For anyone considering welcoming a new dog or any pet into their life ADOPTION should be your first choice. However, shelter animals unfortunately suffer from misconceptions which can be a deterrent for future dog parents… here is why they are nonsense:
Misconception 1: Most shelter dogs will have bad behavior from being treated poorly by previous owners
Firstly, dog behavior is decided by many factors; genetics, their socialization period, innate nature, nurture throughout their life, nutrition and simply their current circumstance. They are individuals, and this means that a dog from ANY avenue of life may have ANY personality. A puppy born in a shelter is likely to be incredibly well adjusted due to meeting so many other animals and people at a young age. Furthermore, if a shelter dog does have behavioral issues, they will not let you adopt it without preparation and understanding. Instead they will use positive reinforcement training to help the dog become a great candidate for re-homing.
This also makes an assumption that most dogs in a shelter have come from negligent backgrounds – which simply isn’t true. There are hundreds of reasons dogs come to a shelter– and it typically is from owners simply not being able to have the resources to keep a dog anymore, whether it be time, space or money (Salman et al 1997).
Misconception 2: I want a puppy! All shelter dogs are old
Shelters have a huge variety of animal ages, from puppies to senior citizens. By simply visiting your local shelters a few times this will become clear. It is also worth bearing in mind that while puppies are absolutely adorable – they also are a LOT of work. Puppies require a very specific regime for socialization and training them will require you to be home most hours of the day, to have a lot of patience, to be okay with shoes getting chewed up and to be happy cleaning up a variety of puppy bodily fluids on a regular basis. Puppy personalities can develop into unpredictable adult personalities even if you are very dedicated with your training, as they are individuals with their own nature!
Older dogs can be an amazing option as they will already have stronger more settled personalities – so you will be able to find a dog that fits in with your lifestyle and expectations for having a dog (e.g. are they happy staying at home a lot, do they need a lot of exercise, do they love kids). Whatever age dog you want to adopt, most adoption centers will encourage you to come and meet the dog a few times to get to know it before committing. This is a great opportunity to be certain you can provide a suitable home, and to avoid any risk of making a quick decision resulting in re-homing.
Misconception 3: I want a really cute dog but most shelter dogs are pit bulls…
Firstly, pit bulls can make brilliant pets. But if you do specifically want a certain breed. Guess what! Shelters receive all kinds of pedigree and mixed breed dogs; you may just need to be patient and get to know your shelter before you meet a dog you feel you can provide a great home for.
And if you aren’t convinced yet, here are some celebrity endorsements with their beautiful rescue dogs… It is no longer fashionable to spend $1000s on the latest trendy hybrid or pedigree dog, instead greater recognition of pedigree health problems is leading the rich and famous to go to their local shelter. If it’s good enough for Selena Gomez etc, it's good enough for me!
Misconception 4: Shelter dogs are unlikely to be in great health compared to a new puppy…
For centuries, humans have carefully bred dogs to fill specific roles: Chihuahuas to retrievers to spaniels and more have all been artificially selected to be lap dogs, hunters or guard dogs etc. An unfortunate by-product of this intensive breeding is that inbreeding a small pool of genes inevitably leads to health problems. Without going into too much detail; this is why cute dogs like pugs have such a hard time breathing and why German Shepherds suffer from painful hip dysplasia. By making different breeds fashionable we have created breeds which from birth are sentenced to pain, discomfort, and shorter predicted life spans. By choosing to adopt you are avoiding contributing to future pedigree breeding, and if you choose a mixed breed dog you are vastly reducing the chance of seeing a genetic disorder such as epilepsy or cataracts develop in your pet.
It is also true that the cost of adopting a shelter dog is typically MUCH less than buying at a pet store or going to a breeder. When you go to a breeder you are paying a premium to understand the genetic history and pedigree of that animal – however unless you are planning to show your dog or breed from it yourself, this is completely unnecessary. Also as a bonus – typically when you adopt from a shelter, your adoption fee will include vaccinations up to date, micro chipping and they will already be neutered.
After all the reasons listed above, it boils down to, that if you adopt: You will literally, be saving a life. Each year, millions of dogs are euthanized due to over-crowded shelters, with a huge proportion of them being suitable for adoption – but with nowhere to go. True numbers are hard to obtain, but in 1997 a comprehensive study found that 64% of cats and dogs relinquished to a shelter were euthanized rather than re-adopted. By simply adopting a dog, you are making a decision to not make a dog a commodity in a business exchange. You are rejecting puppy mills, backyard breeding and propagation of unhealthy pedigrees. Also by adopting even just one animal, you are helping 100s more, by making space at a shelter to house another family-seeking pup.
Lastly, while this blog is primarily about adopting a dog, it should be considered for ANY new pet. Zovargo endorses and has always supported adoption of animals. There are lots of organizations in San Diego that provide rescued animals a place to find a new family! Below is a sample list of animal adoption shelters in San Diego for a large variety of animals.
Wee companions for rodents - hamsters to guinea pigs!
Asher L, Diesel G, Summers JF, McGreevy PD, Collins LM. (2009). Inherited defects in pedigree dogs. Part 1: disorders related to breed standards. Vet J. 2009 Dec;182(3):402-11.
Dr. John G. New, Jr. and Dr. M. D. Salman , et al. (1998) “Human and Animal Factors Related to the Relinquishment of Dogs and Cats in 12 Selected Animal Shelters in the United States.” Journal of Applied Animal Welfare Science 1, no. 3: 207-226.