Let me first start out this post by saying that I advocate the adoption of animals from shelters. I think it’s important to help animals less fortunate and care for the animals that people are too lazy, inept, or irresponsible to care for.
Having said that, I have a somewhat unique view amongst other trainers. My opinion is that the best way to combat dogs in shelters and rescues is to support good and responsible breeders.
A responsible breeder interviews potential candidates for their puppies. A responsible breeder knows about the homes where their dogs live. Responsible breeders will take steps to make sure their dogs don’t end up in bad homes, don’t get dropped off at shelters, and don’t contribute to the pet overpopulation problem.
That isn’t to say that dogs from responsible breeders don’t end up in shelters but it happens far less than average.
On top of that, owners of responsible kennels do other things with their dogs to ensure that you end up with a quality puppy. They health test their breeding stock to make sure they don’t have genetic defects. They temperament test their dogs to make sure they aren’t passing along genetic behavioral problems. Quite often they title their dogs in the conformation ring, in obedience trials, or in other working competitions. In doing so, they better ensure that their animals match the physical, mental, intelligence, and working standards that their dogs were bred for.
In addition, good breeders provide good housing, food, care, and attention to their dogs.
When you add all of this up what you end up with is thousands of dollars, thousands of hours, and an enormous amount of dedication to a breed.
That isn’t cheap.
That shouldn’t be cheap and the laws of economics dictate that an animals bred from an environment like this should command a pretty penny.
“We weren’t going to get a dog but we found him for such a good price.”
“We got a steal on this dog. Pure bred and only $100!”
“We want to get a good dog but I’m not willing to pay more than a few hundred dollars.”
All of these are statements that I’ve heard on numerous occasions. As people we seem to always be looking for a good deal on a pair of shoes, a TV set, or a carpet cleaning company.
The last thing you want to do, however, is bargain shop for your dog. If you are going to get a quality dog that is going to spend 10-15 years in your home why would the lowest price be one of the first things on your list? Think about it, what if you could get a pure bred German Shepherd for $250 out of the classifieds or spend $2000 by finding the right breeder who health tested their dogs, temperament tested their dogs, and titled the parents in a working competition? The penny-pincher would say that they’ll take the $250 dog.
Let’s look at it in different terms, though.
Let’s look at $1750 in savings over the course of a 12 year dog. That’s a savings of about $145 per year or about $12 per month. Is your life dramatically affected in the long run by a $12 per month difference? Not likely.
Let’s look deeper, though. That $250 dog came from parents who didn’t get their hips tested. As a result, his chances of getting hip dysplasia are significantly higher than the $2000 dog. Have you ever bought hip surgery for a German Shepherd and the subsequent medication and other health concerns that you’ll deal with for years? Not cheap. Definitely more than that $1750 you saved.
What about the fact that the $250 dog came from parents who didn’t have temperament testing or working titles? The chances of that $250 dog having serious mental or behavioral issues are much higher than that $2000 dog. Have you ever tried fixing the severe aggression issues that come from a German Shepherd with a poor temperament? Not easy and not cheap.
It’s easy to make the case that the lifetime ownership of a $2000 dog is much less than a $250 dog.
I’ve always liked plain colored shirts. I don’t like a lot of flash or fashion, just a simple white, black, or blue t-shirt is what I like. For years I would head down to a local department store and buy a bunch of them for $5 a piece. After one washing they’d be shrunken. After a few wearings they’d be stretched out. A few more wearings and they wouldn’t be wearable. They looked bad on me and I’d have to head down and buy a new batch every other month or so.
I finally decided that it was crazy what I was doing. I went down to the local Carhartt store and bought a handful of t-shirts. Instead of $5 a piece I paid about $25 a piece. Guess what, though. It’s now been more than a year and I’m still wearing those same t-shirts. They didn’t shrink. They didn’t get stretched out. They didn’t rip easily like the $5 t-shirts. Now, instead of paying $10 every 2 months for a shirt ($60 a year) I paid $25 for shirts that have lasted longer than a year and will likely keep going for much longer.
So, did I really pay 5x as much for shirts? Not really. By buying more expensive and quality shirts up front I’m saving a great deal of money.
The same is true when it comes to your dog. More often than not you’ll actually save money by doing your research and finding a high quality, high priced dog vs. a back yard bred, cheap dog.
In my Utah Dog Training company we are typically 2-10x more expensive than our competition. But most of our clients come to us after already spending hundreds or even thousands on other trainers, books, and programs that got them nowhere. The same is true for our Dog Training DVDs. They aren’t cheap but what is a few dollars more investment when it comes to a lifetime of dog ownership?
Folks, there is quality and there is imitation. Pay for quality and you’ll be happy you did.