October is Adopt a Shelter Dog month! Pet adoption rates have soared this year, a small upside of the coronavirus pandemic, which has inspired people across the country to welcome new animals into their homes. There are still some lingering myths associated with shelter dogs, however, so here I'm going to address the top five.
1. Most of the animals in shelters have behavioral issues
This is the number one myth associated with shelter dogs. But it is not true: most dogs end up in shelters through no fault of their own. One of most common reasons dogs are relinquished to shelters is simply the owners' inability to care for them, due to financial hardship, illness, a change in housing, or landlord issues.
While some dogs in shelters do indeed have "behavioral issues" any and all dogs can exhibit undesirable behavior given the right (or wrong) circumstances. Most often the undesirable behavior we see in dogs (unwarranted barking and even bite history) is just masked anxiety and fear-based behavior brought on by either a lack of guidance and neglect or a series of miscommunications between dogs and their owners. One study found that people with uncompromising expectations of dog ownership were most likely to take the family dog back to the shelter instead of taking the time and effort to work through problems.
With a little bit of time, guidance, positive reinforcement training, and love, behavioral issues can almost always be managed or resolved.
2. Purebred dogs
A lot of people have their heart set on a purebred dog, and are under the impression that you can't find one at a shelter or through a rescue organization. The good news is this couldn't be further from the truth! According to the ASPCA approximately 25% of dogs relinquished to shelters are purebred. In fact, there are many rescue organizations that are dedicated to and specialize in purebred dogs. Did you know that the Labrador retriever is the second most popular breed of dog found in shelters? So, if you have your heart set on a purebred dog check your local rescue organizations first before going to a breeder.
And, by the way, if you opt not to adopt a dog from a shelter or rescue, a reputable, verified breeder is the only way to go. The Baroo does not support purchasing a dog from a pet store or unvetted online source. Most often those animals come from "puppy mills" and are raised in unhealthy, inhumane conditions.
Luckily, here in California we are leading the charge by changing the law to require all pet stores to only feature adoptable shelter pets.
3. I want a puppy
Puppies are in high demand and shelters and rescues do indeed have puppies. They are often adopted quickly so be patient! Oftentimes you can reach out to a rescue and be put on a list to be matched with the right puppy for you and your family. While puppies are adorable, sweet, and cuddly, they do require a lot of work and attention so make sure you are prepared for and understand what it takes to raise a puppy through to adulthood. And, of course, don't overlook the benefits of a sweet-tempered, chill, and potty-trained older dog!
4. Health issues
Another misconception about shelter pets is that they have health issues.
But almost all adoptable dogs in shelters are healthy and ready to be adopted. And remember, if you opt for a mixed-breed dog they tend to be genetically healthier than purebreds ( the concept of Mendelian inheritance) and present a lower risk of some pretty big issues such as
And of course, the most common health issues found in shelter dog are easily treatable, like
Fleas and ticks
Reputable shelters and rescues evaluate each dog at intake and will provide basic veterinary care including spay and neutering and vaccinations.
5. I won't know what to expect from this dog.
Much of the fear around adopting a dog from the shelter stems from the fact that you might not know much about the dog's history. While this may be true, shelters and rescues do their best to assess the temperament and health of a dog under their care. A reputable rescue will have protocols in place to try to ensure the dog you choose is the right fit for you and your family. Shelter living can be an incredibly stressful experience for animals, often times a rescue will place a dog in a foster home to decompress before it goes up for adoption. This not only allows the dog to start to feel safety and love but it also allows the foster "parent" to get a true sense of the dog's personality and behavior. With that being said, there are no guarantees. Regardless of whether they come from a shelter or a breeder, dogs are individual sentient beings and no matter how prepared or knowledgeable you are adoption can present challenges. With patience, care, and commitment hopefully the rewards of owning a pet will outweigh those challenges.