I've been seeing a trend recently on social media, specifically FaceBook, where dog breeders are referred to as "greeders". The Urban Dictionary contains the following entry for Greeder:
A.k.a. Dog breeder. Anyone who breeds dogs is now knows [sic] as a greeder. These greeders commodify dogs got [sic] the sake of profits while thousands of unwanted dogs are put down each year. Adopt. Don’t shop, never buy dogs from greeders.
As a dog breeder myself, I take exception to this term and this definition on many levels. I breed one litter per year. I like to think that I do so carefully and conscientiously in all ways, from selecting a mate to screening potential homes, raising puppies with love and care, placing them in the best homes possible, and being available for the lifetime of all the puppies I produce.
Do I commodify puppies by the act of selling them? I suppose I do. However, we don't vilify farmers for selling the milk they produce and we happily buy and drink this milk and all other kinds of produce and products at the grocery store.
I have many expenses as a dog breeder. The high quality stud that helps create one of my litters isn't free - he is commodified and his semen is sold to me at great cost. The veterinary procedures that might accompany breeding, and the veterinary care and exams for the dam and puppies aren't free - veterinary care is also commodified. An emergency c-section can cost over $2000. The high quality food fed to the lactating mother and growing puppies isn't free. It can cost over $100 per week, which adds up over 8 weeks in my care.
Let's back up, way back, before a litter is even planned or born. As a hobby breeder, I show all my breeding stock in the conformation ring and some compete in performance. I want to showcase my dogs and my breed: they conform to the breed standard structurally and they are versatile, as outlined by the breed standard. A conformation championship might cost thousands of dollars to attain, with travel, entries, handling costs. Performance titles are no less expensive.
Before a dog is bred, he or she requires a multitude of health and DNA testing to rule out genetic problems and diseases like hip dysplasia, hereditary cataracts, cardiac issues, and much more. These tests and procedures aren't free - they can cost hundreds or run into the thousands for each dog. Occasionally a breeding prospect has an unsatisfactory result and must be culled from the program - with enormous heart ache and at a financial loss.
All told, far more money goes out of a hobbyist breeding program like mine than comes in. I'm lucky and happy if I can cover the significant and tangible expenses of raising a particular litter -- if, for example, I avoided an emergency c-section, acute mastitis in a mother dog, a litter of one or two, and other costly disappointments. But I will never cover all the costs that come with being a responsible, conscientious, and hobbyist breeder, over the span of my program, however much I charge for a puppy.
Being a hobbyist, I breed from a place of passion and pride, and not from a place of greed. My costs are high, both monetarily and in sheer effort. My kennel is my brand, both personally and in what I do. Dogs and puppies are indeed a product of my work, and yes, they are commodified, because everything costs money, and it costs a lot of money to do something well and right. The nominal money that comes in via puppy sales covers some of my costs, sometimes, and allows me to continue doing what I love doing.
I am passionate about and proud of my dogs. They are my art. We have no quarrel with fine artists selling their art. They must buy art supplies, pay the rent for their studio, they work hard at their craft. They've spent a lifetime learning and honing their skill.
Adopt. Don’t shop, never buy dogs from greeders.
The reason dogs fill shelters to capacity and are available for adoption might be tied more to puppy millers than from anything responsible and ethical boutique breeders do or don't do. Perhaps shelters fill up due to poor breeding practices, poor placements, and other factors on the part of back yard and milling "breeders". Who is more likely to help fill a shelter to the brim with unwanted dogs - someone who farms dogs to maximize volume and margins or someone who breeds infrequently, without cutting corners for the benefit of the breed and the benefit of the dogs and owners, and who will take back any dog for the lifetime of the dog she or he brought into this world.
For those who adopt to avoid commodifying dogs, let me point out that even the shelter puts an adoption fee on a dog. Everything costs money.