I have strong but mixed feelings on dog breeding.
Both Bailey and my childhood dog Kahn were adopted from our local (kill) animal shelter. I intentionally chose to adopt mixed breed dogs both times (yes, even as a seven-year-old). For one thing, purebred dogs are more likely to be plucked out of kill shelters by rescue groups and I wanted to save a dog from euthanasia; for another, Bailey and Kahn were exceptionally cute. I also felt that mixed breed dogs had some advantages over purebred dogs.
I will be the first to admit that my anecdotal evidence is not valid scientific evidence. However, I will say that Kahn was exceptionally healthy for a large dog: he was 16 when he got arthritis and had to be put to sleep. Aside from a bee sting (which cleared on its own before we could get him to the vet), he never had a single health problem before the arthritis. Bailey just turned 8; although he has a nervous stomach and some allergies, he is an otherwise very healthy large dog with great joints and teeth, and is routinely mistaken for a 1- or 2-year-old puppy. I believe both dogs benefited from hybrid vigor.
On the other hand, both Kahn and Bailey grew much larger than predicted by the animal shelter. Both times, we thought we were getting 30-40 pound dogs, not 65 pound miniature ponies. We had no idea what to expect of their temperaments, coats, or exercise requirements. (Since both dogs were what my old vet Dr. Hot referred to as "a mix of every type of dog you'd expect to jump a fence in [a questionable Austin neighborhood]", we should have probably expected the following: strong prey drives, athleticism, and exceptional guard dog abilities.) Both dogs grew double coats that were not ideal for the allergy sufferers in my family. There were times when unexpected problems (Bailey's worship at the altar of non-stop barking, unexpected small animal aggression issues in both dogs, questions about whether mixed breed dogs by their very nature violate homeowners insurance rules against pit bulls) made us question whether or not we ever should have gotten dogs in the first place.
My experiences owning Bailey as an adult and helping raise Kahn as a child led me to my current position on dog breeding and adoption:
- The ideal first dog is an older dog from a shelter or rescue group. You won't have to worry about its personality changing or it suddenly growing a double coat. Frequently, older dogs have had some (or lots of) training. Older dogs are (generally) a lot less work, and a lot easier for beginners. (Yes, they love you just as much. OMG. Seriously.)
- Since just about everyone will ignore that advice (because OMG puppiez!!)(I am also guilty), I think there are two other good options:
- Research dog breeds that suit your lifestyle (think 10 years from now, not just 10 minutes) and buy a puppy from a reputable breeder.
- If you are a bit more flexible in terms of your requirements, adopt a puppy from your local animal shelter.
- Please don't get a purebred dog from a breeder on the side of the road. Please don't get a puppy from a friend-of-a-coworker who "forgot" to get her dog spayed. While I'm sure both are probably perfectly nice people, they are contributing to the problem of unwanted dogs in shelters. Please, please don't buy a dog from a pet store.
- Unless you know what you are doing and have an exceptionally healthy, high-quality, purebred dog, your dog needs to be spayed or neutered. The dog will be healthier and you will be saner. Bob Barker would thank you. Don't breed your purebred dog unless you have prearranged, well-screened homes for the puppies.
"Millie" has always been a fairly responsible dog owner (aside from not spaying her dog). She loves her dog the way we should all love our dogs, and takes excellent care of her. I have no doubt that the puppies and mama dog will get proper veterinary care, and that Millie will do her best to try to find good homes for the pups. On the other hand, Millie's giving one of the puppies to her brother, who is notorious for keeping dogs until they are no longer puppies and then losing them or giving them away. She's also not entirely sure that she has homes for the other puppies.
I am not allowing myself to meet the puppies, because I'm afraid that with our new big backyard and Abe's love of boxers, we'll end up with one. I am not immune to puppy kisses.