Ewww, who wants to do that?
Kerry and I have helped lots of dogs find new homes. We even visit animal shelters every week to re-place dogs who have less potential into fosters and specialty rescue groups that cater with rehabilitating certain temperaments. So many of these homeless dogs we help end up finding homes. But during the years, I've also tried to figure out why we couldn't get 100% of potential dog owners out of the puppy-buying phase.
After doing this for a few years now, I'm going to give you an opinion I've formulated. It's an opinion I've drawn up from the oodles of people who've brushed off the idea of adopting a dog.
The one question potential dog owners always ask when we find them a potential match is, "Where are they from?"
But really, what they're interested in knowing is how the dog came of existence. Are they purebred? Do they have champion dogs in their pedigree? Do they have papers? Are they AKC? "Because, you know, we might want to breed him later."
I'm somewhat surprised people who've never owned a dog know about these things; still clueless as can be though, these are the credentials many first time dog owners think a dog must have in order to be considered a worthy family member. I get the idea they probably also read one of those Top 10 Dog Breed articles before starting their search.
Little do these people know, a responsible dog breeder would never sell to them with the inclination of breeding.
I ask these people why any of those things matter, because they clearly stated they wanted a family pet. Had they mentioned they were interested in preserving a breed of dog, then I would have directed them over to someone who can mentor them in that aspect.
There are huge psychological barriers with accepting the idea of adopting a dog. Sort of like the beauty of creating your own children, buying a puppy from a breeder permits dog owners the very same opportunity of molding a personality from the very beginning. Settling for human-adoption is always a last resort for most humans, and a very rare, first option for very special people who see life a very different way.
Because this idea transcends to dogs, I've learned not to tell potential dog owners where I'm going to be searching for their dog. They have no clue on age, sex, or breed. Hustling potential dog owners to meet a few shelter dogs is no easy task. Not many people will give you a second of entertaining the idea of adopting a shelter dog; so tricking them into meeting mutts or purebreds who need a second chance in life is easier done than said—literally! People need to see for themselves that all dogs have the potential of being the perfect family dog.
Raising a puppy, and passing your seed are on different parallels, obviously. But the feeling one gets from raising their very own young is somewhat hardwired into every living creature. And the very thought of having to raise something that truly isn't yours, not so much.
I live with zero grudges toward those that really just want to buy a puppy. I'm sometimes nice enough to throw them a bone in the direction of some responsible dog breeders.
I always encourage experienced dog owners—of mutts, purebreds or both—to help family and friends understand the true meaning of owning the perfect family dog, because every dog is an exception.
A majority of shelter dogs are past the eight week mark—the age some authoritative sources tell people is the perfect age for introducing a puppy into a family.
What they fail to mention is, there is no dog too old that can't be introduced into a family. Eight weeks is when a puppy is psychologically and physically capable of leaving a setting they've grown accustom too. So it never means a dog past this age is a loss.
Older dogs sometimes know basic commands (sit, stay, come) and are potty trained. Plus, they'll never take your love for granted if you give them a new life. Older is better, in some cases.
Their past is a mystery
Sure, not knowing what happened in a dog's adolescent years could be a mystery not many are willing to chance. But dogs are full of mystery. It's not like knowing their past is going to help you talk to them. So what's a little more mystery in owning a dog?
Dogs learn to move on; dogs with the darkest of pasts never stop loving humans unconditionally. Don't let the thought of a possible abusive past scare you from adopting a dog. Seek advice from a seasoned dog-match-maker to help you choose a dog who's sane.
They're not purebred
Dog shelters are filled with purebreds, too, if that matters. People acquire dogs with temperaments that are not aligned to their lifestyle and end up surrendering their dog(s) to shelters. If you're set on a purebred dog, give breed specific rescues a gander or your city shelter a visit. You'll be surprised at the quality of crop that end up at these places.
"But they'll get neutered/spayed. What if I want to breed them later?" Don't. You don't know what you're talking about. That mindset is why there are so many dogs being euthanized every day.
Potential behavioral problems
What if they're menaces to society? Serious behavioral issues are easy to spot before adopting any dog. However, things like chewing or getting into the garbage should be the least of your concern as these bad habits can easily be corrected.
Think about it, even if you buy a puppy, you'll be training these things out of them from the beginning. Training and socializing a dog never ends. It's a lifetime commitment. So why should it matter how old a dog is when you implement training? Because if you still believe that old myth in which old dogs can't learn new tricks, you're gravely mistaken. Dogs never stop learning.
They might be unhealthy
Obviously no one is going to force you to adopt a dog with bowed legs and a skin disorder; however, they are the possible result of people who had the bright idea of breeding dogs with no study on the matter. Furthermore, certain allergies and environmental illnesses can not be avoided. Even dogs from health tested lines are susceptible to illness.
Unless a breeder health tests for genetic diseases in dogs prior to breeding, you'll be taking the same risk adopting a dog from a shelter as acquiring a puppy from a backyard breeder.
How many of you have been able to help dogs find new forever homes? How do you go about educating friends or family who are inclined with purchasing their dogs?