So you’ve decided to bring a dog into your family. Congratulations!
One of the first decisions you’ll need to make as you embark on this journey is choosing between adopting vs buying a dog. Both have their pros and cons, and there are passionate people who will tell you that either adopting or buying is the only way to go.
The truth is that this is an extremely personal decision that every dog owner must make for themselves. There are pros and cons to adopting and buying, and choosing the right path for you will take careful consideration of what you want and need in a dog.
Adopting vs Buying a Dog: Pros and Cons
No matter where you choose to adopt or buy your dog, there are some general pros and cons to each choice.
However, many of the outcomes will depend on where your dog actually comes from. Because in reality, the decision of whether to adopt or buy a dog isn’t that simple — there are many different places you can adopt, and many different places you can buy, and they all come with pros and cons of their own.
Adopting vs Buying a Dog: What Are Your Options?
Whether you choose to adopt or buy your dog, there are many different options for where your dog can come from.
Adopting a Dog
Adopted dogs typically come from an animal shelter or rescue, but can also come from friends, acquaintances, online marketplaces, and more.
The most traditional place to adopt a dog is from a local animal shelter. Most cities and counties have at least one, if not multiple shelters.
Adoption fees and processes will vary from shelter to shelter. Typically, these are some of the most affordable places to adopt dogs, and many shelters are forced to euthanize animals due to a shortage of space, which means adopting from a shelter could truly be saving a dog’s life.
When adopting from an animal shelter, you typically won’t be able to choose a specific breed or adopt a puppy, unless you’re willing to wait and see if the exact dog you’re looking for comes into the shelter, which might never happen. However, shelters are great places to find good family dogs that might otherwise be overlooked.
Breed Specific Rescues
If you want to adopt, but have your heart set on a specific breed of dog, you can search for a breed specific rescue. These exist for most breeds of dogs. The downsides to adopting this way are that you may have to travel some distance to find an active rescue for the breed you want, and these rescues tend to have long waiting lists and lofty requirements for potential adopters. Breed specific rescues will also typically have higher adoption fees than a general animal shelter.
You may be able to find the right dog to adopt by watching classified ads, especially online. One site we love is PetFinder, which can help you find an adoptable dog at any breed or age. If you’re willing to travel to pick up the right dog, searching online classifieds can be a great way to go.
You can also find adoptable pets on sites like Craigslist, but this is generally a less advisable way to go. When you adopt a dog from a stranger, you don’t know anything about its health or background, and you won’t typically have any support after adopting the dog. Plus, those types of sites are filled with scammers, including people who use animals to run scams.
Friend or Other Contact
If you’re looking for a dog to adopt, you might start your search close to home — with your own friends and contacts. Sometimes people need to give up pets because of their life circumstances, and rather than see a beloved family pet surrendered to a shelter, you might be able to give them a great home instead.
Buying a Dog
When looking to buy a dog, you similarly have a lot of different options. It’s important to keep in mind that buying dogs can perpetuate harmful institutions like puppy mills, so doing your due diligence to ensure you’re buying a pet from a reputable source is incredibly important.
One of the most common reasons someone might buy a dog instead of adopting is because they want a puppy or a specific breed, and for that, a great option is going straight to a breeder.
It’s important to carefully research breeders if you choose to go this route. Check the American Kennel Club to see if they’re registered. Ask for lineage information for their dogs, and for health guarantees for their puppies. Those are things that any reputable breeder will happily provide.
Keep in mind that a reputable dog breeder is different from a “backyard breeder.” Anyone can breed a litter of puppies to sell, but reputable breeders will do so with the puppies’ health and temperament in mind when matching their parents.
One last thing to look out for when looking for breeders is a breeder you find online who is willing to ship a puppy to you sight unseen. In many cases, these are puppy mills disguised as legitimate breeders, and you should avoid them.
While it’s possible in some places to buy a dog responsibly from a pet store, it’s important to note that many pet stores get their dogs from puppy mills. In recent years, as legislation outlawing puppy mills has become more common, this has begun to change, and there are some pet stores that now help match their customers with adoptable dogs in their communities.
We know it’s tempting when you walk by a pet store and see an adorable, fluffy puppy in the window, but it’s extremely important to know where the dogs in a pet store are coming from before you buy one.
Another place you might find a dog you can buy is in classified ads — either local or online.
This is another place to be very careful. Scammers can easily lure people in with the promise of a cute puppy that never materializes. And even if the puppy turns out to be real, it’s important to properly vet the seller to make sure they’re a reputable breeder.
Ask the same questions you would ask any breeder. Request lineage information for the litter’s parents, ask for registration paperwork, and ask if their puppies come with a health guarantee. If they say no to any of those requests, you’re probably better off looking for a more legitimate breeder.
Adopting vs Buying a Dog: A Personal Choice
At the end of the day, whether to adopt or buy a dog is a personal choice that every owner needs to make. A lot of factors will go into that choice, and you have to do what’s best for you, your family, and your lifestyle to get the dog who can be a forever member of your family.