Navigating our culture of ever-increasing technology, and an absolute explosion of available information can be an arduous task. Opinions and data, right or wrong, can be found with the simple click of a mouse or scroll of a finger. The canine world has been affected by this as well, and there is likely no more controversial debate then the one that happens when a person asks, “Should I adopt, or shop for a dog?” A quick posting of this question on your Facebook feed will likely lite up your comments section. But, as I’ve often heard, if you ask the wrong question, you’re likely to get the wrong answer. In this article, I’ll try to outline why we at VBH believe either adoption of a dog or purchase of a dog can be a good choice, and why both actions are needed in our culture.
ADOPTON—Yes, it’s Vital.
As GSD breeders, we’ve experienced more than a fair share of opposition to breeding and raising dogs. I moved to Montana when I was eight years old, and my first dog was an adopted blue healer/black lab cross…the runt of her litter but a fantastic dog for a young boy. She was the only dog I ever adopted, but it was a terrific experience.
Since that time, adoption has become our most sacred ambition in life. Not of dogs, mind you, but of people. April and I became state licensed foster parents the same year we founded VBH, and have had the privilege of being parents to over twenty foster children since then. We adopted our youngest child, Jace (4), in March of 2018. Our current foster daughter (I’ll leave unnamed), has been in our house almost a year now, in the system over two years, and hopefully will be able to be adopted by us by the end of the year (pray with us please). We love her as our own and maintain a good relationship with her parents. So, needless to say, adoption is close to our hearts indeed, and always will be. We’ve seen kids in horrific situations, abused, neglected, mentally defeated and yet insanely resilient. We’ve been next to them weeping during deep hurts while they relive and revisit traumas over and over, and we’ve seen the incredible need they have for stability and consistency of love in a home setting. And we’ve seen some, though few, recover into beautiful situations. Adoption and foster care have taught more about life to April and I, and our biological children, then any other thing bar none. Currently there are over 400,000 children in the U.S. foster system--a number that I fear with Covid will increase significantly as kids quarantine in dangerous situations—and the need has never been greater to foster or adopt. So please, if it’s something you’ve ever considered doing, there is no time better than now.
All that said, we love dogs as well. They are part of our family. Raised with our kids and loved and appreciated dearly. To our knowledge, none of the dogs we have ever sold has ended up in a shelter, and we maintain communication with many of our clients. However, each year, 3-4 million canines enter the animal shelter system. Obviously, this is a huge number and represents a problem we have culturally. Wisdom literature from King Solomon tells us, “The righteous care for the needs of their animals, but the kindest acts of the wicked are cruel (Pr 12:10).” Clearly there is a need for a change in our collective heart—numbers don’t lie.
BY ALL MEANS, ADOPT, BUT BE PREPARED
A man recently posted on one of our Facebook ads, “#Adoptdontshop, good dogs are found in shelters.” He is correct, in part. Terrific animals can be found in animal shelters. So go look, evaluate, fall in love…but…stay committed. When you adopt a shelter animal, you are quite likely adopting a traumatized animal. Be prepared. Plan. Work to understand your dog, and be understood by them. Emphasize positive reinforcement, and rarely, if ever, use negative techniques. Love unconditionally. But please stay committed for life and don’t perpetuate the cycle.
ADOPTION DOGS USED FOR SERVICE/PROTECTION DOGS?
It’s always refreshing to the heart to see a post about a rescued adopted dog being used to give back. In our experiences, animals are always happier when they are busy working, serving, playing, etc. So, I readily applaud those who have adopted animals, brought them to a point of healing mentally and physically, and taken the time and effort to teach them to love again. Well done. Many dogs, however, can have ongoing emotional or attachment issues for life, and may not be suited for a service animal. That being said, I’ve never seen an animal recover to be used as a protection animal…it takes a strong work ethic, sound temperament, sharp quick decision making and a natural innate ability that the vast majority of animals don’t possess.
ARE “SHOPPING” FOR A DOG OR ADOPTING A DOG REALLY OPPOSING IDEAS?
Regrettably, the answer to this question for many people is yes. As a breeder, I’d argue that we care more about the health and genetics of our animals than just about any other individual. Hopefully our world class pedigrees and breeding pairings of our animals reflect that. With that notion in mind, our goal has been to promote and further the GSD breed, breeding for traits, temperaments, and health that only the elite in the breed possess—our hope is that in the long run, our breeding will contribute to the betterment of the breed. For this reason, I don’t think it’s wise to make such ideas as adoption or reputable dog breeding oppositional ideas. Adoption should be celebrated and more people should participate in rescuing shelter animals. Reputable breeders should be commended for bettering their respective breeds and applauded for vetting their prospective buyers. Backyard breeding and reputable breeding are not the same things, and they should not be treated as such.
The assumption the man made in the aforementioned Facebook comment, is that an adoptive dog is going to meet the needs of our buyers. This may be true in terms of friendship, companionship and the like. It is absolutely not true if our buyers are looking for a sport dog, a home defense dog, an already mentally stable animal, a dog for a breeding program, for police or search and rescue work, or any other number of valid reasons. One of our buyers came to us AFTER adopting a sheltered purebred GSD, having spent over 10,000 dollars to try to nurse her animal back to health. Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough. Health alone can be a respectable reason to choose to purchase a puppy from a breeder.
I hope the reminder to us, is that many things in life are not mutually exclusive, including adoption or shopping for a puppy. Both have their places. Both can be done correctly or incorrectly. So do your research and be prepared. Whatever decision you decide to make, stick it out through the good times and the bad. Life happens, and it’s not always easy, but the purchase or adoption of an animal is a big decision, and one that we should make with full commitment of head and heart.