I was one of those lucky children whose parents got a dog for me and my siblings when we were very young. I grew up with my dog and learned how to care for, treat, and love an animal, and he loved me right back. I was 23 years old when I said goodbye to my loving and faithful pet, and I knew that soon, I'd be getting my own children a dog, too. Since then, we've had four dogs - all shelter dogs - that we've loved and adored. Life has brought us changes and we had to find a new home for two of the dogs when we moved into a rental, but we've never regretted getting them. All four of the dogs from shelters were bright, well-behaved, and loyal members of our family. We currently have just one dog - Chester - whom we got from a shelter in Wyoming three years ago. If you've ever wondered whether or not a shelter dog is right for you, here are five things I've learned:
1. You are saving a life
When you take a dog out of the shelter, you save his or her little doggie life. You're doing a service by keeping a good dog from dying. We've gotten four shelter dogs now, and each time we have, the dog has turned out to be a loyal friend, and companion to us, and we've wondered to ourselves how good dogs like these can be dying every single day while people are paying breeders to breed more dogs. It's a shame, and we're so proud that we have made that difference. Even if it's small in the whole scheme of how many dogs die every day, it's a big difference to our dog.
2. You know what the dog is like
People have real misconceptions about dogs at the shelter. They think that they all dogs at shelters are either brought in for bad behavior, or are diseased. The truth is most dogs there are abandoned dogs that are well-behaved, and just need a home. Almost all dog shelters have an in-house vet who checks out the dogs as they are brought in, takes care of any medical needs, and gets them strong and healthy well before they are put on display for you to see. So any dogs you're seeing have been treated for any possible medical problems already. Many that are brought in are dealing with mange - a disease that causes patches of their hair to fall out - simply because of dehydration. They have easily cured problems, and have usually been completely treated for these problems by the time you meet the dog. Dogs are also assessed for their behavior. When you meet a dog, the shelter gives you all sorts of information about him or her. They'll tell you if the dog is house trained, if the dog is active or calm, if the dog is good with kids or not. We even had our shelter let us know that our dog might need some work with ball training - because he wouldn't give up his ball when he retrieved it (and they sure were right about that!). If you get your dog at a shelter, chances are you're going to have a MUCH better idea of what he or she is like than you would with a new puppy you buy.
3. Shelter dogs cost LESS
When you get a dog from the shelter, you are charged a minimal fee for the time the dog spent with the vet, and for his or her neutering or spaying. Before you leave the shelter with the dog, they require that the dog is spayed or neutered. Makes sense, right? They take care of all of that for you and let you know what day you can come pick up your new baby. We've never paid more than $75 for a dog from a shelter.
4. Shelter dogs are mainly mutts
People often hear the word "mutt" and cringe, but mutts (mixed breed dogs) are almost always healthier dogs all around. Full bred dogs pass on genetic issues from generation to generation, because their gene pool is limited. The only way to eliminate these genetic issues is to breed them with dogs of a different breed. That's what makes a mutt so wonderful! They often have fewer health issues than dogs who are full breed. However, if you're still intent on getting a dog who is full bred, rest assured - the shelters have those as well! In fact, estimates are that 25 percent of dogs in shelters are full bred - brought to them because the owners don't want to have to deal with the veterinary costs of full bred dogs. Personally - I love mutts. I love getting a dog that is unique and special with all different sorts of personality traits in him.
5. You can love a shelter dog, and your shelter dog will adore you
If you take the time to find, train, and love a dog from a shelter, you will have not only a loving, loyal, faithful companion for the rest of his or her doggie life, but you'll also have a new member of the family. We've had four dogs from shelters, and have adored every one of them. It's not always easy, but if you can get through the first six months to a year with the dog, and are consistent about teaching him or her the rules of your home, you'll find that they are great animals to have around - and are very low maintenance. They'll follow you wherever you go, lie at your feet, protect you, protect your home and children, and be devoted to you for life. It's an investment you'll never regret.