part of a tennis ball
dog leash
dog bone

Adoption vs Breeder: Finding Your New Best Friend

When looking to add a furry friend to the family, you usually have to decide between adopting a dog from a shelter or getting a puppy from a breeder: With more than three million dogs in animal shelters and with over 2,000 federally-licensed breeders, there are tens of thousands of dogs waiting to find their forever homes.

But when it comes to ethics, people have more questions: Should you adopt one of the millions of shelter dogs without a home? Or would buying a new puppy from a reputable breeder be a better fit for your family?

The adoption vs. dog breeder topic is widely debated among pet owners, and for a good reason: Adopting a dog prevents shelter overcrowding, but purchasing a dog from a breeder gives you vital information about the puppy, such as their health, genetic history, and temperament before bringing them home – which ultimately, in turn, allows for a healthier pet and an easier training experience.

To help you decide what’s best for your family, we’ve put together this guide on the differences between adopting rescue animals and buying a puppy from a breeder.

The Differences Between Adoption and Breeding

Before we dive into the risk and rewards of adopting and getting a new dog from a breeder, it’s essential to discuss the differences to avoid any confusion.

You adopt a dog when you go to a shelter or a pound. Shelter and pounds receive animals for various reasons, such as:

  • The owners can no longer care for the dog for financial reasons
  • Illness or death of the owner or family member prevents the proper time and care
  • The owner needs to give the dog away because of transitional phases of life — for example, moving to a new state or country or moving into an apartment that doesn’t allow pets
  • Neglect and overall disinterest in dog ownership

Additionally, although you can find puppies and purebred dogs at shelters, most shelter dogs are adults and mixed breed.

Breeding is when someone mates two dogs for specific reasons:

  • Achieve purebred puppies in an attempt to preserve the breed’s bloodline and pureness
  • Create dogs that suit a certain lifestyle (such as hypoallergenic dogs that are a good fit for pet owners with allergies)
  • To make a profit

Most unregistered breeders – like puppy mills and backyard breeders – breed dogs for money only. The problem with prioritizing profit is that the animals usually aren’t properly cared for.

However, if you purchase a dog from one of the reputable 5,000 AKC-registered breeders in the country, you’re getting a dog with verified credentials, a clear health background, and a known lineage.  It is important though to explore deeper than just the AKC registration.  Puppy Mills and backyard breeders can still be registered by AKC.

When you adopt a dog, you won’t know much about the pet’s history, including any traumatic experiences it might have had. On the other hand, a purebred dog often comes from a business that has good intentions, experience breeding and training dogs, and overall genuine love for the animals.

The Risks and Rewards of Dog Adoption

Even as dog breeders at Snowy Pines, we are very conscious of the greater good that adopting dogs from shelters does for thousands of animals in the world. So, while there aren’t really “cons” to adoption, adopting without knowing a dog’s history does pose some risks.

dog wearing red and white polka dot scarf

The Risks of Adopting Shelter Animals

Here is a list of some of the common risks you run into when adopting a rescue dog from a shelter:

Risk #1: You Don’t Know the Dog’s History

When you rescue a dog from a shelter, you’ll likely never know everything about the dog’s history. Without this information, you won’t necessarily know about any trauma the dog experienced in its previous home. Therefore, the lack of knowledge here can impact training, relationships, and the success of their acclimation into their new home.

Risk #2: Any Health Problems May Be Unknown

Closely connected to the dog’s history is its health status. There are usually more health-related questions than answers when rescuing a shelter dog, and a dog’s health status is a big concern for many people.

Shelters rarely know more about the animal’s health history than the condition in which the dog arrived. The dog may have genetic diseases or conditions that can manifest later in life that the shelter doesn’t know about.

Rescuing a dog is a risk for new owners because health conditions can be costly, especially when you don’t know what to expect.

Risk #3: Dogs May Be Unsocialized

Even though dogs are naturally friendly, some have personalities that prefer solitude, while others were never properly socialized as puppies and young adults.

Although shelters work with dogs to help them prepare for a new home, you need to ready yourself for the challenges ahead: Socializing a dog involves more than taking the dog to a park and letting it run around — it requires patience and training.

When rescuing a dog, you won’t know what types of abuse or neglect they experienced at the hands of someone “training” them. For example, you know a slip lead is a valuable training tool, but the dog may refuse to wear one if the previous owner choked it with the lead or abused it in other ways.

Risk #3: Dogs May Be Untrained

In a similar vein, training rescue dogs brings a unique set of challenges. You might find that your dog is already prepared or has little to no training.

You’ll need to teach your rescue dog obedience and essential commands like “sit down” and “no” so it can live harmoniously with the rest of your household.

Although the shelter workers can inform you of the different commands they teach the animals, there’s no telling the type of habits the dog learned from other animals in the facility.

Certain behaviors could be a problem for your family. For example, if a dog displays aggression and protective behavior with food and toys, the dog could be a danger to your children or other pets. 

The Rewards of Adopting a Dog from a Shelter

Of course, not all rescue dogs are all about the risks – there are plenty of amazing and worthwhile rewards that come with saving a shelter dog:

Reward #1: You’re Saving Two Dogs

Most dog owners think they’re saving one dog’s life when they rescue it, but in reality, they’re saving the lives of two dogs: The one they adopted and the one that gets a spot in the shelter that becomes open after the other dog is adopted.

Every dog someone brings home from their local shelter allows another dog to eventually find its forever home and reduces the number of dogs exposed to kill shelters.

Reward #2: You Can Find the Perfect Dog for Your Lifestyle

Shelters often have dogs of all ages – with adult dogs making up most of the population – which can be a bonus for families who don’t have time to raise a puppy.

For many dog owners, puppyhood is the most challenging phase because of all the responsibilities. By adopting an adult dog, families who want a dog but also want to skip the puppy stage can avoid all the training, socializing, and patience that comes with puppies.

On the other side of the same coin, some owners prefer older dogs because they are calmer. Additionally, senior dogs are great options for people who want a dog but don’t want to make a 10- to 15-year commitment.

Another benefit of adopting a dog is that you can choose an older dog that isn’t likely to develop health problems outside of age-related diseases later in life.

Most adults exhibit health concerns before two years. So if you adopt an adult dog that’s three years of age or more, you should still watch for signs of degenerative diseases, but the risk is much lower.

Reward #3: You May Get a Purebred at a Discount

One of the primary reasons people go to breeders is to get a purebred puppy. Most future dog owners don’t realize that 25% of sheltered dogs are purebred, and the average cost of adoption is only $150.

And if you don’t need a purebred dog, you can find plenty of mixed breeds at a shelter. Although vets don’t all agree, nor is it scientifically proven (yet), many veterinarians believe mixed breeds have fewer health issues than purebreds, although this entirely depends on the dog’s bloodline and breeding practices.

The Risks and Rewards of Getting a Puppy from a Breeder

Just as there are potential drawbacks and advantages of adopting a dog from a shelter, there are legitimate risks and rewards that come with purchasing a dog from a breeder.

yellow labrador puppy lying on grass

Many people opt for breeders because they believe they’re more trustworthy and want to raise a dog from puppyhood.

But there are also those who take advantage of people looking for responsible breeders: Many people who run puppy mills or are backyard breeders (unregistered) like to hype up their “purebred” dogs who may otherwise be unhealthy or unsocialized, which is why it’s so important to know how to recognize a good breeder.

The Risks of Buying a Dog from a Breeder

Here is a list of risks that come with purchasing a dog from a breeder:

Risk #1: There May Be a Lack of Credibility

The problem with many breeders is that they seem legitimate but aren’t. Thousands of breeders across the country don’t register with the American Kennel Club (AKC) or other official animal associations.

There are many reasons why someone wouldn’t register:

  • Expenses: If you’re a reputable breeder who registers with a legitimate kennel club, you must pay fees for every dog you register.
  • Maintenance: As part of a kennel club, a breeder must meet specific breeding and housing standards to maintain their legitimacy.
  • Guarantees: Honest, passionate, and legitimate breeders offer buy-back and health guarantees if the new home doesn’t work out or the dog falls ill due to a preexisting condition.

All in all, it often comes down to money: It costs money to properly register with a kennel club and maintain the level of care necessary for breeding purebred dogs. So, if you don’t do your research beforehand, you risk buying from a breeder without the proper credentials.

Risk #2: The Risk of Inbreeding

Some people are so obsessed with pure bloodlines that they will inbreed family members to ensure no genetic incidences.

Inbreeding can be genetically horrible for the puppies: It increases the chance of diseases like cancer, epilepsy, immune system disorders, and heart or kidney issues. Inbreeding also shortens lifespan. Additionally, most inbreeding practices are also banned by the AKC, which means that breeders should not practice this if they’re AKC-certified and registered.

However, when you buy a dog from an unscrupulous breeder, you won’t know if the mother and father are related unless specifically told.

Responsible breeders, on the other hand, will be able to verify a puppy’s lineage and demonstrate that the parents aren’t related.

Risk #3: Some Puppy Mills Are Disguised as Breeders

Puppy mills are where dog breeding has reached “factory mode.” In other words, people breed dogs at unhealthy rates in unhealthy conditions. They then sell the puppies for a lower price, aiming to churn out and sell as many dogs as possible. 

Dogs in puppy mills often spend their lives in crates all day except to breed, sit in fecal matter, and live extremely short lives. Some puppy mill owners will kill dogs once they can no longer breed.

Now, most people wouldn’t knowingly go to a puppy mill, but these facilities send puppies across the country to sellers. Pet stores often home puppies from these mills, or the mill owners meet potential buyers in public places.

A good breeder should welcome you to the facility or their home so that you can see the conditions the puppies were born into. If a breeder only agrees to meet you in a public setting, they are probably trying to hide the living and breeding conditions from you.

The Rewards of Getting Your Puppy from Good Breeders

Not all breeders are irresponsible — in fact, all registered breeders have been vetted by AKC and other programs to ensure their credibility and intent with their animals. Plus, when you get a dog from a responsible breeder, you experience benefits that shelters cannot provide.

Reward #1: You Receive a Guaranteed Show Dog

Some people get purebred dogs because they want to show them. The only way to show your pet in competitions is to get your dog from responsible breeders who registered it as a puppy.

Also, since dog shows require purebreds and specific standards within each breed, reputable breeders are hyper-vigilant to meet these standards so that people will buy their dogs.

Reward #2: Screening Interested Applicants Is a Legitimate Process

Very few breeders give out their dogs to anyone who asks. Since reputable breeders put so much time, money, and effort into breeding and raising their animals, they want each puppy to go to a family that will care for it and give it the best life possible.

When you speak with a reputable breeder, they will undoubtedly ask you several questions like:

  • Why do you want a dog?
  • Why are you interested in this breed?
  • What’s your lifestyle?
  • What’s your experience training dogs?
  • What are you looking for in a dog?

Questions like these help a breeder gauge whether the prospective family is a good fit for the dog and vice-versa.

Additionally, most breeders require owners to sign a document stating they’ll have their dogs fixed and won’t breed them. Once you take the dog home, if it doesn’t work out (for various reasons), many breeders will take the dog back so that they can find it a new home and go through the screening process again.

Reward #3: You Know Every Aspect of Your Puppy’s Health

When you buy a dog from a breeder who gives you paperwork and documentation, you receive information on the dog’s health and any genetic diseases in the family.

This information is essential because it shows you what to expect as the dog ages. But it also serves another great purpose — breeders will work to get diseases out of the bloodline.

For example, many breeds like Labradors and Golden Retrievers suffer from hip dysplasia. If a breeder can breed two dogs with family histories that don’t have records of this degenerative disease, the litters are less likely to have the condition.

On top of health, breeders also try to achieve desirable temperaments. So whether you’re looking for an active dog or a laid-back dog, a playful dog or a fearless dog, you can find dispositions that fit your needs and lifestyle with the help of the breeder’s advice and recommendations.

Reward #4: You Can Visit The Site and Socialize with the Puppies

Buying puppies from a breeder is a great way to ensure that your dogs learn to socialize from a young age. Socialization is more than just spending time around other dogs: Your puppy must learn to be around people and dogs of all ages and personalities.

Socialization helps a dog acclimate to new situations and can make transition periods less stressful. Plus, studies show that socialized puppies make for happier, more confident adults!

Additionally, a breeder will have you visit their home or facility before selling you a puppy. A visit like this gives you the chance to see the breeding conditions, ask questions, and learn if the breed is right for you. It also lets you spend time with your chosen puppy, giving you a chance to start bonding before going home.

Essential Questions to Ask Breeders

If you decide to adopt a dog from a shelter, the process is simple: you choose a dog, fill out paperwork, and take it home. But purchasing a dog from a breeder isn’t as straightforward. Breeders are selective and will only send their dogs to families they deem to be a good fit.

Breeders are particular about matching puppies to new owners because they want the best homes for their dogs.

As a prospective buyer, you also want to know that you’re buying from a breeder you can trust. So when you visit the facility and find out what early life is like for the puppies, you should also find out more about the breeder’s practices.

Here are some questions to help you get started:

  • How long have you bred dogs?: Experience is essential — you want to be sure that this isn’t a new backyard breeder that is looking forward to making some money all of the sudden.
  • How many females do you have on hand?: Depending on the size of the facility or number of puppies, the comfortable number of females varies. If there are too many, then it may be because they’re looking to produce more litters as soon as possible. If there are too few, then they may be using one female for all of their litters.
  • How many litters has each female birthed?: Female dogs should be retired from breeding between 5 and 6 years old or three to five litters total. A good breeder will spread the litters across the female’s fertile lifespan comfortably.
  • What’s the temperament like of each dog?: Believe it or not, temperaments are genetic! A happy, relaxed parent oftentimes makes for a happy, relaxed puppy.
  • Who are some references you can contact to discuss the breeder?: This is not an offensive question — breeders prepare for this and will gladly share their information and past adopters!

When you show up with a list of questions, it lets the breeder know you’re serious about getting a dog and enables you to determine if this breeder and the dog itself are right for you. The last thing you want is a new pet that doesn’t fit your lifestyle.


Getting a new dog is an exciting time for your family. But before bringing your new furry friend home, you need to decide if you’ll rescue a dog or get one from a breeder.

Both options come with a few risks. As you research different breeds, breeders, and facilities, you can narrow down good options and ensure you’re choosing the right animal for your family.

And if you’ve decided that you want to get a Labrador or an English Cream Golden Retriever, then you’re in luck: Snowy Pines is the nation’s largest and best breeder of White Labs and Golden Retrievers – and we have been matching adorable puppies to their forever homes for decades!

Learn more about what we do or contact us today to learn about our available puppies!

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

About the Author


Tom Massey

Tom Massey has owned and operated Snowy Pines Labradors for over a decade. They have become the leaders in English Labradors in the US. He and his team serve customers all over the US and Europe. They house their "dog family" in a state of the art facility on a large farm in the Ozark Mountains. With an obsession for genetics and temperament they raise and train dogs known across the globe for health and personality. Tom serves the pet industry in many forms campaigning for ethical breeding, training, and pet ownership.


Calm Tempered, AKC Purebred, and Certified Genetics.