Why you should adopt and not buy: the case for rescue dogs

The question should be “Why wouldn’t you rescue?”, but if you still think buying a puppy is better, here is the case for rescuing a dog

Standing at St Pancras station with my guest dog, waiting for his people to come back from a weekend trip, it didn’t take two minutes for people to start chatting to us. The marvellous thing about being with a dog is you really are never alone.

The conversation with the mother-daughter duo, who couldn’t stop fawning over my scruffy little pooch, was one I’ve had about 100 times. The daughter, in her 20s, was thinking of getting a dog, but the mother thought a rescue dog was not the right choice. I’ll never tire of arguing and trying to persuade people that a rescue dog is better than a dog bought from a breeder.

This is the standard flow of conversation, leaving out the most obvious argument that you are saving a life because bizarrely that is not always enough for people. If you are thinking of getting a dog but believe a rescue dog is not the right choice, here are the arguments:

1.     “With a rescue dog you don’t know what issues they have.”

Rescue dogs get thoroughly assessed by the rehoming organisation, and further feedback about triggers comes from the dog’s carers, either the kennel volunteers or the fosterers. A rescue dog is much better assessed than a puppy from a breeder, whose business it is to get rid of the puppies – and those puppies might have issues as well.

2.     “The dog won’t be trained.”

Firstly, neither will your brand-new puppy. Secondly, most rescue dogs in the UK are abandoned pets. They know the drill and it’s usually not their fault they are homeless. Reward-based training will ensure your dog is a good citizen, just like you.

3.     “It’ll be cheaper and easier to get a new one.”

It most certainly won’t be. A puppy itself won’t be cheap (likely several hundred pounds, with around £1,500 for the most popular breeds), and you will need to pay for spaying/neutering, microchipping and vaccinations. A rescue dog already comes spayed/neutered, microchipped and likely fully vaccinated, and all you have to pay is an adoption fee to the charity, which is normally in the region of £120-£250. Adopting a dog is less expensive and you effectively get a “ready-to-take-out” dog.

4.     “I want a unicornoodle.”

You may well find a unicornoodle in rescue. They are not all unidentifiable mutts (although those are often healthier). You may also find a dog you never thought of and fall in love. And think about it: you could save a life. And your dog will know that.

In this particular case, I heard another argument for the first time: The dog might have food aggression because it had to fend for itself on the streets.
Even if that were true – and that’s not really an issue – you could easily train that out of your dog by ensuring your pooch doesn’t have to fight for its food. Secondly, in puppy litters, theoretically, some dogs may be food bullies while the runts don’t get enough. This is not a rescue dog issue. Thirdly, even if there was aggression with your existing dogs, either feed them separately or supervise their dinner time. Is that so hard?

There are more than 100,000 abandoned dogs in the UK, around a quarter of them kicked out around Christmas. Worldwide, there are around 600 million stray dogs. To the young lady I met at St Pancras station and to everyone else thinking about getting a dog: one of them is the dog for you.

Photo: Micha Schwing

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