Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Shelter dogs, of course, make wonderful pets, friends, companions, and family members. Unfortunately, there are quite a few misconceptions about shelter dogs.
Let’s dispel some of those myths together and get more dogs into homes this month!
There are a LOT of dogs needing homes. Almost 7 million dogs and cats wind up in shelters each year. That number is an estimate since there isn’t a single organization tabulating shelter data, but of that approximation, slightly more than half are dogs. Lots do get adopted, but something like 670k+ are euthanized each year.
There are lots of puppies needing homes! Oftentimes, when I hear people say they want a puppy and shelters don’t have puppies, my first thought is, “Have you ever even BEEN in a shelter?!?!” There are often puppies, lots of accidental litters, dogs who deliver puppies in the shelter, and so on. If you don’t see them, it might just mean they’re in foster. Shelters have puppies, and those puppies all need families!
History doesn’t mean everything. Why a dog was relinquished or the situation the dog came from might be known. And it might not. Ultimately, the shelter staff can tell you what they’ve observed and learned about each dog while in their care, and those traits and characteristics matter more than any fuzzy, foggy, or unknown historical info.
Shelter dogs are perfectly trainable, as trainable as any other dog out there! Here’s something crazy to think about: Most dogs these days are bred for appearance. If you’re looking for a smarty pants or a dog who can be trained to work with you, you’re just as likely to find a match at your nearest shelter as you are a breeder. Obviously, if you’re looking for a purposefully-bred dog, like you need a dog to herd your flock of sheep, that’s a whole other conversation. I’m talking family pet dogs here. But a lot of people worry that they won’t be able to train a shelter dog, especially if the dog is older. The great news: That’s simply not true! Any dog, just like any person, can learn! And, bonus: You might even find yourself an dog who is already house trained. Lucas learned house training almost perfectly in the shelter and never had an accident after we adopted him, and Emmett was pretty darn close to perfect with his house training–and he was already three-ish years old!
Your adopted dog has a unique personality. Instead of thinking of your dog as “a shelter dog” or as “a rescue dog,” think of your dog as your dog. His or her own unique self. Getting to know your dog’s unique personality–and honoring it–is the most important thing you can do. However, it’s super important to remember that, while your dog has his or her own unique self…
… sometimes it takes a while for that personality to shine! There’s this super-simplistic 3-3-3 model for adopting a dog. It basically goes like this: The first three days a dog comes home, you’ll likely see a lot of stress behavior because the dog has no idea what just happened. Be extra patient during this time. The first three weeks, your new dog should feel a little settled it, at least as far as knowing the routine and the expectations. At this point, you’ll start to notice his true personality start to poke through. By three months, your dog should feel secure in your family and his place in it. At three months, your dog knows he’s home. Once you get to that point, that personality will start to shine! Here’s a great post that goes into detail along with tips.
Shelter dogs are NOT: dirty, flea-bitten, mangy, aggressive, or sick. Of course, some dogs can arrive at the shelter with some of those. Lucas had terrible mange, for instance. But shelter dogs as a rule aren’t unwell, problematic dogs. It’s a common misconception that prevents a lot of people from even stepping foot inside a shelter.
Shelter dogs ARE: wonderful pups who just need a chance. Sure, some will need extra TLC in terms of medical care or training, but how is that any different from any of us? They all deserve love and affection, and they all deserve a chance to be part of a family.
An older dog might just be the most perfect pet there is. Ready for a hot take? I don’t love puppies. There. I said it. Puppies drive me crazy. I don’t mind a puppy foster, but I’m pretty sure we’d never adopt a puppy again. Older dogs, that’s where it’s at! In my heart, someday when the girls are older, we want to take in a hospice foster, but even if you’re not looking for a senior–which I totally understand–I’m talking about three, four, five, six year old dogs who often get overlooked in the search for a puppy. These dogs have a little life under their belt. They’re never going to teethe again. They’re often more patient. They often have a deeper well of calm than any puppy is capable of. Lots of people avoid shelter dogs, assuming they’re all “too old,” but what if an older dog is the perfect dog?
You and your shelter dog can create a deep, lasting, lifelong bond. Your relationship with your dog can become one of the most meaningful of your life, if you just give your pup the chance.
What other myths about shelter dogs have YOU heard? I’d love to know what else we can tackle together, so please leave your thoughts in the comments!
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