Monday, October 13, 2014

7 truths about shelter or rescue dogs

A few months ago the Washington Post published an editorial on why one person would "never adopt another shelter dog."

You can read it here.

It's a nasty piece of work that is based on bad experience and not much more. And it hurts an entire group of pets who just desperately need homes as much as any other pet.

This month is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month. Many have posted about the myths of shelter and rescue dogs. As the owner of two shelter dogs, I'm going to tell you about what's true.

1) They are often the victim of uninformed humans. How many dogs are left in shelters because they weren't potty trained, or the human didn't realize the dog's chewing on things had to do with the dog being bored? Or that some breeds need more exercise than others?

Darius is 3 and a half years old. He was recently sent Orange County Animal Services in Orlando.
This is true for all dogs. Do your research before you get a dog. Know what type of dog can fit your lifestyle. If you can't go out for long walks with a dog, you probably shouldn't get a dog who needs lots of exercise. Dogs require structure. You need to be prepared to give them that.

2)  They come in all colors, shapes and sizes. Don't think you can get the breed you want? Think again. There's a rescue for almost every breed of dog in the country. And if you can't find one close to you, you'd be surprised how many perfect strangers will take turns driving however far to bring you your dog. Sites like Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet  will help you find the pet you're looking for.

Shelby is an adult beagle mix at Lake County Animal Services.
3) Older pets are better than puppies. Can you get a puppy in a shelter or a rescue? Of course. Especially during certain times of the year. But should you? Puppies are a lot of work, and they don't let you sleep through the night necessarily. And they may have to be housebroken.

The good thing about older dogs is they may be more mellow. They also may be housebroken. If you're not used to having a dog, consider an older dog.

4) All dogs can get sick. Sure breeders might offer a guarantee that their dogs don't have any problems. But more than half of golden retrievers get cancer.  Cocker spaniels are susceptible to a number of illnesses.  Beagles can get hip dysplasia and intrervertebral disc disease.  Any dog is capable of illness. And mix breeds may actually be less susceptible to certain illnesses.

5) Some shelter or rescue dogs may have training. When you are looking at dogs, be sure to ask the shelters and rescues what training the dogs have had. Some will train the dogs to make them more adoptable. Nothing fancy, just basic behavioral stuff.

Pup pup is a poodle mix at Pasco County Animal Services.
6) You don't HAVE to go to a shelter to see a shelter dog. Shelters make people sad or they scare people, and that's why some avoid the shelters. Think you're scared? You should see some of the dogs! They sit in a corner and won't look at anyone because they don't understand what's happening.

There are different ways to see a shelter dog. You can go online, look at the websites, or the Facebook pages (they all have them). Then you can go to the shelters and meet the dogs out of the cages. Some shelters have fenced in areas or rooms where you can meet the dog and see them come out of their shell. Or, you can visit an offsite location, like a pet store or a rescue event. PetSmart and Petco both host rescue events on the weekends.

7) Shelter and rescue dogs are grateful. I don't know how else to say it. I don't mean that dogs from breeders are not grateful to the people who adopt them. I just mean I hear lots of stories about shelter or rescue dogs saving their owners or their owners' children. They also become therapy dogs or medical alert dogs.

Here's some stories:
Tell me about your shelter dog! In the comments below, tell us about the dog you rescued, in honor of Adopt a Shelter Dog Month.


  1. A lovely post. I particularly like the point about not going to a shelter. Some people get very distressed - you are RIGHT you can see them online,, at Petco, so they dogs are out of the perceived 'sad' environment'.

  2. Rescue dogs rock (cats, too)! I have five rescued Treeing Walker Coonhounds. I adopted my senior girl, Suki, from a local rescue when I fell in love with her at first sight at a Petsmart adoption event. This was her third home in just a few months - not because she is a bad dog, but because she just wasn't the right fit for the other two families. She's been with me for 12 years as of August. I fell in love with my deaf girl, Ran, when I saw her on Petfinder and drove ten hours round-trip to southern Indiana to pick her up. She was just short of her four month birthday and I knew she was deaf when I adopted her. She had a family before me, but four days after they took her to their vet for her three-month shots, they dumped her at a small rural shelter with little "foot traffic". Obviously the vet confirmed she was deaf. My other three were all adopted by me long-distance after seeing their photos and information posted on Facebook. Kenji was one of 30+ hounds confiscated from a property in Rutherfordton, NC where they were tied along the fence around the property to be an alarm system for the owner, who was involved in illegal cock fighting. Kenji was only 7 months old and underweight and just the sweetest boy. I saw my Kyoko on Facebook just two weeks after I lost my 16+ year old Beagle, Bailey. I didn't plan on adopting a dog that soon, but the rescue that was supposed to take Kyoko bailed on her last minute and she was going to be killed. Kyoko was dumped at the Greenville, SC shelter weighing only 30 pounds when she should have been double that. She also has buckshot in her. She's now downright chubby and my most cuddly dog. Then, just one year after adopting Kenji, I saw my Seiji posted on Facebook. I was torn between him and a similar-looking boy who was extremely emaciated. The shelter made the decision for me by killing the other dog one day early, so I had to act quickly and have Seiji pulled for me. I'd have a dozen of these dogs if I could, but five is the legal limit where I live. I will never buy a dog from a breeder or pet store. It's rescue only for me!

  3. Such a great post - I'm still so upset by the article in the Washington Post. It should be apparent to everyone that her dog wasn't sick because it was a shelter pet, it was sick because it was a dog and dogs get sick. Some more than others.. Anyways I love this post, it's all so true. I adopted my dog Laika from the local shelter 3 years ago and I have no regrets, she's the most amazing dog I've ever known and she's helping me become a better dog owner. There are so many great dogs in the shelter system - the biggest variety anyone could ever wish for.


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