By Dr. Becker
Tomorrow, December 2nd, is National Mutt Day!
When you visit the National Mutt Day1 website, the first thing you notice (below the photo of the adorable mutt, of course), is this:
July 31st AND December 2nd
Why two dates?
Because the majority of shelters are filled with mixed breed dogs and they
NEED A CHANCE
I couldn’t agree more. Mixed breed dogs account for about 75 percent of the U.S. shelter population, so every time a homeless dog is adopted, it means one less animal is languishing in the system or being euthanized.
Every shelter dogs needs and deserves a chance.
‘In every heart there is a hole… in every shelter… there is LOVE to fill it.’
National Mutt Day was created in 2005 by Colleen Paige, a pet and family lifestyle expert.2
The purpose of National Mutt Day is to celebrate and help save the lives of mixed breed dogs. The goal is to raise awareness of the plight of lovable, deserving mutts living in shelters across the U.S., waiting with hope and patience for a family to take them home.
10 Great Reasons to Adopt a Mutt
- You have your choice of size and color. Mutts come in all sizes -- small, medium, large, and XL. They come with short, long, curly, or wiry coats in every color. They may have small ears that stand up, or big floppy ears that flap in the wind. Mutts come with long or short legs, and big fluffy tails, or no tail at all. Whatever your taste in canine companions, you can find a mixed breed dog to fit the bill.
- You can pick a furry pal of any age. If raising a puppy isn’t something you’re ready to tackle, no problem. There are plenty of wonderful adult and senior mixed breed dogs available at local shelters. In addition, many adult shelter dogs were once members of a family, are already house trained, and respond to verbal commands.
- You can find a dog to fit your lifestyle. You might be looking for a very friendly dog, or one who's more protective. Perhaps you want a four-legged jogging partner or a cuddly little fellow who enjoys snuggling on the couch. Whatever your lifestyle, there's a dog waiting in a shelter right now who will fit perfectly.
- Each mutt is truly unique. Purebred dogs are predictable in both appearance and temperament as a result of specific genetic characteristics. A mixed-breed pup, on the other hand, is the product of different breeds – at least two, and often several. Mutts often look and behave like no other dog you've ever known!
- Mixed breeds can be healthier than purebreds. Studies have found the average mixed breed dog is less prone to disease and has a longer lifespan than the average purebred dog. This is in part due to the theory of hybrid vigor, which holds that as a group, dogs of varied ancestry will be healthier than their purebred counterparts.
- You don’t have to spend a lot of money. Animal shelter adoption fees are much more affordable than the cost of a purebred dog. But keep in mind that every dog requires a nutritious diet, routine vet visits, obedience training, grooming supplies, bedding, a collar and leash, toys, and other odds and ends.
- Many mutts are fabulous athletes. Canine events and competitions aren’t just for purebreds. If your mixed breed dog is healthy and active, he can compete in agility, nose work, flyball, canine disc, freestyle, lure coursing, dock jumping, obedience, rally, and more.
- Mutts tend to be laid-back. Mixed breed dogs often do not exhibit the extremes in temperament and behavior that some purebreds do. Mutts also tend to score better in terms of stability, friendliness, shyness, aggression, and protectiveness.
- It can be fun to discover which breeds make up your mutt. Doggy DNA tests are growing in popularity as more pet owners realize the value of learning something about the breeds that make up their furry family member. I have a friend who adopted a 5-pound Chihuahua mix at her local shelter, and after she’d had him about a year, for the fun of it, she DNA tested him. Turns out the little guy is a regular ancestry stew of Chihuahua, Pomeranian, Bichon Frise, Whippet, Miniature Pinscher, Havanese, and Australian Cattle Dog!
- A wide selection of mixed breed dogs of every size, shape, age, gender, and temperament is available from animal shelters and rescue organizations across the U.S. Wonderful, deserving mixed breeds make up the vast majority of adoptable dogs – about 75 percent -- at animal shelters, humane societies, and rescue organizations across the country. When a shelter dog is adopted by a loving, responsible owner, that's one less dog institutionalized or euthanized. Everyone wins!
Tips for Finding the Mutt of Your Dreams
Do your homework. Especially if you’re a first-time dog guardian, you'll need to do lots of research to understand which breeds are best suited for your activity level and lifestyle. The dog's age will also be a factor – puppies and young dogs generally require more effort than older dogs.
Keep in mind that not all small breeds are lap dogs. Some small dogs are very high energy and require lots of daily exercise. Some large breed dogs have low exercise requirements and can be content living in relatively small quarters.
Before you decide on a dog, talk with knowledgeable shelter employees about what kind of pup best suits you, especially in terms of temperament. Allow them to point you in a direction, and keep your brain engaged as well your heart so that you can make the best choice for both you and the dog you adopt.
Be aware that many dogs in shelters have behavior problems. This isn't the fault of the dogs. They depended on humans for their socialization and training, and someone along the way let them down.
Because your prospective canine companion may come to you with baggage, you should be prepared to put in the time and effort required to help him succeed in your home. Behavior modification using a positive reward system is the key to encouraging good behavior and extinguishing undesirable behavior. You may be able to accomplish this on your own, or you may need the help of your vet or an animal behavior specialist (American College of Veterinary Behaviorists). Just please commit to do it. Be the one human in your dog's life who doesn't let him down.
To help your dog adjust to your home in the least stressful manner, consider getting a copy of A Sound Beginning prior to her arrival. You can institute the book’s tips and tricks (as well as use the calming and stress reducing musical CD) immediately upon bringing your newest family member home.
If You’re Not Quite Ready to Take the Plunge…
If you aren’t in a position right now to adopt a shelter dog, in honor of National Mutt Day, consider making a financial donation – no matter how small – to your local animal shelter.
You can also call your local shelter to learn what supplies they’re running short on and make a donation of food or other necessities.