Making the case against adopting a dog from the pound

Pet owners who buy their dogs from breeders are often harangued by critics that state that because they world already has enough unwanted dogs there is no reason to buy from a breeder1.  Although we do not hope to end this debate, this post will surely add fuel to the fire.

In a recent study at the Tufts Center for Animals and Public Policy, a research study found that dogs exhibiting fear aggression are 580 times more likely than a control group with owner directed aggression to have been raised in a “suboptimal environment” during the sensitive period of development between 3-12 weeks of age.” A suboptimal environment is defined as “one in which the puppy is raised with little contact with people, perhaps isolated in a basement, whelping room, garage or outdoor compound2.”

A reasonable conclusion that can be drawn3 from the study is that if a pet owner would like to reduce the incidence of fear aggression in their dog by 580x, one method would be to obtain a dog with a known history during the period of 3-12 weeks of age. In many cases, this will exclude adopting a dog from the pound4 as the rearing history for many pound dogs is unknown.

Adopt or buy? That is up to you. Please do not shoot the messenger.



1. Sometimes these jeers at the dog park reach the level of anti-breeder hate crimes. Can’t we all just get along? Personally, I have no skin in the game and give equal support to people who want to adopt dogs from the pound and to people who want to buy a dog from a (responsible) breeder.

2. Head alter, Medication for Fear Aggression, Nicholas Dodman, Veterinary Practice News, October 2011, pp 36-37.  This study is otherwise unpublished. This page will be updated when the results of the study are published in a peer-reviewed journal.

3. Our conclusion.Not necessarily the conclusion of the researcher

4. As many have pointed out, this also excludes getting a dog from a puppy mill or crummy breeder. Buyer beware.