The time has come where you are thinking about adopting a dog into your family. One of the big decisions is whether to adopt a shelter dog or a purebred dog. There are pro's and cons for both sides and some individuals can have very strong opinions one way or the other. I am going to lay out the basic pro's and cons for both sides in Layman's terms without veering into the opinion category.
Basically, what it all comes down to is genetics. A purebred dog will have a high chance of being predictable in behavior and physical appearances. After all, that is the whole philosophy of breeding animals. Certain dogs are "hardwired" for certain work behaviors and energy levels. If you are going to adopt a purebred, you must make sure you DO YOUR RESEARCH on that specific breed and provide a living environment that caters to their genetic tendencies. Purebred dogs also will have a higher likelihood of having health problems. The genetic breeding for physical appearances and the limited gene pool are what cause this problem. PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE do your research when deciding on a breeder. This will help minimize the health problems in your dog. Some breeders are not reputable and are just in it for the money. (Next week, I will write about how to choose a dog breeder.) And lastly, be prepared to spend time researching your dog breed and forking over cash. Purebred dogs are a lot of money.
A shelter dog, on the other hand, is wide open when it comes to genetics. You most likely will have no clue as to what kind of breed (or most likely BREEDS) you have. This can cause a guessing game as to how to properly provide a living environment for your dog's tendencies. It will take time to figure out what Fido does and does not like. If you are adopting an older dog (as in not a puppy), you will not know the past history and have "surprise" behaviors pop up. But, adopting an older dog does have a plus-- most likely they will be house-trained! Shelter dogs are also less money upfront and most come with their shots, spay-neuter, microchip already completed. Health wise, you are working with a wider gene pool, so the likely hood of a chronic health problem is smaller than in a purebred.
I know I've talked a lot in this post about how genetics play a strong role in behavior for dogs of both purebred and shelter. But environmental factors should not be overlooked. Environmental factors do play a role in dog behavior. A dog needs a good starting point in life for socialization. If you are adopting a purebred dog, you will most likely have more control over what kind of environmental behaviors your four-legged friend has learned. A shelter dog is more complicated because the history can be anything and everything. The shelter can provide you with some background, but most likely you will need to be prepared to be dealing with a dog that has some bad habits. Whether a purebred or shelter dog, you need to make sure you are providing a family life that promotes positive environmental behaviors for your dog. Even if your dog comes from the most perfect background, if you do not continue offering a positive environment for your canine, your dog will develop bad habits. And vice versa, a dog that comes from a deplorable past can become the perfect family dog with time and love. Environment does play a role in behavior.
With all that said, choosing to have a dog in your life is a big decision. It takes time, research, money and commitment. You should never give an animal to someone as a gift and you should only adopt an animal if you are mentally and financially prepared to take care of it for the rest of it's life. With time and love, your furry friend will soon become a family member, not just a "pet".