When thinking about adopting a new dog, some people shy away from shelters and rescue facilities. They falsely believe that rescue dogs are broken in some way. Therefore, they opt instead to adopt from a breeder or pet store, largely due to misheld beliefs about shelter dogs. It is a common myth that shelter dogs have more problems and have been given away because of behavioral or mental health issues.
I can assure you that this is a myth! Any dog can develop emotional or physical problems. It all depends on genetics, environment, and training. Most people who have adopted from a shelter can attest to the fact that rescue dogs are not broken!
Dogs who end up in shelters have had some life experience and want a second chance. Rescue dogs are loyal, grateful, and make great companions and pets.
Why Dogs End Up in Shelters
There are two primary types of animal shelters: the government or community shelters (sometimes known as pounds) and rescue facilities. Community shelters mostly take in abandoned, surrendered, and stray animals. Rescue facilities are often private organizations that provide temporary shelter and/or foster care for animals that have been saved from horrific circumstances such as puppy mills, racing, abuse, or neglect. See my post What Does the Term Rescue Dog Mean? for more information about these facilities.
So, if you adopt a dog from a rescue facility, you most likely will be dealing with some post-trauma issues. Be sure to see my post How to Comfort and Heal Rescue Dogs for a broader overview of raising rescue dogs and dealing with past trauma. Regardless of their past challenges, however, rescue dogs are remarkable. They have already survived some tough times, and they are yearning for some kindness. But given time, these poor souls can heal and become the most loyal, lovable dogs you could ever imagine! Most other dogs who end up in shelters are often there due to family/owner circumstances, but not because they are broken or unlovable.
Here is a brief list of the most common reasons dogs end up in local shelters. As you can see, most of the reasons have nothing to do with the dog.
- Owner has died
- Family has moved
- Landlord does not allow pets
- Financial or family crisis
- The dog becomes sick
- Cost of owning a pet
- New job and not enough time for pet care
- Biting or barking
- Stray dog that has run away or become lost
- Too many people or animals in home
- Various Behavioral Issues
Most Issues Can Usually be Dealt With
First of all, owners who surrender their dogs due to behavioral problems may have given up too soon. As an example, potty training a pup or young dog takes time, consistency, and patience. Dogs also need to be socialized properly with other dogs and people at an early age or they may become fearful or aggressive. See this great 2019 article in the Long Island Press about how shelter dogs are not damaged goods. Also see my post Are Rescue Dogs More Aggressive? for more information.
Secondly, a lot of first-time owners did not anticipate the time commitment involved with owning and raising a dog. Dogs need both training and positive attention to become happy, well-behaved members of the family. They can’t just learn on their own. Again, your rescue dog is not broken. All dogs need help and guidance to learn how to fit in.
Finally, a lot of people are often surprised at how much owning a pet costs which can average anywhere from $1,500–$9,900 annually. See my post about seniors adopting dogs for more information about the cost.
It is true, however, that some dogs can have clinical and severe mental health problems just like humans. And, In some cases, dogs who have suffered past abuse may not fully recover. But even in these situations, behavioral specialists may be able to help. And, any dog can suffer from mental health issues, even purebreds or dogs raised from puppies.
Advantages of Adopting a Rescue Dog
Probably the number one reason to adopt a rescue dog is that they will be loyal and forever grateful! A dog who has been around the block, knows a good deal from a bad one!
Additionally, shelters have all kinds of dogs in their shelters just waiting for a second chance in life! You can have your pick of puppies and dogs of all ages and breeds. You will probably find more mixed breeds than purebreds, but mutts make great pets. See my post about why adopting mutts can be better.
I am sharing this wonderful quote which rescue facilities frequently use on their websites, and I think it says it all:
“Rescue dogs aren’t broken, they’ve simply experienced more life than other dogs. If they were human, we would call them wise. They would be the ones with tales to tell and stories to write, the ones dealt a bad hand who responded with courage. Don’t pity a rescue dog. Adopt one. And be proud to have his greatness by your side.” ~Author unknown
My own dogs, Georgia and Charlotte, were six years old when I adopted them. They are both female Pug/Cattle Dog mixed breeds, and the sweetest, most lovable dogs I could want! Their family had to surrender them due to a hardship situation, so they were given back to the kennel owner who had rescued them. Because they had lived together all of their lives, they were very bonded. Therefore, Tiffanie, the kennel owner, did not want to separate them.
But unfortunately, a lot of people passed them up as they only wanted one dog. And, a lot of trainers say that people should never adopt littermates, especially if they are both females. As a result, Georgia and Charlotte ended up staying in the kennel for nine months before I found them. I wanted two dogs, so they were a perfect match. I have adopted female siblings twice and both times it worked out fine.
Now, three years later, we are a very happy family. However, I did spend a lot of time training them. And, they spent a lot of time adjusting. But they seem very happy and settled in today, and I am glad we all manged to get through the transition. I cannot imagine my life without them now!
Not only are shelter dogs not broken, but they are also adorable, funny, and wonderfully loyal companions! By rescuing a dog from a shelter, you can help discourage puppy mill breeding and pet store sales where dogs are not treated well. You are rescuing two dogs — the one you take home and another dog who needs shelter.