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Adopting vs buying a dog or a puppy

Whether you’ve always had a dog or you’re considering it for the first time, bringing a new pet into your home is a big decision. The first thing to consider is whether you want to buy or adopt your new best friend.

Whether you’ve always had a dog or you’re considering it for the first time, bringing a new pet into your home is a big decision. The first thing to consider is whether you want to buy or adopt your new best friend.

Written by
Anna McEntee
Home, pet and travel insurance expert
9 MAY 2022
6 min read
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Adopting a dog or a puppy 

Adopting a pet is a big decision, but if you choose to offer a rescue dog or puppy a forever home, you can be certain you’re making a real difference to its life.

The first step towards adopting a dog is to search online for shelters and rescue centres, many of which advertise specific pets who need new homes.

When you find a rescue centre you like, or even a particular pet, you’ll need to register with them and answer questions about yourself, your lifestyle and your home. The centre will then make sure you can offer a home that’s suitable for the pet you choose. This could involve a home visit and you may have to make a few changes, such as removing any dangers to dogs and making your property secure.

After you’ve met your new dog, you’ll get plenty of advice about what you’ll need to buy, including toys, equipment, leads, collars and food.

There’s usually a fee to be paid, and then you’re all set to collect your dog.

Buying a dog or a puppy 

When buying a puppy, the most important thing is to make sure your pet comes from a reputable source and is healthy.

First, you need to choose your breed and make sure it’s a good choice for your lifestyle and home.

Then you can search for a breeder. Be sure you’re dealing with a reputable one, as there are ‘puppy farms’ that prioritise income over the welfare of dogs.

When you buy a dog from a breeder, make sure you: 

  • See the puppy with its mother
  •  Ask lots of questions
  • Visit more than once
  • Look closely at the dog’s paperwork
  •  Avoid buying an underweight dog. 

The Kennel Club has more useful tips for choosing a responsible breeder.

Once you’ve met your puppy and paid the breeder, you’ll need to think about vaccinations, microchipping and neutering when you take your dog home.

Advantages of adopting a dog or a puppy 

There are several advantages to adopting a dog

  • You’ll be giving your dog a second chance and might even be saving its life.
  • Adopting a dog is usually less expensive than buying one.
  • Your rescue centre will often pay for vaccinating, neutering and even microchipping your pet.
  • You can ask the rescue centre for advice when you need it.
  • You can choose the age as well as the personality of your dog. There are many advantages to adopting an older dog – they may be better housetrained and less boisterous than a pup.

Disadvantages of adopting a dog or a puppy 

Dogs who’ve been rescued might have already suffered abuse, neglect or cruelty. This could lead to unpredictable or difficult behaviour, although much can be fixed with good food, training and love, plus your rescue centre can help you.

If you rescue a younger dog, you may not know how they’ll grow – both in size and temperament.

Puppies and younger dogs tend to be in shorter supply in adoption centres, so if you’re set on starting from the beginning, you might have to wait a while for your perfect pup.

Also, rescue centres may consider some of their dogs unsuitable for rehoming in families with small children.

Advantages of buying a dog or a puppy 

The joy of choosing and buying your ideal canine chum can’t easily be beaten. Many people who are considering buying a dog already know their favourite breed or might already have a pet that needs a companion. Buying your dog gives you some advantages: 

  • You can choose the dog you want.
  • You’ll know the dog’s genetic history.
  • If you’re looking for a show dog or working dog, you can choose an animal with a guaranteed pedigree.
  • You can meet the mother and see how your puppy will grow, and how it compares with its siblings.
  • You can start your puppy’s training from scratch.
  • Good breeders are experts on their breed and can give you detailed advice.

Disadvantages of buying a dog or a puppy 

The downside of buying your dog is that it invariably costs more, plus there are risks when choosing a breeder. For example, animal welfare problems caused by ‘backyard breeders’, such as exaggerated physical features and inherited diseases.

You’re also potentially contributing to the breeding industry, when there are already many dogs who need rehoming.

The main differences between adopting and buying 

There are several main differences between adopting and buying your dog: 

  • The age of your dog: you will usually, but not always, be adopting from a choice of older dogs rather than buying a puppy.
  • The dog’s history: if you buy your dog, you can be sure of its background, while rescuing a dog means you might not know how big it is going to grow or its temperament.
  • Time: rehoming a dog is quick once you’ve chose your pet, but if you’re looking for a particular breed, you may have to wait until a litter becomes available. Bear in mind, a puppy can’t be separated from its mother for at least eight weeks.
  • Money: rescuing a dog is usually less expensive than buying one, especially if you’re looking for a pedigree animal.

What insurance do you need after buying or adopting a puppy? 

Puppy or dog insurance can cover vet’s bills if your dog has an accident, is injured or develops an illness. It can also cover you if your dog dies, is lost or stolen, or damages property or harms someone else. 

The cost of your policy will depend on a few factors, such as:

  • The age of your dog
  • Any pre-existing conditions
  • The breed – some breeds are more susceptible to hereditary conditions and may cost more to insure. 

There are several types of pet insurance you can consider: 

Lifetime pet insurance. Provided you renew every year, this could cover your dog for life. There may be an annual limit on how much you can claim or a limit per condition, and the limit resets when you renew.

Time limited pet insurance can cover your pet for a year after an injury or condition first appears, or when the maximum amount of money to treat the condition is used up. After that, you’re responsible for costs.

Maximum benefit pet insurance could pay out up to a maximum amount per condition.

Accident only pet insurance. This is the least expensive type of cover. It can cover your pet for accidents, but not illness.

Frequently asked questions

Should I buy or adopt an older dog?

There are many advantages to buying an older dog. They will: 

  • Have some basic instinctive training
  • Have a fully developed personality and temperament
  • Be grown to their full size
  • Have lower energy levels than a puppy – so be less exhausting. 

If you’re adopting an older dog, remember that: 

  • An animal with a traumatic past might behave disruptively
  • Bad habits can be hard to break
  • Troubled dogs may find new environments difficult to cope with, especially if there are cats or children.

Are particular breeds more expensive to buy or own?

Pedigree dogs are substantially more expensive to buy and harder to find in rehoming centres.

And although they make lovely pets, some pedigree dogs can be more prone to illness than mixed breeds. It’s important to research the breed before you buy, and make sure you buy from a reputable breeder.

Are all rescue dogs troubled?

Not necessarily. Some dogs need rehoming because they’ve been rescued from cruelty and neglect or been abandoned. However, others might be ready for a new home because their owners can’t cope or have died. These dogs may well have been loved, well cared for and should adapt easily to a new home.

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