For some the term “shelter dog” conjures up images of strays; untrained or unsociable animals that are not suitable for family life. Many dogs, however, were given away when their owners could no longer care for them. Some common reasons dogs are given up are:
- Job loss (can no longer afford pet care)
- Illness or death
- Landlord problems
- Lack of time (due to new job, school)
- New baby
Sometimes the issue is simply lack of education or preparation. Often people buy a puppy impulsively, (they are awfully cute), only to realize that a dog is more of a responsibility than they have time or money for. The tiny puppy in the pet store only stays tiny for so long, and the owner may not have realized how much energy that breed has, or how big that particular dog may get.
But I Want a Specific Breed…
Adoption doesn’t necessarily mean mixed breed or “mutt”. Most recognized breeds have rescue agencies even purebreds are given to shelters on occasion. If you are set on a specific breed, the boxer for example, an online search is usually all it takes to find a boxer rescue in your area-especially if you are near a major city.
One plus side of using a breed rescue is that they often foster their dogs before placing them for adoption. This allows the agency to provide information on how the dog does with children and other animals. If not, sites such as Petfinder.org allow you to search by the breed, age, and sex of the dog you’re looking for and usually provide a little information about their history as well.
I’d Really Like a Puppy
Puppies are put up for adoption too, usually after an owner realizes what a hassle a young, untrained dog can be. Puppies are cute and definitely worth the patience and responsibility required to own one, but there is a lot to be said for an older dog who is past the stage of chewing on toes, shoes, and anything else that moves, and can go several hours without having an accident.
It’s also easier to gauge the temperament of an older dog quickly. Puppies are all pretty full of energy, so it’s hard to know which will eventually become a dog that lounges in front of the fire, and which will be the one that runs alongside you as you jog.
You should be able to tell what kind of activity level an adult dog has after spending a short time together. Many shelters will allow you to spend some time with a dog you’re considering, either taking it for a walk around the shelter or having a short visit outside of the kennel it’s being housed in. Once the dog has gotten over its initial glee of having someone pay attention to him, he should settle into his usual level of activity.
Help Put an End to Puppy Mills
Not every puppy comes from a puppy mill, and not every pet store buys from one, but many do. Puppy mills are basically dog factories where animals are kept in substandard conditions, given minimal care, and often have health and socialization problems as a result. It’s hard to resist the cute puppy faces staring out from the pet store cages, and it may feel like you’re doing a good thing by buying one and “rescuing” them, but in reality that’s one more empty cage for the puppy mill to fill, and they will.