Shelter dog, how did he get here

Let’s talk about the rescued dog in the local dog shelter. In a recent article I sought to create awareness about dogs you find in a dog rescue shelter, but now let’s gain a greater understanding before you entertain dog shelter adoptions.

An abandoned dog may be in the dog shelter for any number of reasons. He may be a rescued dog, delivered from some great tragedy or depravity. But don’t overlook the reality that some dogs are abandoned simply because they were bad ones with psychological, emotional, or treatment-induced bad dog behaviors and obsessive dog behaviors that the previous owners could not handle. Beware! Don’t buy another man’s problems!

Shelter evaluations are not all created equal, and not all are to be trusted. To avoid potential heartache down the road, it is wise to get professional help in the assessment prior to selecting your pet. We discuss assessment of the dog adoption candidates in another article, but just remember to do it with open eyes and open mind. Still, do not overlook the fact that many rescued dogs (like my Border Collie, Gatsby) are fabulous animals and ideal pets. Gatsby’s story involves two of the major reasons many abandoned dogs wind up in dog rescue shelters:

(1) His first owners abandoned him simply because they were lazy, irresponsible and did not value their precious pet. (2) His next owners were loving and wonderful people, but they experienced catastrophic illness.

Yes, Gatsby needed some rehabilitation and further training when he came to me, but now he is a loving, beautiful, mellow, obedient, loyal, patient, balanced pet who steals people’s hearts right and left. He helps enforce “pack rules” when I am caring for and training other dogs in my home. He loves people but is cautious, and he would defend me with his life! Bottom line: There are wonderful animals just waiting for adoption in a dog shelter. But you must be prudent, informed, and careful. Affairs of the heart can be grossly misleading if not curbed with knowledge, understanding, reason and competence to do what is best for the one you choose. In other words, don’t be a “softie.”

Yes, I am very much for checking your local shelter or a dog breed rescue organization to see if a certain dog steals your heart. Every dog deserves a second chance, provided he is safe for a home environment. Indeed, good dog shelter adoptions can bring joy to a family.

Abandoned dogs include both mutts and purebred dogs and puppies. In fact, some twenty-five to thirty percent of dogs abandoned at shelters are purebred. My Gatsby was one.

But don’t eschew the mixed breeds, either. I have owned some wonderful mixes. However, mixed breeds can have their own health problems and can of worms, too many to mention here. Just make sure they are mixes of compatible breeds, because conflicts in natural instincts can in some cases cause incurable psychological problems.

For example, Labradors and Golden Retrievers have the same mindset… but a homebody who wants to be with his people mixed with a rugged individualist runner, such as a Lab-Huskie mix, will cause inner turmoil for the hapless pet. The behavioral results of such emotional problems may be the reason a certain dog was left at the shelter in the first place!

When will people “get it?” Dogs are not THROW AWAY! You can’t just take them “for a test drive” then dump them again. Unlike the plastic toys, “Puppy in my pocket” and “Littlest Pet Shop,” dogs have feelings, and proper treatment of them and care for them DO matter. Your decision is a serious one.

Rescued dogs often have a bad name because of the conflicts and other factors mentioned above… and because people who adopt them often feel that they need to make up for the dog’s sad past. They try too hard to do that, through love instead of providing structure.

If you don’t go away with anything else, please remember this: After having a sad or horrific past, your shelter dog deserves a chance to be a normal dog. Only that will make him happy … not coddling, caving in, and other signs of your weakness. His comfort and security are derived from your strength, consistency, and guidance as a true leader. Be one!

If your dog is scared of something, make him face it. The fear will then go away. NOT addressing the problem leaves him IN the problem….

Remember too, many shelter dogs are great animals. Just choose wisely, and treat them like you would any dog … so they get to live a full and happy dog life!