If These Pets Could Talk, They’d Beg You to Do This

Story at-a-glance -

  • It’s National Mutt Day — a day dedicated to celebrating and saving the lives of mixed breed dogs in shelters and rescues across the U.S.
  • Among the many great reasons to adopt a mutt is that you can pick exactly the right canine companion for your family
  • The most important reason, of course, is you’ll be saving a precious life
  • When considering adoption, do some careful research to learn which breed mixes might be best suited to your lifestyle; also think ahead about how you’ll manage any behavior challenges your new pet may have

By Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

It's that time again, National Mutt Day (also known as National Mixed Breed Day), which comes around twice each year, on July 31st and December 2nd. National Mutt Day was launched in 2005 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 Reasons to Adopt a Shelter Mutt

1. They're unique. No one in the world has a dog exactly like the mixed breed dogs you'll find at your local shelter. The breed variations that mutts represent make for a much wider selection when you set off to find a forever friend. The furry favorite might have a bit of a curl to his coat, or his ears might be a little more pointed than you'd expect.

In contrast, purebred dogs tend to be "cookie cutter" in their sameness. The standard for purebreds is that they look and behave similarly. Your standard mutt is unique!

2. Mutts are more flexible. While purebred dogs have been "ordered" with a prescribed set of attributes, such as natural hunting skills or a certain physical appearance, mutts have their own brand of cuteness, good nature and ability to go with the flow, in many circumstances.

A mutt may adjust more readily because no one will have any expectations for him to be a sheepherder or trick performer — he'll just be himself, which is awesome.

3. They can compete, too. While purebreds might be sought after as competitors in a number of categories, such as showmanship or pedigree, mixed breeds can compete as well. The most common arena for mutts might be in agility competitions, according to the North American Dog Agility Council (NADAC), which is "open to dog and handler teams of all ages and competing at any level or division."

Mixed breeds can also compete in United Kennel Club (UKC) events, dock jumping and a wide range of other canine-centered (not breed exclusive) activities.

4. Mixed breeds can be trained as service dogs. Some may think only purebreds can be trained to be service dogs, but that's not the case. Mutts are every bit as trainable in the arena of helping humans. They've achieved remarkable success on a lot of fronts, helping the blind and deaf, people suffering from illness and PTSD, not to mention their skills as therapy and emotional support dogs.

5. Housetraining is provided. The reasons dogs are relinquished to shelters are varied and numerous, but most are brought in through no fault of their own. Many of the mixed breed dogs in shelters were once members of the family, and may already be housetrained.

6. Mature dogs, not just puppies, are available. If you're ready to find a furry friend at the shelter, but the thought of going through all the stages of housetraining a puppy seems daunting, never fear — plenty of wonderful adult mutts are ready and waiting. You'll be able to choose a pup at just the right age, size and temperament to fit your family, with no awkward or unplanned-for surprises.

7. Mutts may have fewer health issues. If you seek out a dog breeder when you're ready to open your home to a pet, you may run across dogs with physical problems because they were purposely bred to look a certain way. Some breeds have tendencies toward particular health issues, while mixed breed pups may be healthier, overall. Breed-specific disorders include hypothyroidism, cardiomyopathy, cataracts and elbow dysplasia.

8. They require less cash up front. Purebred dogs offered by breeders can run into the hundreds or even thousands of dollars when prospective pet parents decide to adopt. A much better value, pound for pound, is a mutt, whose adoption fee will probably run from $50 to $100.

9. You're saving a life. When you adopt a dog from a shelter, you're saving a precious life. Most homeless pups are mutts, and shelters too often opt to euthanize those who've been deemed unadoptable or have simply been there too long. When you choose your own sweet mixed breed at the shelter and take him home, you're literally saving a life. What's more awesome than that?

10. Their awesomeness is contagious. Purebred pups are somewhat predictable. Mutts, on the other hand, represent spontaneity and a sense of adventure. If you're looking for friendship, loyalty, stress reduction and devotion all in one furry package, adopting a mutt will bring a new brand of awesome into your life.

How to Find the Perfect Mutt for Your Family

If you've never owned a dog, 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.

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. That's why research is so important — especially since dogs found in animal shelters will have characteristics and temperaments that cross a variety of different breeds.

Once you're at the animal shelter or rescue facility, choose wisely, not impulsively. This is the ultimate challenge for dog lovers, because you have to let your brain and not just your heart lead the way. And while it's true some adoptive parents know the minute they lay eyes on a certain dog that she belongs with them, I recommend you talk first 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. If you're an animal lover, every set of eyes looking at you through bars will tug at your heart. Keep your brain engaged as well so that you make the best choice for both you and the dog you adopt.

Dealing With Adopted Doggy 'Baggage'

It's important to realize that well over half the dogs at any shelter have behavior problems that caused their previous owners to give them up. 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. Some perfectly behaved dogs do wind up in shelters, but don't count on finding one.

Because your prospective canine companion will come to you with issues, you should be prepared to put in the time and effort required to help him overcome them. 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 veterinarian or an animal behavior specialist. 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.

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