Rescue dogs are not automatically the perfect family pet. The “adopt don’t shop” people did their job too well. Since the movement started, the public has been brainwashed and guilted into thinking the only good way to get a pet is through a rescue. That’s just wrong. Rescue dogs are in rescue for a reason. And that reason is almost always some problem with the dog.
The reason may be physical, training, or personality. But almost invariably, the dog has issues. In our current class there’s a Newfoundland adopted from a rescue. They told the adopter that the dog was given up by the Amish puppy mill because she was “too small” to show in conformation. Poppycock. Amish puppy millers don’t show their dogs in conformation. There are only two reasons they surrender dogs. Either they’re sterile, or they don’t allow rough handling. Puppy mills consider dogs livestock and don’t tolerate dogs with opinions.
Pets not projects
Almost every single dog adopted from a shelter or rescue is damaged in some way. Almost always, they’re not pets. They’re projects. The ironic thing is that the dog’s true personality won’t show itself for about three months after the adoption. That’s how long it takes for a dog to figure out it’s home and doesn’t have to be on “best behavior” at all times.
And in that initial “honeymoon” phase, the adopter falls in love with the dog and can’t imagine giving them up.
So they do whatever they know, and can afford, to “fix” the dog. And feel like failures when the issues don’t go away. Sometimes people become prisoners to the dog’s issues. It doesn’t only happen with big dogs. Two of the worst cases we ever met were little dogs.
A Chihuahua didn’t allow anyone except her owner to handle her, and even that was iffy. She went ballistic if anyone came into the house, so the woman’s grandchildren couldn’t come. She bit her owner repeatedly. And because the owner sort-of liked her dog “protecting” her, she chose not to do anything about it. Not even realizing that her dog was making her life smaller, not better.
Another case was a Shih Tzu that no one, including the owner, could touch. That was particularly problematic since it meant the dog couldn’t be groomed. Again, the owner was held prisoner because she loved her little jailer. It was challenging to fit this dog into a harness. We had to keep throwing treats to him, one in front throwing treats on the floor, the other getting the harness on the dog. We wore gloves and he still drew blood.
Why it’s happening
The large “humane” organizations have huge budgets and spend a good chunk of that money convincing the public to feel sorry for dogs. That rescuing them is always the right thing to do. It’s not. Not all dogs can, or should, be saved. Some are so damaged that it’s doing them no favors to keep them in a shelter situation. It would be even worse to unleash them on unsuspecting adopters.
One of the worst nights we ever had as trainers was when we told a family their adopted dog had to be returned to the shelter they got her from. It was, in fact, three months after they’d gotten the dog. And as the dog showed her true self, she became a danger to the three small children in the family, snapping and biting. We got bitten, the mother was bitten, one of the children was bitten.
But the little boy loved his rescue dog and couldn’t understand why we couldn’t “fix” her. It may have been possible, over time. If the entire family was willing to schedule their life around the dog’s needs. That’s a project not many people can, or should, take on.
Don’t feel guilty
Think about what you want for your family when you’re getting a dog. Realize that everyone has to be on board and willing to train, with a rescue dog. If you just want a nice pet for the family, do the research that requires. Don’t walk into a shelter and fall in love with a fuzzy face. The next decade and more of your life will be shared with this dog. You can’t choose your family, but you can choose your dog.
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