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Pet Adoption

Is it safe to adopt a dog when you don’t know the history of the pet?

October 6, 2020 5 min read
Pet Adoption

Bringing a new dog into your home is a fantastic opportunity to expand your family and grow your love. A dog will be a lifelong companion, so it makes sense to take your time choosing the perfect dog for you. While most people understand the implications of adopting from a shelter rather than a breeder, people are understandably hesitant to adopt a dog in which the past history is a mystery. Luckily, with an owner that has adoption knowledge, a solid plan in place, and a patient mindset a shelter dog can have a second chance at life and become a loyal and loving friend.

Shocking Figures

Within the United States, more than 85 million families own a dog, and this number has steadily increased in the past 20 years. While many of these dogs may have come from the shelter, a good portion of dogs came from breeders. The shelter and humane society system in the United States is continuously seeing a stream of surrendered or lost cats and dogs that are in desperate need of a home. The shocking figures show that many shelters are quickly becoming overrun, which can lead to overcrowding and, unfortunately unnecessary euthanasia.

Somewhere between 6 and 8 million cats and dogs find themselves in a shelter or rescue every single year. Of these animals, nearly 3 million cats and dogs are euthanized every year, accounting for nearly half of all animal intakes. Of these 3 million euthanized animals, more than 80% of them, or 2.5 million, are healthy or have minor diseases and conditions which can be easily treated or cured. The cold hard facts point to the fact that failure to adopt and rescue dogs from the humane society results in unnecessary deaths of otherwise healthy cats and dogs.

Weighing the Pros and Cons

An adorable puppy direct from a high end breeder can be pretty tough to turn down. Compare this to an older dog, maybe a few years of age, with an unknown past and undetermined lineage. Adopting a pet from a shelter, compared to a breeder, certainly comes with advantages and disadvantages, which must be considered and weighed in your decision to add a new family member.

  • Cons: Often the past history and lineage of a shelter dog is unknown. While not a serious issue to most pet owners, it can be difficult to predict and anticipate potential genetic diseases and conditions that your dog may be predisposed to. Further, behavioral challenges may stem from a horrible past, which was out of your control. Overcoming poor behavior can be difficult if you do not know the triggers or rationale behind certain actions.
  • Pros: Plain and simple, adopting a shelter dog saves a life, and potentially makes an available space to save the life of another dog surrendered to the shelter. Often, pet owners are able to adopt some pretty incredible mixed breed dogs that are unique, stunning, and one of a kind. A shelter dog adoption fee is much lower compared to the cost of a purebred dog, and often the funds go directly to the care of other animals at the shelter.

Keys To Success

When adopting a dog from the shelter you are saving a life. To enjoy a lifetime of happiness with your dog it is important to understand the keys to a successful adoption. Patience, understanding, and determination are key to building a strong bond with your shelter dog that will last for a lifetime.

Homework and Research

Understandably, most dogs that find themselves rescued in a shelter do not come with a history book or a manual for care. This can leave questions surrounding your new pet's past. In order to make an adoption successful it is important to do as much homework and research prior to adopting your dog. First, understand what it means to be a pet owner and fully research the care and attention a dog needs. Talk to a shelter adoption manager and let them know what you want, and don't want in a dog. The shelter workers stay in close contact with the surrendered dogs, and know their personalities and traits better than anyone. If possible, talk to the adoption agent about any and all history about the dog prior to bringing your dog home.

Accept Flaws

As much as we hate to admit it, nobody is perfect. The same can be said for dogs too. Every dog is going to have some flaw, challenge, or behavioral trait that is difficult to work with, and that's OK. To ensure a successful adoption, you must have an open mind. The challenge with a shelter dog is that you don't know the animal's past, which could be traumatic. Be patient, kind, and understanding. In general, shelters will recommend the 3-3-3 Rule. A dog will usually take about 3 days to relax after the move to your home, 3 weeks to feel more like himself, and about 3 months until the dog fully accepts you as his new family.

Create a Plan

Part of accepting the flaws in your dog means that you are fully aware that a larger problem may pop up. This could be anything from a medical challenge to a behavioral issue. The most important key to success when adopting a shelter dog is to have a plan in place should the worst happen. A solid plan can mean having a trusted and professional veterinarian to go to in the event of illness, or it can mean enrolling in targeted and professional obedience training. Without knowing your pet's history, you are unaware of any past training. A basic obedience training class is a great way to help your dog understand the fundamentals and your expectations so that he or she can settle into your home more quickly. Being willing and able to work through challenges as they arise will ensure ongoing success and happiness for both you and your adopted dog.