Adopt or shop: Marin’s puppy market

“He was not the most friendly dog, he was kind of skittish. [He was] a little bit weird. He still is, but there’s a lovable factor about him,” senior Julia Hemley, who has adopted two dogs, said about her dog Rico. “The first [few] times we walked him, he was so scared he would put his tail between his legs and lay down anytime someone tried to get near to him. I think he was definitely abused or mistreated in his past. So it was a concern if he would adjust but he’s definitely warmed up and we’ve seen so much progress.”

Art by Carsen Goltz


Out of the 3.1 million dogs entering shelters in the U.S. each year, Rico is one of only two million dogs adopted per year, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.


In the debate between adopting versus shopping for a family companion, there are common misconceptions about adopting from a shelter. Will the dogs be friendly? Will they be healthy? Will they be scarred from dangerous pasts? 

Amy McIntosh, Youth Program Coordinator of the Marin Humane Society, emphasized that each dog that comes into a shelter is brought in under different circumstances and has unique needs. 

“They’re a little bit of a black box. We don’t know anything about [the dogs]. I think of it like buying a used car. You can get some information, but you might not know the entire story,” McIntosh said. “All of our animals have been seen by our vets [and] we make sure their shots and health checks are up to date. While our animals are here, there’s a whole team of folks who work with them to improve behavior and make sure they’re well socialized.”

The variety in the types of domestic animals accepted into shelters makes each of them unique and allows for an even bigger opportunity to welcome an adopted pet into a loving home.

“You can absolutely still get a cute dog [when] adopting. And I think a lot of the time, adopted or shelter dogs seem a lot more grateful, And they’ve got a lot of quirks to them. [Which is] something I really like. It’s nice to have a dog that has a history behind it,” Hemley said. 

That’s not to say that adopting is for everyone. Kentfield resident Tiffany Rowe would have liked to adopt but had to work around significant dog allergies in the family. When her family came across PuppySpot, an online luxury breeding website, they were drawn in and had a great experience finding two golden doodles to add to their family.  

Customers can browse a wide selection of designer puppies on Premier Pups (Photo courtesty of Premier Pups).


Websites such as PuppySpot advertise their dogs in the same style as a clothing website and with the same kind of shipping options. On Premier Pups, another luxury pet website, each puppy is photographed next to a stuffed animal for size comparison with quick-access to information about age, gender, weight and pricing. There are 24 available purebred breeds and 20 upcoming breeds, meaning the selection is extensive. 

Each breed is classified by behavioral characteristics. A teddy bear puppy is said to be “entertaining and outgoing, cuddly and affectionate, calm-tempered and eager-to-please,” according to the Premier Pups website. 

However, shelters also offer opportunities for dogs to be well-behaved through available training classes. 

“We have a whole team of people here who work with our dogs and teach basic good behavior, like how to walk on a leash, how to sit, that kind of thing. We know dogs that are happy and healthy are way more [likely to be adopted] and they’ll be better pets for people,” McIntosh said. 


No matter where dogs come from, their behavior can’t always be shaped before being welcomed into a new home despite training from a shelter or breeder.

There is a range of shipping options on Premier Pups to ensure the best transportation for a luxury puppy. (Photo courtesy of Premier Pups).


“I think it’s a little bit of a nature-nurture question. Nurture in my [opinion] would win in this case. As a dog owner, you’re in charge of making sure [the dogs] know how to be good citizens. That comes with training and a lot of repetition and practice,” McIntosh said. 

Since the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved partnering breeders, online luxury breeding services such as PuppySpot make it easy for families like Rowe’s to find the perfect dog. Additionally, many of these sites have 10-year health guarantees to assure the well-being of the puppies.

“Earlier last year, we had planned to have another puppy come home, [but] he developed an immune condition that the rest of [his] littermates did not. It’s called strangles; it’s not a breeding problem, it’s a weird immune system issue. It is completely recoverable but could take a couple of months of antibiotics and other [treatments]. I really appreciated that both PuppySpot and this breeder had certain standards and were not placing a puppy that was not well [with a family],” Rowe said. 

Adoption centers offer similar health services to the animals in their care. Marin Humane Society, for example, expects to spend around $500 for each dog and only charges an adoption fee of $100-$400, depending on the age of the dog. 

“Because we’re open-door, we take all animals in whether they’re sick or are not going to be adoptable. They can stay here as long as they need to,” McIntosh said. 

As you think about whether to adopt or shop, remember that there are a million extra dogs looking for a new home. However you find your next companion, make sure you invest the time to make your home a place to bring the best out of your dog.