By Dr. Becker
October is Adopt a Shelter Dog month, and the purpose is to bring awareness to the estimated 3 to 4 million animal who are euthanized each year in U.S. shelters. Sadly, too many people give up their pets, and too few people adopt from shelters.
When there's no room left to house more abandoned animals, and if kill shelters have not put innovative foster programs into place, shelter staffs are forced to make heart-wrenching decisions about who lives and who dies. That’s why I hope all of you reading here today who may be planning to add a furry family member to your household will visit your local shelter or private rescue organization and open your home to a deserving dog who doesn’t have one.
10 Great Reasons to Adopt a Shelter Dog
1. There are many dogs to choose from at most shelters. They come in both genders, and every age, shape, size, coat color and breed mix. If you're looking for a purebred dog, make sure to check both your local shelters and breed rescue organizations.
There are also private rescue organizations popping up that are doing things differently, such as titering incoming animals, enrolling dogs in training opportunities such as the Canine Good Citizen program and enrolling pets in programs that benefit everyone, including school reading programs.
2. If you can't find the adoptable dog you're looking for locally, consider widening your search. This is easy to do with online services like Petfinder. If you locate a pet in a shelter outside your area, contact the shelter to see if they do non-local adoptions and what transport arrangements are available.
3. If you adopt an adult dog, what you see is what you get when it comes to your dog's size, coat color and basic temperament. And she might already be house trained and know basic obedience commands like sit, stay and down.
4. Most shelters charge a nominal fee to adopt a pet — a fee that is quite a bit less than you'll pay to a breeder or pet store. That will leave you with some extra cash for a high-quality diet, essential supplies and a few goodies for your new furry companion. And don't forget to set a little money aside for that all-important first visit to your pet's new veterinarian.
5. Many shelters and rescue groups do assessments on each adoptable animal to determine things like temperament, whether the pet is good with other pets and children, whether she's housetrained, obedience trained, etc. Another benefit for adoptive families is that many of these organizations also have resources available to train pets and help owners deal with a new dog's behavioral or emotional issues.
There's also a wonderful program I recommend to all new parents of adopted or rescued dogs that helps them adjust to a new home in the least stressful manner. You can find it at A Sound Beginning, and you can immediately begin using the book's tips and tricks and the calming music CD on your dog's first day home.
6. If you have kids, and especially if the new dog will belong to a child, adopting a shelter animal can open a young person's eyes to the plight of homeless pets. It can also help him learn compassion and responsibility, as well as how wonderful it feels to provide a loving home to a dog that might otherwise live life in a kennel, or be put to death.
7. An older adoptive pet can make a wonderful companion for an older person. Many middle-aged and senior dogs require less physical exertion and attention than younger animals.
8. Adopting a dog from a kill shelter literally saves that animal's life. Adopting from a no-kill shelter frees up space for another deserving dog waiting for a family, or for an older or special needs pet who may not find a new family before the end of his natural life.
9. Every dog not purchased from a pet store, backyard breeder or online dealer is a vote against irresponsible breeding for profit. When the demand for inhumanely bred pets disappears, puppy mill operators and other reckless puppy suppliers will be forced to find another way to make a living.
10. An adopted dog can enrich your life in countless ways. The unconditional love and acceptance of a dog can lift depression, ease loneliness, lower blood pressure and give you a reason to get up and out and about each day. A dog who loves to walk or run outdoors can be just the incentive you need to start exercising regularly.
As most adoptive pet parents well tell you, a rescue dog seems to understand you’ve saved his life. Often, the bond that forms between shelter dogs and their new owners is exceptionally close and enduring. There is no greater kindness you can offer a frightened, confused shelter pet than a place in your heart and home. I hope you'll give it some thought this month.