This is the first post of a two part article I am going to write about the pros and cons about getting a dog from a shelter vs getting one from a breeder. There is a lot to consider when getting any dog and that decision should never be made lightly. When you decide on getting a dog you will hear a lot of people tell you to only get a dog from a shelter instead of a breeder. It is true that over breeding is a serious problem. Shelters everywhere are full of dogs just waiting for a good home. However, there is a lot to consider when getting a dog from a shelter.
The one thing I don’t like about shelters is the misuse of the word “rescue.” You will hear people tell you they “rescued” a dog from a shelter. In a lot of cases, that’s just not true. Yes, there are dogs that were abused, abandoned, and used as breeders in puppy mills. Those dogs were truly rescued from their previous home. However, there are a lot of dogs that were given up by loving owners for various reasons. Maybe the dog was aggressive and the owner didn’t know what to do. Maybe the owner had to make a life change and couldn’t keep the dog anymore. Maybe they had a child who became allergic to the dog and the owner gave the dog up for the health of their child. These dogs are not “rescues”. They were re-homed. They had good, loving homes. I prefer the word “re-homed” or “adopted”. It is unfair to the previous owner who loved and cared for the dog. In fact, the owner did what they thought was best at the time. They are not evil, horrible people.
There are also a lot of dogs in shelters with all kinds of behavior problems. When you adopt an adult dog from a shelter a lot of times you do not know that dog’s past. Why was the dog given up? Was it an escape artist who the owner couldn’t keep in the yard? Was it destructive and chewed up everything in sight? Is the dog potty trained? A lot of shelters will tell you their dogs are potty trained. Think about it, these dogs are kept in crates the majority of the day how on earth can anyone know if they are potty trained or not? I have seen so many dogs over the years taken back to the same shelter because the owner had no clue what they were getting into.
I volunteered at a shelter years ago. My very first day a lady came in with a beagle. She was very upset. She was sobbing as she told a worker she could not keep the dog she adopted 2 weeks earlier because she had no idea the kinds of issues the dog had. In 2 weeks the dog managed to get out of the yard 7 times. It was destructive and tore up everything. Yes, these issues could have been managed and worked on, however, this owner had no idea of the dog’s past or why it was given up. I believe all shelters should do interviews with owners before they are allowed to adopt a dog. Unfortunately, with overcrowded shelters, that just isn’t practical for most shelters. A lot of times you see dogs being taken to Petsmart or craft fairs so they can be adopted out to make more room for other dogs who need homes. However, I don’t think having someone sign a piece of paper and handing them a dog is the way to go. Every adult dog that comes into any home NEEDS training. I don’t care where you got the dog from. We can reduce the number of dogs brought back to shelter by informing owners, conducting interviews, and offering support and training. This is the reason I offer free consults and discounted training to an owner who adopts a shelter dog. I believe more trainers need to work with shelters. Shelters need to inform owners about the reality of what they are getting into. It’s easy to over look the bad when you are face to face with a pair of big brown eyes. However, owners need to be realistic. If you adopt an adult dog don’t expect the dog to be a perfect member of the family. Chances are the dog has had no formal obedience training. You will need a good trainer who knows what they are doing to help you teach your how to be a well behaved dog.
With a lot of love, understanding and training most shelter dogs can be great members of the family.
Christina McClure, ABCDT
Certified Dog Trainer