Walking along the pens of most dogs shelters there is a saddening pattern. The first row of pens at my closest has a Staffie, Staffie, Kelpie, Husky, Staffie, Husky, Staffie… and on it goes.
Certain breeds far outnumber others. The particular breeds with vary from location to location due to other factors but check a few of your local shelters and you’re sure to see something similar.
People give 100 different reasons for giving up their dogs to shelters but ultimately it boils down to one of two things; “not enough time” or some type of undesirable behaviour from the dog (and this behaviour is almost certain to be the result of the owners inaction or lack of attention in the first place).
It goes without saying that if an owner isn’t spending time with their dogs it’s cruel to leave it locked in the back yard constantly with no interaction and the dog should be re-homed to a suitable owner rather than neglected. I won’t go off on a tangent here about if you didn’t have time for a dog you shouldn’t have gotten one as that’s a given.
The reasons the same breeds pop up more than others is not due to inherent problems with the particular breed, rather ill-prepared or unsuitable owners.
Sadly, the majority of the dogs abandoned to shelters could have started life in their forever homes if owners had done even a little research on the breed and given themselves and their lifestyle a bit more of an honest appraisal.
Recently I’ve run into the following situations:
1) A frustrated Beagle owner (dog now one year old, raised from a pup) who thought his Beagle “would be really lazy”.
While older Beagles can happily become couch potatoes in later years they are well documented as a high-energy breed and 30 seconds on Google would have made it crystal clear what to expect from the breed.
The truth of the matter is he chose to assume it would be lazy. He didn’t know and he didn’t check.
2) An elderly couple who’ve never owned a dog before and adopted a 76kg (168 lbs) Mastiff. The dog so far had not had any obedience training, not even walking on a leash without pull, and wherever it wanted to go it would just drag the handling owner along behind it with virtually no resistance.
Even together they barely had the strength to stop the dog simply walking off. If the dog even really decided it wanted to go they’d have no chance.
It’s great that they would try and save a dog from a shelter but in this case it’s simply too much dog for them.
3) A couple who wanted a small dog but had bought an American Bulldog (10 weeks old at the time). The size of a puppy’s feet is usually a pretty good indicator of how big they will get. We were chatting while the dogs did their thing and I commented that it looked like he was going to turn into a big boy.
They asked “bulldogs don’t get that big do they?” and a look of horror passed between them when I said a big male can be 55kg (120 lbs).
4) A couple who live in a small apartment with a tiny yard and adopted an Australian Kelpie. Both work full time and the dog is exercised in the afternoon only.
To say Kelpies’ energy level are high is an understatement, they are working breed which needs something to do and will go literally all day, every day.
Unsurprisingly, when left alone for 10 hours a day while the couple are at work and with no room to stretch his legs, the Kelpie is constantly bored and frustrated. What little back yard they have has been dug into oblivious and other possessions are chewed/destroyed daily.
I know that the Beagle now spends all his time in the yard by himself. The owners are only prepared to take the dog out for about 20 minutes each day and even when home the dog is kept outside alone (and regularly yelled at for barking or whimpering).
I haven’t seen the Mastiff and Bulldog owners at training or the local park for a months now and suspect both dogs have been re-homed.
The Kelpie I know has been re-homed.
Other common situations include owners who don’t do any obedience training buying notoriously store-willed or stubborn breeds and becoming frustrated when the dog doesn’t respond to commands. Worse is people buying a “guard dog” breed and allowing aggression to go unchecked while providing no training or leadership; this is a recipe for disaster. Any dog is guaranteed to resort to destructive behaviour when constantly left alone and not exercised.
To be crystal clear, the purpose of this article is not to demonize the individuals, it’s not to criticize novice owners or to big-note anyone who calls themselves informed and it’s obviously not to discourage dog ownership.
The point is think, do your research and make an informed decision.
Will you spend enough time with a dog who doesn’t deal well with being along?
Is your lifestyle active enough for a high-energy breed?
Can you be firm and consistent enough for a strong will breed?
Can you handle a large breed dog? Both physically and from a leadership perspective.
No one who knows anything about dogs was granted the knowledge by a genie, they did their research and associated themselves with dogs for first hand experience. If you don’t know if a breed is right for you find out, the information is out there.
Don’t choose a breed just because you like the appearance.
Don’t buy a dog for a purpose such as work or guarding if you don’t know how to train it.
And for the love of god don’t buy a Husky just because you’ve been watching Game Of Thrones.
Keywords: How to choose a dog breed. Which dog breed is right for me?