I’ve had a note to myself, sitting on my computer for the last month to write this particular blog post.
It might be hard to understand what I mean by “don’t adopt because you feel bad,” so I will explain. It seems all to often people are swayed by their emotions when it comes to adopting a dog. Having created many campaigns geared at getting dogs adopted out of our shelter system, I’d like to be clear on something very important. Adopting a dog is a decision that lasts for many years, and because of that should be carefully evaluated. Yes, the warm and fuzzy feelings of saving a life is enough to make people jump in with both feet, but you have to think about the logistical aspects and long term ramifications of what you are doing. A dog is a commitment for many years, not just for today. This dog will be a member of your family for the next 10 or more years. The feeling of sympathy that you are feeling today will soon pass and you’ll be dealing with the reality of what you just got yourself into for many years. This often creates a resentful person, and that is not fair to you or your new dog.
I don’t say these things to be harsh, but to be realistic. All to often as a dog trainer I see people complaining that the dog they rescued is turning out to be a nightmare to both them and their dogs. If you’re adopting a dog to save his life, you need to understand that this dog, no matter how bad you feel, will need structure. Feeling bad because he was living in the shelter, and was about to be put down, will make you treat him in a state he’s not used to. Dogs are very resilient creatures, and all too often I see people hanging on to the negative past of the dog long after the dog has forgotten, or should I say “moved on.”
The recidivism rate at shelters is a testament to what I am saying. Some shelters have over a 50% return rates on dogs that were adopted. This is in part due to: no screening, evaluation or consulting on what people are getting into. Dogs do have feelings and shuffling them around from place to place, shelter to home, home to rescue and so on creates dogs with behavioral issues.
When people first bring rescue dogs into their homes with their personal dogs, they often drop the ball on the introductions. If the dogs get along at first, they think that all is well and they forget about it. Eventually there will be an issue, and both dogs and people would be better served to understand the proper way to introduce a new dog into a home. I cover this in my article on www.blackbletdogtraining.com called “Bringing Home the New Dog.”
Adopting a dog is a decision of compassion, but it must be infused with a dose of logic. Take your time, understand what you are getting into and do your homework. Saving a life is one of the most important things you will ever do. Be sure that you are in fact saving the life and making that commitment. It requires some thinking about the dog and your situation.