New or Used?

Pondering the purchase of a well-bred, perfectly raised pup.


Recently, one of my friends bought a puppy. Don’t judge! She did everything right: She is familiar with the breed, she researched the breeder thoroughly (including references from past puppy buyers), and had the results of veterinary exams and xrays in hand before picking up the pup.

New or Used?


It was immediately apparent that the breeder had done everything right, too. Super socialized and well-adjusted, the puppy settled into my friend’s home like he had lived there his whole life, handling his interactions with her mature dogs, cat, livestock, and human visitors with confidence and grace. Yes, grace. He is calm, friendly, playful, and inquisitive. He learned basic behaviors like “sit” and “wait” quickly and easily. His new owner is thrilled with him, as she should be.

This isn’t to suggest that all well-bred and well-raised puppies are without issues – that’s just not possible. Any puppy can have a frightening experience that undermines his confidence and sets a lifetime of fear or anxiety into motion. And even pups from the best bloodlines in the world can be born with a genetic predisposition to fearfulness or anxiety.

But the odds of this happening with a well-bred, perfectly raised pup are far lower than they are with poorly bred or randomly raised dogs. After volunteering for years in a shelter, and fostering one misfit dog after another  – and taking weeks or months to help each of them develop into a better-behaved, better-adjusted dog and find an appropriate home for each – I have to say that my friend’s smooth, joyful experience with her well-bred pup is, well, damned attractive.

And, though my dog is from a shelter and I fully expect each of my next dogs to come from a shelter, too, I have to admit: Part of me is jealous. If you know how to raise and train a “damaged” dog, do you know how easy it would be to raise and train a well-bred puppy who has been brought up in ideal conditions? Well, it might not be perfect – again, adverse events can negatively affect even the best, most emotionally healthy dog – but wow, would it ever be easier than trying to train an adolescent dog who has been rehomed three times already, or erase the fear of humans from an older dog who has been abused or neglected, or socialize a puppy who has spent his first eight weeks in a dirty garage, rarely catching sight of a human.

I’m happy for my friend; if everyone did things this well, there wouldn’t be dogs in shelters! By extension, I’m happy for all  educated, responsible dog owners who “do things right” with their dogs from day one. And I’m more than a bit jealous to hear reports about the pup’s super-fast progress. It sounds like an exquisitely enjoyable doggie dream.

But then I go to the shelter and see what we’ve got there. A perfectly mannered but grey-faced Chihuahua. A gorgeous, calm American Bulldog who is predatory to cats and other small animals. A whip-smart Border Collie who has been returned to the shelter three times for three different reasons. A litter of Lab-mix pups who barely know what a human is. A Boxer-mix who is eager to engage and play any sort of training game once she’s with a handler outside, but barks in the kennel all day, every day. And so on. I think to myself, “Could I really buy the purebred puppy of my dreams when all these worthy dogs need homes – especially homes with people who are experienced and educated enough to cope with their problems?”

So far, the answer is no. But that doesn’t mean the answer will always be no.


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