I adore the dog shows, which generally pit the best of each of the seven pure-breed groups. They are all beautiful, some are regal, others noble, some perky, but all are nearly perfect. I have a particular fondness for sporting dogs and herding dogs. I favor big dogs, and every time we think we will get a different kind of dog, we fall in love with Goldens.
But a dog is a dog, and I feel somewhat the same about dogs as I do people: They, like humans, came from a common ancestor. Dogs are just plain good, and though, through millennia of breeding, some may have certain characteristics that make them more appealing to a person than another kind, they are the same species, and therefore, they are terrific.
Is it better to buy a purebred or adopt from a shelter or take a pup from a friend whose female turned up pregnant? There are no hard answers for this.
With a purebred, you get a dog whose breeding has been evaluated and studied for many canine generations. You buy not only a certain look, but also some degree of predictability. You know that the dog will be a certain size, color and exhibit certain behaviors (although we never dreamed our Jake would weigh 110# of lean muscle and be lazy -- however, we love him despite his disinclination to run and romp and chase ducks). You also pay a good deal for the dog, sometimes a huge sum. They are also more likely to have inherited health problems because of the limitation of the gene pool.
Purebreds are divided into these groups: Herding dogs, sporting dogs, hounds, working dogs, terriers, non-sporting dogs, and toys.
We've had purebreds and mixed breeds, and every dog who has stolen our hearts has been a wonderful friend. Where do you find your friend? If you choose a purebred, be sure it is from a reputable breeder. A good breeder is very discriminating about to whom they sell their dogs, for the dog's and your protection. If you are gone all day and choose a very sociable breed, you will have problems, so a less exuberant dog might be best.
AVOID backyard breeders, puppy mills and pet stores. There dogs are usually bred under miserable conditions, and I make no apology for so saying. If people quit buying them, they would go out of business, and even in this poor economy, I say, GOOD!
You can get a fine dog from an animal shelter, and our experience has always been that the dog is somehow grateful to have found a home with loving people. Most of the available dogs are older, but they come to the shelter for various reasons, not necessarily bad behavior. In fact, the bad behavior is more apt to be on the part of the previous owner than the dog itself in my opinion. I'm just saying. Most shelters require that you neuter the dog. The best shelters have trained personnel who are adept at evaluating the dogs' personalities and behaviors.
If you are intent on having a purebred but don't want to have a puppy, look for a breed rescue dog. People who are devoted to a certain breed have banded together to form groups that look after dogs who have had to be put up for adoption for one or another reason. I know of a lovely dog whose owner died, and he was found by a family who took him in and loved him. No one wants to see a heart-broken dog who is mourning the loss of his friend, and the group works very diligently to ensure that the dog finds a forever home.
However you select your dog (understanding that often YOU are the one who is the selectee!), take time. Play with the dog, observes how he interacts with other animals and people if possible. If you are taking a dog home to children, bring your children to see the animal. Again, take your time. Don't fall for strong arm tactics. This dog will be with you for a very long time.
Written by Gay Fifer, owner, Parsley Hollow, Inc.
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