Adopting a new dog can involve some difficult decisions. “What size dog do I want?” “What should I name him/her?” These are among the most common questions that arise when planning the addition of a new furry, four-legged family member. One other question that pet owners should consider is whether to adopt a shelter dog instead of purchasing a puppy from a breeder.
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a total of 10 million pets will arrive at animal shelters and animal rescue organizations in the United States this year. So there’s certainly no lack of selection when it comes to finding the perfect shelter dog.
Adopting a Shelter Dog is Literally Saving a Life
Most shelters are what are known as “kill shelters.” This means that elderly dogs, chronically ill dogs, dogs with serious behavioral or psychological damage, or dogs who have been in the shelter for a long period of time without finding a home are at risk of euthanasia.
So adopting a dog from a shelter may save your future best friend from euthanasia. Adopting a healthy, well-adjusted dog also frees up space to house older, chronically ill or harder-to-adopt dogs who may otherwise be put down.
Many Dogs are Already Housebroken and Trained
Not all dogs who end up at an animal shelter are “damaged goods.” In fact, 80 percent of shelter dogs land at the shelter due to a change in living situation (i.e. a move to an apartment that doesn’t allow pets), a change in family situation (i.e. a new baby), and others are surrendered to a shelter or rescue because their owner has died or is too ill to care for them any longer.
So while a minority of dogs at the shelter have been surrendered due to training or behavioral problems, MOST dogs are simply victims of circumstance.
Shelter Dogs Come With an Owner’s Manual…Literally!
When you adopt a puppy, you have no idea what that dog will evolve into when he matures. You have no idea what bad habits he’ll have, how big he’ll get, what his temperament will be like. You have no idea if he’ll get along with the children or if he’s incompatible with other dogs. With an adult dog, you know exactly what you’re getting into.
Animal shelters and rescue organizations provide new owners with an array of material on their new dog’s personality, temperament, habits and other general qualities on training, common behavior problems, feeding, general care and more. And many of the larger organizations offer free hotlines for questions on behavior, training, and care. However, all shelters and rescues encourage new owners to call back or visit if they have any questions. Breeders and pet stores generally offer no such support.
Pick From a Wide Array of Dogs
When it comes to shelter dogs, the rule is, there are no rules. Shelter dogs are young, old, healthy and chronically ill. They’re large and small, and there are purebreds and there are mixes. So there’s a chance a shelter nearby has that perfect dog, no matter what type of dog a potential owner is seeking.
And if the perfect dog has yet to arrive at a local shelter, soon-to-be dog owners should not fear. New dogs arrive at shelters and at rescue organizations every day, so check back on a weekly basis, or check the shelter or organization’s website for the latest profiles on adoptable pets.
Dog owners who adopt their canine friends from a shelter or rescue organization also have the benefit of taking home a pet that’s been already spayed or neutered. Virtually all rescue organizations and shelters neuter or spay all cats and dogs before placing them. And in the case where an animal is too young or too ill for the procedure, the new owner will be provided with a certificate to get the procedure performed for little or no cost.
For those who are into aesthetics, purebred shelter dogs are available at a fraction of the cost of what one would pay for a puppy from a breeder.