Another popular source for finding a new puppy or dog is the animal shelter. This is the most politically correct choice for many of us. However, for many of you, I wouldn’t recommend it.
Animal Shelters: Acquiring your next pet from an animal shelter is a noble gesture. There are far too many dogs out there already that don’t have good homes. Taking a dog out of a shelter and sparing it the death penalty makes us all feel good. My only concern here is that you don’t know what you’re getting. In many cases, the dogs are mixed breeds and you would need extensive genetic and DNA testing to unravel exactly the kind of dog you have. You also don’t know the dog’s prior history. Was he neglected? Was he abused? These are all important questions to ask, especially if you have children in your house. The bottom line is, you just don’t know. In my opinion, if I had small children in the house, I would never get a dog that I didn’t know its background.
You would think that with a dog guy like me in the family, no relative of mine would ever have a bad dog experience. Well, think again. Recently my niece called to tell me that her family (which consists of her husband, six-year old son and a new baby due in four months) was getting a dog. When I asked if they wanted help in finding the right dog, she said that her husband already found one. It turns out the husband, an Army Ranger just back from Iraq, always wanted a dog and had his heart set on a dog like him… a macho muchacho. While visiting a shelter he fell in love with a year and a half old intact male Rottweiler. He was told the dog was in the shelter because the couple he had been living with was getting a divorce and couldn’t keep their five dogs. He was also told the dog came from the very best bloodlines and had been raised with children.
About a week later my niece heard a blood-curdling scream from the living room. As she ran into the room she saw this large dog (from the finest background) with her small son’s arm in his mouth shaking him from side to side. The dog is now back in a shelter and the family is somewhat traumatized by the whole ordeal. You can bet their next family pet will be a hamster or maybe even a pet rock.
I purposely left my usual wit out of this section to drive home a point. If you have young children, bringing an adult dog into your house is very serious business. Do not leave unsupervised children alone with a dog you don’t know inside and out. This is not a story unique to animal shelters. It could be from a newspaper ad, an online rescue group or a stray dog that shows up in your backyard. If you’re not sure of the dog’s background, move on down the road and keep looking, you can always meet Oprah later.
Can you find a good dog at a shelter? With a little homework and some time looking, of course you can. If you’re an adult household or have older children, I don’t have any problem with you picking a shelter dog. If you have young rug rats running around your house and you like them, I would be cautious.
In our next article we will look at both backyard and professional breeders.