It may seem like a daunting task having to choose one homeless dog out of thousands in your surrounding shelters to call your forever friend. Because all dogs deserve to be loved. If you're like me, you walk out every shelter a bit wistful because you're a couple acres short and millions of dollars too broke to care for all of them.
I've made it sort of my mission to convince people to adopt older dogs. And when I say old, I'm referring to all dogs over 12 months of age.
For first time dog owners, adopting an older dog is an easier process than it is buying a puppy from a responsible dog breeder. When you get a puppy, you get just that: a puppy. Not every human can handle the first couple years of rearing and molding a dog's behavior. It's time consuming and requires a lot of patience; with even more character if you're raising a tenacious breed of dog. Dogs' genetics will always try and interfere with the molding process. This is the biggest reason why so many owners give up and surrender their dogs to shelters. And it's never that they were dogs from hell. Quite the contrary; these dogs were owned by people who weren't committed to raising a dog through its adolescent years. Underestimating a breed of dog is a recipe for disaster. This is where I'm assuming the phrase: Dog From Hell, came about. Keep in mind, there is no such thing as a bad dog, there are only bad dog owners. So technically, Owner From Hell.
The concoction of old and young, short and tall, mellow and excited dogs in shelters offers potential dog owners unlimited opportunity for adopting the absolute perfect dog. There is every dog personality for every kind of human in a dog shelter.
Don't be fooled
One main reason people prefer to adopt a puppy than an older dog is because first time dog owners have little to no knowledge of what puppies truly are underneath. A rambunctious puppy can easily distract potential adopters from what a dog's true personality will develop into. You need to remember to take genetics into consideration. The idea of starting with a clean slate and molding a puppies personality sounds like a foolproof way of raising a dog. So people think. Make sure you can put in the extra effort should your puppy develop into two handfuls. If you're considering adopting a very young dog, always seek help from someone (shelter staff) who have experience with all the dogs in the shelter on a day-to-day basis.
Don't worry if a dog seems overly shy or uninterested with making eye contact inside their shelter kennel. Animal shelters are depressing for dogs—they all wonder what they're doing locked in a facility with hundreds of dogs they've never met. Leave the bonding and love-at first sight stuff for when you get a one-on-one session away from the chaos. Outside of their kennel and away from other dogs is where you'll get to see a dog exercise their true potential.
Older dogs are perfect for almost every family
Older dogs (12 months and older) have their personalities on full display. A majority of older shelter dogs are potty trained, understand basic commands (come, sit, stay), and will never take your love for granted. The only true test that presumes is for human to understand dog. No matter how old a dog may be, a dog will never grow out of bad habits if they are never trained out of them.
Adopting an older dog can sometimes mean adopting a dog who's developed certain social behaviors that are not to your liking. But dogs are awesome, because they never stop learning. Regardless of how old a dog may be, training and socializing needs to be a part of everyday life; and things like getting into the garbage or tearing up furniture can easily be corrected.
Adopting the perfect dog is easy if you disconnect from your ego
Just because you enjoy the TV show Lassie, or breed of dog with certain features that fascinate you, does not mean that particular breed of dog suits you. Granted, there are special cases where working breeds just love being lap dogs, realize that is almost never the case. Purebred dogs (yes, even they are in shelters) and mixed dogs all have a history composed of selective breeding which give them specific temperaments. For example, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, have a super-dog kind of history; being the legendary lion hunters of the African desert, they were bred to run at incredibly fast speeds, are loaded with rounds of stamina, and posses a very large build. As one could imagine, they're kind of a big deal. The Rhodesian's unique "ridge" along their back could be the sole characteristic that motivates someone to own a Rhodesian. However, these kind of scenarios is why there are so many purebred dogs in shelters, too.
Forcing a dog to fit a role they're not designed to be in is the reason why dogs aren't given the chance to be the perfect family pet. Recognizing a dog's genetic-makeup should give you an idea what kind of owners they call for.
Dogs exist because they were bred to work and help with the advancement of early man. The chores of early man have since been replaced by technological achievements. Dogs, however, remain the same hardwired, flesh and bone. Humans, not so much.
Shelter dogs should cost thousands of dollars
Owning a mixed dog is like having the best of both worlds. Can't make your mind up between adopting a Pit Bull or a Boxer? Get both, in one! You can find the most interesting mixed dogs at dog shelters. It's hard to believe that there is a market for crossing dogs and selling them as "designer dogs" for thousands of dollars. It's sad when people pay exorbitant amounts, considering animal shelters are overflowing with "designer dogs." Because if you're not fully aware, a "designer dog" is simply a uniquely mixed dog.
I've been attending conformation dog shows for quite some time, and the cutest dogs I've ever come across (and where I squeal like a kid exclusively) are at dog shelters. Some of the mixed dogs I run into are full of personality. They're unidentifiable as a particular breed and are simply stunning to look at. There is no need to fuel the
black market of designer puppy buying; you can find these wonderful dogs waiting for forever homes at every animal shelter.