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Have a dog? Love dogs? Then YOU are the human part of the canine community. But are you the type who “plays well with others” or the type who plays the “mean girl?” How did the world of dog ownership get so polarized? Can rescue groups and dog breeders be friends?

The color of your skin don’t matter to me, As long as we can live in harmony

War

Probably you’re thinking, “Huh?? I’m not even sure what you’re talking about.”

Let me ask you a couple questions…

  • Did you get your dog from a rescue/shelter or from a breeder?
  • Is your dog a purebred or a mixed breed?
  • Is your motto “adopt don’t shop” or “advancing the sport of the purebred dog?”

Pretty sure you can see what we’re discussing now.

Litter of puppies chewing on a fence at a shelter awaiting their new families.
Image by Vladimír Sládek from Pixabay

Most people probably live in one camp or the other. Even if you are one of the rare individuals who have a foot in both the world of rescues and purebred dogs, you might still have some beliefs that are biased in some ways.

That’s okay! We all do.

Let me share a couple stories so you can get a feel of how quickly dog people can cause division and strife…

I was having a very happy chat with a dog owner who discovered Go Dog Nashville through Instagram. You could just feel their love and enthusiasm for dogs and particularly their work with a local rescue organization. They were on FIRE with their passion for helping dogs.

The conversation was winding down and then the person said, “So glad I found you guys! Hope you can help future fundraisers – ‘adopt don’t shop,’ right?”

How do I answer that except honestly?

“Well, we love shelter dogs but we also support purebred dogs from reputable breeders.”

Never heard from this individual again.

And yes, there’s a flip-side. ‘Cause you can’t have one without the other! A person I know adopted a German Shepherd from a shelter (purebred or not -who knows?) Seeking information about the breed and health issues, they contacted a breeder of GSDs for advice. Three times. Three different breeders. Only one response and that was dismissive because the dog came from a shelter.

This is the stuff that drives me nuts, guys.

A litter of dachshund puppies playing in a cozy basket.
Image by Lauren Rathbone from Pixabay

It’s all understandable when you dig deep for the reasons we do the things we do. But seriously – the common denominator here is the love of dogs.

How can we not support each other in the love of dogs?

What goes wonky in our thinking?

Because it always starts out with the best of intentions…

Passion Rules

So think back with me: Have you ever gotten so passionate about something you can’t stop talking about it? And you get so enthusiastic you want everyone to know about it? You’ve seen some really big changes in your life and you want to share it with the world!!

We’ve all been there, right?

And all’s well and good with having a heightened emotional response to something we feel passionate about until…

 “There Can Be Only One”

…we get so worked up that our sharing with others turns into –duh duh duuuh – lecturing. And before you know it, we have downright convinced ourselves that this is THE ONE AND ONLY way to do or be or have this thing we love.

You know what’s coming next. Before we can stop ourselves, we start passing judgement on those around us who aren’t doing the Thing. Because if “this is the BEST way, then everything else is WRONG.” Suddenly we believe people are ignorant for not doing the Thing. How can they not see what they’re doing is bad…

Good Guy/Bad Guy

…especially if the Thing has an emotional charge connected to it?

What if the Thing we feel passionate about is important because there’s an issue of moral responsibility or suffering connected to it? There’s GOT to be someone to blame for all this. So we start casting around, trying to pinpoint the Bad Guy in of all this.

Pointing fingers at whoever gets identified (correctly or not) as the Bad Guy helps us feel justified in our choices. It gives us a rush of adrenaline. It gives us a rallying point and a way to gather the troops. Our people. Those who think like us, understand us and make the same choices.

(Taking a moment here to strongly state:  Sometimes there IS a Bad Guy in a situation. In the world of dogs, I think we can all agree that puppy mills are a definite villain. There is no love or passion for dogs coming from that operation; it’s a good test. Most times, however, blame is rarely as black and white as we want to believe.)

Shields Up, Captain

I’ll also bet you’ve been on The Other Side. All the preaching and persecution and judgement tends to make The Other Side feel pretty defensive. How about a LOT defensive? If you’re the one under attack, you’ve got a Bad Guy to focus on, too.

Cause, yeah! They’re calling us wrong, judging our choices, questioning our motives!  Shields go up, reason is put on the back burner and the jabs and stick-throwing commence.

Sounds a lot like primitive cavemen type behavior, no?

And I’m not being a hypocrite. I’ve been there, guys. For many years, I was a home birth warrior. I wanted every mother and child to experience a home birth, the BEST birth, the only one that should be considered (Cringing here as I write this and feeling like the worst.) I finally came to my senses – but not before irritating and probably offending a lot of my friends and family in the meantime.  

It’s generally not until things have escalated to the Shields Up point that we take a step back to look at what’s really happening. Because when you find yourself in this polarized situation, you suddenly realize how silly and unreasonable it is to have to defend your personal choices. Whether it’s the foods you buy, the religion (or lack thereof) you belong to, how you parent your children or if you get your dogs from rescues or breeders, it’s all up to your own individual circumstances.

And that’s it in a nutshell.

It is a personal choice where you acquire your dog. A personal choice about what type of dog you want. And a personal choice to be passionate about the things that matter to you.

And like all personal decisions, there is no right or wrong thing to choose.

That said, let’s take a walk back through the above attitudes to see how we can refocus when we’re deep in the middle of them:

Shields up for defense

  • Take a moment to breathe and assess what’s going on. What is actually being said? Am I being too sensitive or taking it the wrong way?
  • Is there a legitimate point being made? How can I address it?
  • What is not being understood about me?
  • Have I done or said anything to put people on the defensive, too?
  • Refocus on the common denominator – the love of dogs

Good Guy/Bad Guy

  • Is there really a super-villain to fight? Or are there several areas that need to be worked on?
  • Do we both have all the information we need to understand each other?
  • How could we work together for the love of dogs?

Only One

  • Take a moment to allow everyone a right to their opinion and decisions.
  • Remember one decision does not make every other decision wrong.
  • Be mindful of how you phrase things.  Words can be emotionally charged with a bias. “I adopted my dog from a rescue. You bought your dog from a breeder” is the exact same as “I adopted my dog from a breeder. You bought your dog from a rescue.”

Passion Fueled

  • How can I share my point-of-view in a non-judgmental way?
  • Can I educate without alienating others?
  • Could I be perceived as being arrogant or dismissive with others?
  • Keep in mind other people can be just as passionate about their viewpoints as you are about yours.
  • Just like there are a variety of dogs, there are a variety of people.
  • Remember – dogs are the common passion we both share.
Pretty white bully mix dog with kiss marks on her head and face.
Image by Beverly Lussier from Pixabay

Just to show we can find commonality with every individual choice, I’m going on  a rampage of appreciation for dogs adopted from both rescues and breeders. Not taking sides, see? I believe rescue groups and dog breeders can be friends.

For those with dogs adopted from shelter/rescues:

            I admire your dedication to envisioning all dogs finding loving, forever homes. I applaud your choice in seeking out reputable organizations to help you. I admire your diligence in making sure these rescues and shelters have evaluated each dog and the time they take to make sure every dog goes home with the right family. I love how you accept your dog ‘as is,’ no matter what he looks like, with an understanding he may come with issues you can never fully comprehend or predict and with unforeseen health problems that may develop in the future. I love how you know training is essential and that you are dedicated to help your shelter dog realize he is safe, he is secure and he is loved. I applaud your willingness to be easy and give him the time he needs for the big adjustment to a new home.

For those with dogs adopted from breeders:

            I appreciate all the hard work and research you did on your dog’s breed and your dedication to providing your breed the specific things she needs to be her best. I applaud how you spoke personally with dozens of breeders to find the right one, asking questions about health and temperament. I love how you answered the breeder’s questions honestly to determine the best puppy for your circumstances and lifestyle. I admire your patience in waiting for the right puppy and honor the fact you may not have gotten the color or gender you wanted, but you trusted your breeder to match you with the best dog. I applaud the investment you made and continue to make each year of your dog’s life. I love that you agreed to sign a spay/neuter contract and that you promised your breeder should anything ever happen that prevents you from caring for this dog, you will contact them first.


There will come a time when all of us will find ourselves behaving more like enemies than friends. Maybe we catch ourselves making an off-hand negative remark about dog shows. Or maybe someone looks down their nose at our pup because she came from a shelter.

If you catch yourself in the act of being a ‘mean girl’ then yay!!! It’s that self-aware moment that fuels our change and brings us back round to what brings us together – our love of dogs.

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