How to get the dog of your dreams — without a breeder

It takes work — but it's worth it

It's completely normal and understandable to have your heart set on a specific breed of dog. I'm not here to shame for you that. Maybe you grew up with golden retrievers and always dreamed of having one of your own. Maybe you're an avid hiker and have always wanted a husky to hit the trails with. Or maybe your heart just melts every time you see a chubby little French bulldog.

It's a myth, however, that you have to shop instead of adopt if you want a specific purebred dog.

Though it will certainly take patience and commitment, you can adopt or rescue the dog of your dreams without supporting a breeder, pet store, or puppy mill. Each year, around 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized — and that number could be decreased dramatically if more people opted to adopt from shelters and rescues.

Many people purchase dogs because they think that's the only way to get the exact breed they want. And I completely understand — because I used to think that way too. I've been enamored with corgis for as long as I can remember and dreamt of getting one for years. The stumpy legs. The fluffy butts. The happy little smiles. I mean, come on. I always assumed I'd have to buy one, but over the past few years, as I became more aware of the problems associated with bad breeders, pet stores, and puppy mills, it became important to me to rescue a dog.

And guess what? I'm now the proud mother of a gorgeous purebred corgi who I rescued last year from a shelter right here in New York City. I'll admit I did get lucky by being in the right place at the right time. The company I was working for had a relationship with this shelter and I had volunteered there several times, so I had an in — and basically got first dibs when this corgi showed up there.

But if I managed to adopt the purebred dog of my dreams, you can do it too. Here's where to start.

1. Find as many breed-specific rescue groups as possible.

The American Kennel Club has a great comprehensive list. Sign up for their mailing lists, get to know their organizers, and volunteer if you can. If you're involved in the Yorkshire terrier rescue community, for example, you'll be among the first to hear when a Yorkie needs a home. Often dogs need to be re-homed when their current owner can no longer care for them, and these arrangements frequently happen through local communities and breed-specific groups.

2. Be ready at a moment's notice.

When I found out a corgi had been surrendered to a local shelter, I knew this was an extremely rare opportunity. My boyfriend and I planned to get a dog eventually, so we decided to just go for it, even though a pet wasn't on our radar at the time. We knew a 1-year-old rescue corgi was pretty much a unicorn. Basically, if the opportunity to adopt your desired breed comes along, it might be your only shot for a long time, so be ready! Keep a few doggie essentials stashed in a closet — a crate, a leash, some food — so that you'll feel prepared to open your home if the opportunity arises.

3. Familiarize yourself with other, similar breeds.

If you want a specific type of dog for their look, size, temperament, or hypoallergenic fur, do some research and find other breeds with similar traits to open up your search. For example, that husky you want to take hiking? Maybe you can find an Alaskan malamute instead. Or if you've always wanted a Cairn terrier ever since you saw The Wizard of Oz, maybe the very similar-looking Norwich terrier would do the trick.

4. Sign up for Petfinder alerts.

You can get an email alert whenever a dog of a specific breed is added to pet adoption sites. Be vigilant!

5. Tell your local shelters exactly what you're looking for.

Keep in touch with them, volunteer if you can, remind them consistently about what you're looking for, and you'll likely be the first person they call if they get that type of dog. Having a relationship with the shelter was a huge part of how I ended up with my dog.

6. Adopt a senior dog.

Older dogs have a much tougher time getting adopted, even if they're purebred, so you'll have a greater chance of getting the breed you want if you're willing to take in a dog who needs a little extra love and care. Plus, there are plenty of advantages to adopting senior dogs — they're often much calmer and they're likely already house-trained.

It will take time and work, but if you're committed to rescuing a specific breed of dog, you can do it! My corgi and I promise it will be worth the wait.


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