Should I Adopt a Dog or Buy a Puppy?


  • Pet insurance can cover surgery for your pet in certain situations. 
  • Different pet insurance policies offer different levels of coverage and benefits, so it’s important to research the type that is best for you and your pet. 
  • Before getting a policy, make sure you understand what is covered and when it applies, as well as any limits on coverage. 
  • Pet insurance gives you peace of mind that your pet is taken care of in case of an unexpected illness or accident.

Taking on a dog is a big commitment and not something to take lightly. It doesn’t make a difference if you adopt a dog from a shelter or buy a puppy from a reputable breeder; the dog will be a big part of your life for approximately sixteen years.

This article looks at whether you are ready to commit to dog ownership and gives a balanced view of the pros and cons of adopting or buying a dog.

Are You Ready To Take Responsibility for a Dog?

Before considering whether adopting a dog from a rescue or buying a puppy is your best option, let’s ensure you are ready to take on a dog.

You shouldn’t get a dog unless you are willing to care for it for the whole of their life. Sixteen years is a long commitment.

Reasons people put their dogs up for adoption can include a new baby arriving, renting a house where dogs aren’t allowed, divorce, getting a new job and having no time, or losing their job and having no money to buy dog food.

Consider whether you can commit to dog ownership for this amount of time and if you are likely to be in any of these situations in the future.

Dogs are Expensive

When considering where to get your new dog from, the price you pay to buy or adopt it is peanuts when compared to the annual costs of caring for your new family member. You need to budget for the costs to feed, vaccinate, groom, protect from parasites, pet insurance, and pay any unexpected vet bills, as well as boarding costs when you go away on vacation, into your assessment of whether to take on a dog. Your dog will need training too, especially if it’s a puppy.

According to the ASPCA, Caring for a dog costs $700 to $1,100 a year.

Obviously, little dogs cost less than big ones. That doesn’t include boarding fees while you are away, grooming, training, or unexpected vet bills.

Why Do I need to Fill Out a Questionnaire?

If you want a puppy from a reputable breeder or a shelter, you must be prepared to complete a questionnaire. Both care about where their precious puppy or dog will live and that they will be well cared for. They should offer to take the dog or puppy back if things go wrong and give help and advice to ensure the partnership with your new dog succeeds.

Do You Meet the Adoption Criteria?

Adoption centers have strict rules on who can adopt a dog. They know if you will be a good dog owner if you pass. If you fail, don’t buy a puppy from the pet shop or a backyard breeder. They may have no rules on who can take their dogs, but they are not good places to buy a puppy. A reputable breeder will have similar criteria to rescue centers for who they think will be a good fit for one of their puppies.

Criteria to Be Met Before Getting a Dog or Puppy

1. A Fenced Garden or Yard

Dogs need to have access to outside space, and it needs to be secure.

2. No Full-Time Job.

Is there going to be anyone at home? It isn’t fair to leave a dog home alone for long periods.

3. Children.

It is a lovely idea, the vision of your young child growing up with a puppy as a friend. Should you decide to go down the adoption route, you may be in for a shock, as the rescue center may refuse to allow you to adopt one of theirs because you have a young child. A new dog or puppy may be bouncy and rambunctious, and if you have young children, they may get jumped on or knocked over. A child can also be bothersome for the dog. They might pull their tail, poke them, or not leave them in peace. All of these behaviors could lead to the dog biting. This is why shelters may not allow you to adopt a dog if you have a small child.

4. You Rent Your Home.

You should still be able to adopt a dog from a rescue center if you rent your home, but you will need to provide a copy of your contract and written proof from your landlord that they will allow dogs to live there.

Why Should You Adopt a Dog from a Shelter?

Adopting an abandoned dog from a rescue organization will give you a sense of having done some good in the world. If you are adopting from a dog pound with a policy to euthanize a dog after a set time, you will be saving a life.

Shelters have older dogs that are available to adopt.

Puppies are hard work; adopting an older dog may be a better fit for you. You will still find puppies available at most shelters. These puppies are likely mixed breed, so you won’t know what you will get until the puppy is grown up.

It is often cheaper to adopt than to buy, but this should not really be a consideration.

The biggest disadvantage of adopting from a shelter is that you don’t know if the dog will have behavioral problems. They are also likely to need to be house-trained and will be almost as much work as a puppy. The adult pedigree dogs you find in a shelter will have been purchased from a backyard breeder or puppy mill and may have the health problems that come from that, which will be discussed further in this article. The dogs and puppies won’t come from parents tested for genetically preventable diseases and hip dysplasia. It is a myth that cross-bred dogs are healthier than pedigree dogs. If, for example, a dog has a parent or grandparent of a breed susceptible to hip dysplasia, like a Labrador, German Shepherd, or pug, then it is very likely that the dog will grow up with this life-debilitating condition. Hip dysplasia is expensive to correct and painful to live with if it isn’t.

Good rescue centers like the ASPCA and the Humane Society will take a dog back if the adoption fails at any point. They should get you to sign a contract to this effect. They are there to offer support if you have behavior problems with your new dog, as they want the adoption to succeed.

Alternatives to Adopting from a Shelter

You can still adopt a dog without going to a shelter. Many people advertise their unwanted dogs on places like Craigslist. I found my first husky through an advertisement on the notice board at the vet. He was one year old, living in a city apartment, and howling all day. He was perfect for me as I live in the country and don’t go out to work. Reputable breeders that take back dogs they have sold are also a place to try if you want to re-home a dog.

The advantage of privately rehoming a dog is that it won’t have been traumatized by living in kennels. It is also often free, although that shouldn’t be the deciding factor as it still costs the same to care for a dog annually.

Why You Should Buy a Puppy from a Reputable Breeder

You will notice the word “reputable” in the title. A reputable breeder cares about their dogs and doesn’t just breed for money. When breeding dogs correctly, there is little profit. These puppies get the best start in life. Their parents have tested clear for genetically traceable diseases, eye conditions, and hip dysplasia. The breeders do everything they can to ensure that their puppies are as healthy as they can be, including feeding them the best food from weaning. These puppies are Kennel Club registered with a family history going back generations. They won’t be cheap to buy, but you will save on vet bills later in life.

You will be able to meet the parents and even the extended family of your new puppy, and you will see that they have a good temperament.

A good, reputable breeder will agree to take back one of their puppies should you encounter a problem at any stage of their life.

You can find a  reputable dog breeder on the American Kennel Club list here. Or you can find similar lists on the Kennel Club website for your country.

Say No to Puppy Mills and Backyard Breeders

Buying a dog from a breeder who breeds dogs just for money with no interest in preserving the breed’s qualities and health is not recommended. These breeders are known as “backyard breeders.” They are often the person next door who has a cute female they want to breed from, so they hook up with the guy down the street as he has an intact male dog of the same breed. These breeders don’t care if the dogs they are breeding from are good breed examples, have genetic diseases, or are at risk from hip dysplasia.

Puppy mills are another place you don’t want to get a puppy. Dogs are kept in appalling conditions and forced to give birth twice a year. They don’t care about the dog’s welfare. The puppies are often sickly and prone to disease. These puppies often end up sold in pet shops or advertised on Craigslist. Be very careful about where you purchase a new puppy. Be sure to meet the parents and ensure they are the right parents of the puppy. Make multiple visits to the breeder’s house, do your research, and check out the breeder’s reputation before you agree to purchase.

Bottom Line

Here is a table of the pros and cons of adopting and buying, so you can compare the options easily. Which you decide depends on your opinions and lifestyle and is an individual choice.

Photo of author
Rachel Webb

Rachel Webb splits her time between the United Kingdom and Spain, where she lives with two Siberian huskies and a working cocker spaniel. They compete in agility, hooper, and trick competitions. The Huskies also take part in breed conformation shows.