Don’t Buy That Purebred Puppy


Michelle So, Staff Writer

What do masks, HBO subscriptions, and puppies all have in common? They all became a necessity in the past year, most notably our furry friends. Desperate to find companionship, many families turned to breeders to get their first puppy, a decision that is not only expensive, but unethical. 

In Mar. 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic started, many workplaces went virtual, as did schools. This preventative quarantining was at first met with optimism. More time at home meant more time with our families playing board games, renovating bathrooms, and making excessively decorative meals. Of course, the appeal soon faded once it set in how absolutely dreary solitary confinement can be. World and environmental issues plagued the news, and the end of the pandemic was still nowhere in sight. The only bright side, as many internet memes pointed out, was the extra time spent with our pets.

 It’s no question that caring for a young animal takes time and effort, not to mention weeks of housetraining. Owning a dog may be on the bucket list for most children, but the responsibility often falls on parents to do most of the care. The expectation for working parents to manage their child’s school schedule while having a puppy tearing through the house seems unrealistic. But because of the new, and yes cliche, unprecedented circumstances, nurturing a highly energetic pet made perfect sense.

It is, thus, that newlywed couples and young kids alike were drawn in by the allure of bred puppies. Purebred and designer dogs are breeds that have been selectively bred for their well-known characteristics and behavioral traits. Common purebreds include corgis, standard poodles, and golden retrievers, while designer dogs include golden doodles, which combine the latter two purebreds, and many more combinations. 

Starting with purebreds, their attractiveness comes mainly from their unique traits and appearances in the media. Children grow up falling in love with specific breeds. Remembering the way it felt to watch Lady and the Tramp for the first time can lead to the urge to purchase a cocker spaniel. Owners are able to have their own near replica of Lassie, Buddy, or even Boo

The annual Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show awards $50,000, plus international fame, to the pup named Best in Show. Competitive breeders are undoubtedly devoted to their hobby, and while many are ethical in their means, there can also be a negative influence from these dog displays. The top and runner-up canines in the Westminster show receive additional internet attention, which may boost their popularity as a breed. The demand for specialized puppies can lead people to backyard breeders, who may not be as humane in practice as reputable breeders. Puppies bred en mass often show up on sites like Craigslist or Facebook and are often sold young and cheap. Improperly done, overbreeding can cause the early death of a mother dog and congenital effects on the young. In these illegal operations, breeding pairs are often “discarded” once they are beyond the prime age for mating.

Even when dogs are bred humanely, the amount of inbreeding it takes to maintain a true lineage can have catastrophic results. Think of the German shepherd, perked ears, sloping back, black along the dorsal, and sandy countershading. A show-worthy dog can take a breeder years of gathering the right genetics in the breeding pair. Occasionally, the parents may end up being related or from the same litter, making them siblings. As shocking as this may be, the practice is perfectly legal in the U.S. The offspring may meet show standards, but this may come at a cost of lower intelligence and reduced lifespan. 

Dogs such as pugs, Pekingese, and bulldogs are prone to a respiratory disease called Brachycephalic Airway Syndrome, which is the broad term for obstruction of the airways. Their noses have been squashed flat through decades of selective breeding. The unnatural position of the airways leads to collapse of the trachea and difficulty breathing. Dogs of this type also experience trouble mating. The enlarged heads of the fetuses make a natural birth difficult. In fact, 80% of bulldogs are born through cesarean section.

 In contrast, adopting from a shelter is a great way to get a new pet. There are tens of thousands of homeless dogs in shelters around the nation. Not only are they more affordable than bred dogs, but healthier too. The average cost to adopt a canine from a shelter is $110, comparable to the price of a purebred puppy, which ranges from $200 to $1000. Since most dogs taken in by organizations were born stray, their genes tend to be more mixed. Mutts, they’re usually called. The mixed lineage varies from dog to dog, so the chances of landing on a recessive gene disorder is very low. Another benefit of adopting a dog is that they are generally adults and house trained. Going through the process of teaching a pup where to go potty is a pain! They require intense supervision in the first few months.

Additionally, well-intentioned people may attempt to adopt a specific breed from the shelter, but have no luck finding one. Popular breeds such as beagles very rarely stay in shelters long. Waiting for the right dog to be available for adoption takes patience, and the long waiting lists can often cause people to turn to breeders instead. One possible alternative is finding dog specific rescues. There are hundreds of organizations in Southern California alone that may specialize in finding homes for a specific breed. 

Shelters certified “humane” are independently run and do NOT euthanize animals due to overcrowding. The adoption fee will typically cover the cost of the dog being spayed/neutered ahead of time. Providing unloved dogs with a new home is a respectable and compassionate move. Well known local adoption centers include the San Gabriel Humane Society and the Pasadena Humane Society. Some people may also be looking to rehome their pets due to moving or health circumstances. Stepping in to take in these dogs, who would otherwise be sent to a shelter, can help give the former owners peace of mind. 

If you or anyone you know is looking for a dog, definitely consider adopting over buying. Where you decide to put your money can benefit both you and your future pet.


Photo courtesy of UNSPLASH.COM