animal shelter.

If you choose to adopt and are looking for a specific breed, there are breed-specific shelters. Unlike other shelters, which accept all breeds of dogs, a breed-specific shelter accepts only a particular dog breed. This makes it easier for people looking to adopt a specific breed of dog. 

Furthermore, shelter dogs come already spayed and neutered, meaning you don't have to go through the ordeal of sterilizing your dog, which may cost you between $75 and $250. Many shelters also provide services such as vaccination and microchipping as part of the adoption package.

Factors to consider

  • Your lifestyle and preferences: Do you have specific needs in terms of breed, temperament, size, and energy level? Are you ready to invest time, resources, or effort into training a puppy? Or, would you prefer an already-trained dog that's past the chew-everything-in-sight phase? Puppies require a significant amount of time and resources for socialization and training. If you're a busy person or have limited resources, a shelter dog might be a better fit for you. Shelter dogs typically come with basic training and may require less supervision.
  • Matching your dog's needs to your capabilities: Your top priority should be your dog's happiness and well-being. Consider whether you can provide the necessary attention, exercise, and space that a particular or individual dog needs. It's all about being honest about what you can handle.


Is adopting a dog better than buying one? Some people believe so, but it ultimately comes down to personal preference. Some people will never adopt from a shelter because of things like, "You don’t know why it ended up in a shelter" or "Adult dogs are difficult to train." Or because "I want a puppy so I can properly train it." Likewise, some people will never buy a dog because they are more concerned about homeless pets.

In the end, the choice between a breeder dog and a shelter one is ultimately up to you. There are several reasons to adopt a dog versus buying one. Each choice has its pros and cons, so take the time to weigh your priorities before making any decision. And let your decision align with your values and capabilities. From a breeder, you'll get the dog of your dreams but it will cost you. However, if you are interested in saving a dog's life, the shelter is a better option, which will also be a lot cheaper.

Ultimately, what matters is the love and care you responsibly provide as a pet owner.


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