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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
We've made the decision to add to our family sometime in the next six months, and are heavily considering a purebred Lab. We've owned two purebred (Pointer and GS Pointer) dogs in the past, and currently have two mutts. Both pointers were rescued as young adults and were obviously bred as hunting dogs and dropped off for being gun shy.

I thought it was relatively normal in 20+ years of dog ownership to have never had a vet bill over the $500 range. Teeth cleaning, glucosamine, arthritis diagnosis, and both pointers died of cancer complications but were very healthy until the last six months of their lives. We've never dealt with hip dysplasia or bloat or anything like that (aka no unforeseen expensive surgeries).

After reading one of the threads talking about whether or not owners had pet health insurance, it seemed like (on this board at least) that 1-2k surgeries and other health problems were not nearly as rare as I thought. I have a few questions- first off, have we just been genuinely lucky? And if so, can any of that be attributed to purebred versus mixed breed dogs?

When looking into lab breeders (Southeast US) I've come across SO many in our state alone that have met my initial requirements- OFA, CERF, PRA, Brucellosis and are active in the local breed club and/or local kennel clubs with initially good references and a 24 month+ health guarantee. I'm not really sure where to go from here- we're not interested in conformation or working, and are really just looking for a healthy dog that knows basic commands and will be able to go on short hikes and the beaches around here.

What are the benefits of aquiring a new dog through a breeder versus waiting for a puppy to be up for adoption in one of the surrounding rescues? I initially was only considering health tested dogs from a breeder to minimize the chances of serious health issues, but when I consider our experience with rescued purebreds its been much better than our neighbors that bought a lab from a breeder in state with all the above testing- and at 24 months she has serious elbow issues and will likely require replacement surgery in the next year.

Sorry this is so long, I'm just really wondering if we've happened to be incredibly lucky with the health of our dogs, or if this is something that might be less of a worry than I originally thought. If a breeder is the better route, how do I begin to choose one from all the ones available (This might be easier in a less common breed, but there are SO many lines, ect.)
 

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Some of it is selection bias, i.e., the sort of people who hang out on dog forums are more likely to care about their dogs' health and may have initially come here because of it.

That being said, health is a crapshoot with dogs, even purebreds from ethical breeders. There are a LOT of labs in rescue, so I'd vote rescue, and get insurance to cover yourself.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Thats the route i'm leaning towards at this point. That being said, has anyone had really good or bad experiences with insurance (in the US)? When I started comparing companies I noticed right away that some cover H/E Dysplasia and some don't. For those of you with larger breed dogs, are there any special things to look out for?
 

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1. Read the fine print and exclusions very, very carefully. Several of the insurance companies have started pre-excluding certain conditions based on breed. Others will exclude certain conditions for a stated period of time (for example, some of them exclude cruciate tears within the first 1-2 years of your policy).

2. Get the insurance AS SOON AS YOU GET THE PUPPY. If possible, before you've even brought him/her to the vet. Once there's a problem noted in the medical record, it's a pre-existing problem and probably excluded. But before the puppy has been to the vet, it's all a blank slate.
 

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I bought insurance for my pup, but to be honest, if I had 3 dogs, I'd probably skip insuring each of them and just bank an equivalent amount of money every month to be drawn on only when a dog gets sick or injured. I chose insurance because I can barely afford a dog. I carefully budgeted in good quality dog food, insurance and routine vet care and that stretched me right to the edge. Insurance is the only way I can ensure my ONE dog will be cared for if he gets sick or injured. If you think you have enough wiggle room in your budget to afford 3 dogs though, you might be better off with a strict savings plan than insurance. It's likely you'd spend much less money in the long run, even if one of them does run up some hefty vet bills.

The pros of insuring yourself by saving carefully: No exclusions, no copays, no deductible, no fine print- The money is there if your dog gets sick, period.
The cons: If a dog gets sick tomorrow, you don't have much saved yet. If all three get very sick at once, you may not have enough to cover it.

An other option is to go with a cheaper, middle of the road policy and set aside savings on top of that to cover what the insurance won't. (This is what I do)
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I bought insurance for my pup, but to be honest, if I had 3 dogs, I'd probably skip insuring each of them and just bank an equivalent amount of money every month to be drawn on only when a dog gets sick or injured. I chose insurance because I can barely afford a dog. I carefully budgeted in good quality dog food, insurance and routine vet care and that stretched me right to the edge. Insurance is the only way I can ensure my ONE dog will be cared for if he gets sick or injured. If you think you have enough wiggle room in your budget to afford 3 dogs though, you might be better off with a strict savings plan than insurance. It's likely you'd spend much less money in the long run, even if one of them does run up some hefty vet bills.

The pros of insuring yourself by saving carefully: No exclusions, no copays, no deductible, no fine print- The money is there if your dog gets sick, period.
The cons: If a dog gets sick tomorrow, you don't have much saved yet. If all three get very sick at once, you may not have enough to cover it.

An other option is to go with a cheaper, middle of the road policy and set aside savings on top of that to cover what the insurance won't. (This is what I do)
This is what I had originally planned on- we've never had pet insurance and our last pointer (purebred) started developing serious problems the last six months of her life and was seeing the vet 2+ times a month. This happened to coincide with the time when our older dog got arthritis and we did fine financially even though everything seemed to hit at once. I just don't know how lucky we really were- bloat is somewhat preventable, but the dysplasia is what scares me because I know surgeries run in the thousands and I feel like its so much more prevalent in labs than in any other breed.

If you had a savings cushion of ~2k that was set aside and able to remain untouched for regular food, vet, training expenses- is insurance really worth it? Or are you better off taking a gamble.
 

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If you have that cushion now and can afford to put aside what you'd otherwise be putting into vet insurance, then I'd say you're WAY better off saving on your own than trying to insure 3 dogs.

I honestly don't know the stats on dysplasia for labs, but I was under the impression it's an issue with a lot of large breeds. Every breed seems to have their own expensive health problem. It's a gamble no matter which route you choose.
 

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I guess as the only person replying that's not pro-rescue, I should put in my opinion on breeders.

First off, with purebred dogs, it's not as much of a crap shoot as everyone who has posted would lead you to think. Sure, with a mixed breed puppy you would have no idea what you were getting into.

But, with a purebred from a great breeder who breeds for certain personality aspects, you can be pretty darn sure.

I am adamently pro-breeder, and I probably will never permanently rescue a dog. Sure, if I found one on the side of the road, I'd take it in and foster it before finding a home. But, I'll never put money towards purchasing a rescue.

In my mind, rescuing is like plugging a hole in a leaking dam. Buying from an ethical breeder is nipping the problem of the dog over population at its source.

I knew exactly what I wanted in a dog when I got my puppy. Both parents were health tested extensively, temperament tested, the litter was well socialized, and I had a very clear idea of my dog's temperament LONG before I brought her home.

She came with a two year health guarentee, and no rescue will ever come with anything like that, even with insurance. Should anything genetic have happened to her, my mentor would have taken her back or paid for most of the treatment.

Also, if anything happens to me EVER and my dog has no where to go, my mentor will take her back at any point in time in her life, no questions asked.

My mentor has been an invaluable source of information, as well as giving me a leg up learning the dog sports which I participate in now. I would have never really been able to explore herding the way I have with out her influence.

I know that most people on this forum will tell you to rescue. Most people on here do not support excellent breeders, and only rescue.

You should never feel guilty about giving a puppy from an excellent breeder a home.
 

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I know that most people on this forum will tell you to rescue. Most people on here do not support excellent breeders, and only rescue.
Most of the discussion so far in this particular thread has been about insurance, anyway, but honestly... I don't think that's true of this forum at at all. Plenty of people here support ethical breeding and/or advise people to get a puppy/dog that is going to stay in their home regardless of where it came from.
 

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I know that most people on this forum will tell you to rescue. Most people on here do not support excellent breeders, and only rescue.
I support rescuing because for many people, the type of dogs available in rescue will suit them quite well. I have no issue with good breeders and of course, good breeders are needed to continue to produce quality dogs. However, someone like the OP who is looking for a generally healthy dog to do normal activity (no dog sports or intense training that would put unusually high strain on the dog's physical state) and has a reasonable financial cushion AND is looking for a breed of which there are tons in shelters.... well, rescue makes a lot of sense for them.

In my mind, rescuing is like plugging a hole in a leaking dam. Buying from an ethical breeder is nipping the problem of the dog over population at its source.
How does buying from a good breeder stop dog overpopulation from bad breeders and careless owners of intact dogs? Obviously buying from a good breeder VS a byb/puppy mill is important IF one is going to financially support breeding, but if the alternative is between a good breeder and a rescue dog, then neither one actually prevents dog overpopulation. Free spay and neuter clinics are an example of nipping the problem of dog over population at its source...

To the original poster-
Given your requirements and expectations for a lab pup, I think you could have good success in finding a dog in rescue. Feeding the right food for proper growth, maintaining a healthy weight, joint supplements as the dog gets older, and not running on hard surfaces/doing strenuous work until physical maturity will all contribute to keeping a dog of unknown breeding healthy. Regular vet care and putting money away in savings. If you aren't set on a puppy, I see a lot of 6m-2yr old labs in rescue commonly because a)they turn out to be a lot of work like all puppies and b)they are big dogs and people move into rentals that don't allow big dogs.

You might also notice that a lot of the expensive vet bills talked about on here come from accidents rather than genetic issues. Torn ACLs doing lure coursing, broken legs from small breeds jumping off high surfaces, ingesting something the dog shouldn't eat, etc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #11 · (Edited)
I support rescuing because for many people, the type of dogs available in rescue will suit them quite well. I have no issue with good breeders and of course, good breeders are needed to continue to produce quality dogs. However, someone like the OP who is looking for a generally healthy dog to do normal activity (no dog sports or intense training that would put unusually high strain on the dog's physical state) and has a reasonable financial cushion AND is looking for a breed of which there are tons in shelters.... well, rescue makes a lot of sense for them.
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Given your requirements and expectations for a lab pup, I think you could have good success in finding a dog in rescue. Feeding the right food for proper growth, maintaining a healthy weight, joint supplements as the dog gets older, and not running on hard surfaces/doing strenuous work until physical maturity will all contribute to keeping a dog of unknown breeding healthy. Regular vet care and putting money away in savings. If you aren't set on a puppy, I see a lot of 6m-2yr old labs in rescue commonly because a)they turn out to be a lot of work like all puppies and b)they are big dogs and people move into rentals that don't allow big dogs.

You might also notice that a lot of the expensive vet bills talked about on here come from accidents rather than genetic issues. Torn ACLs doing lure coursing, broken legs from small breeds jumping off high surfaces, ingesting something the dog shouldn't eat, etc.
I have nothing wrong with rescue. All the dogs we've ever owned have been rescues. That being said, I have nothing wrong with responsible breeding as those dogs are NOT the ones adding to the shelter populations. My wanting a purebred is because I want to have a puppy that I know will grow up with the genetics for certain characteristics- size, stature, coat, ect. I feel guilty for saying this...but if I got a purebred puppy (or at least one that they claimed was purebred, as I dont think any rescue will hand over a limited reg.) , cant we be pretty sure that its going to be poorly bred and sort of defeat the purpose of seeking out a purebred in the first place?

I guess it comes down to I feel like if I'm willing to rescue, I should rescue. Most people that go to responsible breeders do so because they've decided that for them, a dog from a breeder will work out better than a shelter dog. If I dont put a deposit down with a *responsible* breeder, someone else will. But if I choose not to adopt, there is a chance the dog could be euthed.

Does this make any sense? I feel like I've been a responsible owner, I've fostered, I've rescued, I've donated, and I will continue to do so regardless of where our next dog comes from. Is there any way to get over this guilt that comes from knowing what the realistic chances are of a shelter dog being adopted to a good home?

EDIT: Just re-read the beginning of my post and that was supposed to be in a matter-of-fact tone, not sound angry. Nobody has accused me of not supporting rescue and that wasn't the intended message.
 

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Is there any way to get over this guilt that comes from knowing what the realistic chances are of a shelter dog being adopted to a good home?
That guilt is your own monster. We can't tell you what to do with it :p

I don't think anyone here would judge you for wanting a *responsibly* purebred dog. As long as you're not supporting a BYB or puppymill, you can do what works best for you. I chose a shelter dog and will do that many times over throughout my life. That doesn't mean I'll never ever ever get a purebred. Some day, I would love to have a giant breed. They tend to have shorter lifespans and more health issues. I wouldn't roll the dice on a poorly bred dog in that case.
 

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I have nothing wrong with rescue. All the dogs we've ever owned have been rescues. That being said, I have nothing wrong with responsible breeding as those dogs are NOT the ones adding to the shelter populations. My wanting a purebred is because I want to have a puppy that I know will grow up with the genetics for certain characteristics- size, stature, coat, ect. I feel guilty for saying this...but if I got a purebred puppy (or at least one that they claimed was purebred, as I dont think any rescue will hand over a limited reg.) , cant we be pretty sure that its going to be poorly bred and sort of defeat the purpose of seeking out a purebred in the first place?
Well, I think with a shelter dog it is a reasonable assumption that the parents were not health tested and then specifically breed to improve the breed. HOWEVER, I don't think the flip side of that is automatically "poorly bred" in the sense of having bad genetics. Irresponsibly bred might be a better term. There are plenty of dogs out there with no major genetic issues who have irresponsible owners. There are also the dogs that came from good breeders that the breeder wasn't able to keep track of or enforce a S/N contract on etc. People move out of state, people break contracts, breeders get sick or have financial difficulties that can keep them from being able to take back a dog etc.

Depending on the age of the puppy and the circumstances that the dog ended up in a shelter/rescue, you can have more knowledge about how the dog may turn out. You do get certain likelyhoods with good breeders, but nothing is every a guarantee.

There isn't anything wrong with going to a good breeder, it just sounds like there's no particularly strong reason for that to be the only choice for you right now. Personally, I would search rescue a bit and talk to breed specific rescues and see what's out there. But then, my preference is towards something past the young puppy stage so while genetics wouldn't be guaranteed, adult size and basic temperament would be.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
Well, I think with a shelter dog it is a reasonable assumption that the parents were not health tested and then specifically breed to improve the breed. HOWEVER, I don't think the flip side of that is automatically "poorly bred" in the sense of having bad genetics. Irresponsibly bred might be a better term. There are plenty of dogs out there with no major genetic issues who have irresponsible owners. There are also the dogs that came from good breeders that the breeder wasn't able to keep track of or enforce a S/N contract on etc. People move out of state, people break contracts, breeders get sick or have financial difficulties that can keep them from being able to take back a dog etc.

Depending on the age of the puppy and the circumstances that the dog ended up in a shelter/rescue, you can have more knowledge about how the dog may turn out. You do get certain likelyhoods with good breeders, but nothing is every a guarantee.

There isn't anything wrong with going to a good breeder, it just sounds like there's no particularly strong reason for that to be the only choice for you right now. Personally, I would search rescue a bit and talk to breed specific rescues and see what's out there. But then, my preference is towards something past the young puppy stage so while genetics wouldn't be guaranteed, adult size and basic temperament would be.
You summed it up pretty well- if there were two "identical" dogs, I'd pick the one in rescue over the one from a breeder. Unfortunately, the Lab rescues in my state and in the immediate area don't often have dogs under ~18 months. I have them bookmarked and go through petfinder weekly- are there any other suggestions? (And as bad as this sounds-) is it somewhat likely that rescues will see a slight influx of older puppies in a few months, when the lab puppies bought as Christmas presents begin to hit the challenging stage?
 

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You summed it up pretty well- if there were two "identical" dogs, I'd pick the one in rescue over the one from a breeder. Unfortunately, the Lab rescues in my state and in the immediate area don't often have dogs under ~18 months. I have them bookmarked and go through petfinder weekly- are there any other suggestions? (And as bad as this sounds-) is it somewhat likely that rescues will see a slight influx of older puppies in a few months, when the lab puppies bought as Christmas presents begin to hit the challenging stage?
Yes, it is quite possible they will see in influx of the 6 month-ish dogs.

I'd "like" various rescue groups (even in other states) on Facebook. One reason is that people will often post on them if they have a dog they need to re-home and the rescues will try to find a home to avoid even taking the dog into foster care to begin with (and thus the dog will never show up on petfinder). Take a few minutes each day to read the wall posts.

I mention widening the search area because sometimes people post for out of state friends or family or there may be a dog transport coming through etc. Sometimes a big hoarder bust happens and dogs overwhelm a small local shelter and get spread out to various rescues and other shelters within a whole region.

Also find out if your local municipal shelter actually puts all the adoptable dogs up on petfinder... my municipal shelter is on the crappy side of things and is really bad about advertising their dogs except the select few transferred to a special "adoption facility"- the ones at the regular old "pound" are still generally adoptable, but you have to make a real effort to find out abotu them.
 
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