The decision to get a dog is something that plays out every day across the country, and although the details may vary from person to person, the remedy is the same for people who want a dog that fits their needs and suits their lifestyle.
From predictability of size and energy level, to having the safety net of a caring, responsible breeder, from inheriting an instant circle of fellow breed lovers, to helping preserve a vulnerable breed, there is a breed for all reasons as you'll see below.
There’s a lot to be said for surprises, but not when it comes to the dog we bring into our lives to be a pet and family member. Expectations are more easily met when one is able to predict the expected size, general temperament, grooming needs, and activity level of a future companion, and a purebred dog offers this predictability by virtue of its breed. Lap dog or big dog? Long hair or no hair? How about a dog that’s easily trained versus one that’s more of an independent thinker? Does one want his or her dog to be amiable to everyone (including strangers), or is a dog that is selective and more protective the better option for one’s lifestyle? There is a breed for all reasons when one honestly evaluates one’s lifestyle and determines what expectations are of a new pet.
Some might make the case that a mix-breed dog from a shelter would accommodate most families, but let’s look at this option more closely. Even with a DNA testing kit used to identify a mix-breed dog’s ancestry (not wholly accurate, by the way), a cheek swab cannot predict what percentage of the breeds behind a dog will manifest themselves. A Border Collie–Shih Tzu mix might fit a quiet, calm lifestyle, but only if the dog’s activity level is more Shih Tzu than Border Collie. In this situation, the difference between a purebred dog and a mix-breed could be described as the difference between buying a well-known brand versus a generic.
Financial considerations also impact the decision of getting a dog. Falling in love with an unsound dog possibly predisposed to illness would be heartbreaking enough; it would be doubly so if the owner would have to choose between affording to pay for a child’s braces or one’s own medicine, and providing medical care for a beloved pet.
Ethical breeders health test not only the dogs they use for breeding, but also subsequent puppies thereby increasing the odds that youngsters they place in new homes will have long, healthy lives. While specific genetic disorders are known to exist in certain breeds, dedicated breeders monitor their dogs with every intention of eliminating the disease by eliminating afflicted dogs or carriers from their breeding program. The Dog Genome Project (which was “cracked” using the DNA of a purebred dog, by the way) enables researchers to study genes that cause disorders, and every year, breeders and veterinarians are given increasingly new options to eradicate disease as a result of this research. Furthermore, a 2013 study conducted at the University of California, Davis of approximately 90,000 purebred and mix-breed dogs found that more than half of the genetic disorders included in the study were prevalent in about same number of mix-breed dogs as in their purebred counterparts. Another study, this one on hip dysplasia, revealed no statistical difference in the prevalence of hip dysplasia between purebred dogs and mix-breeds*. In the final analysis, these studies have concluded that purebred dogs are no more prone to genetic disorders than are mix-breeds, and to suggest otherwise is misguided.
After all this, every puppy in a litter, not just the litter’s show prospects, is the beneficiary of good nutrition, proper socialization, and the kind of handling appropriate for critical stages in a puppy’s development. Breeders invested in their respective breeds carefully screen prospective homes to ensure that their puppy is placed with owners for whom the breed is the right fit. Many breeders stay in touch with new puppy owners to provide care and grooming instructions when needed, and most want to be notified of significant life reversals, such as death or divorce, that will impact a dog they bred whatever its age at the time.
Buying from a responsible breeder often means that the puppy comes with a “family plan,” a community of fellow breed owners delighted to find each other and share the delights and challenges of owning their breed. Often, deep friendships are formed through purebred dogs, and this can be a great comfort to the elderly, the lonely, young families, and singles.
Though it probably should be the last reason to buy a purebred dog, there is something to be said for helping preserve a species at a time when several dog breeds are at risk of vanishing in our lifetime. A few breeds have registration numbers so low that it puts in doubt their survival into future generations (some are outnumbered globally by giant pandas).
Helping preserve a breed through ownership is a legacy. Children growing up with a purebred dog, especially if they have parents who use the dog’s breed as a teaching tool, come to learn about different cultures through the richness of the world’s dog breeds, and come to value diversity, history, and all walks of life. The child who learns not to laugh at dogs that look different from each other is the child who learns to accept that people have differences, too.
All dogs should be valued whatever their ancestry, but the purebred dog offers a lot of “bang for the buck,” not only practically, but also in the intangibles that come with a known entity.