My husband and I adopted a small female adult dog from an animal shelter, and it was a great decision for us. However, while our little dog is a great fit for us, we also realize that she, like some other adult shelter dogs, would not be a great fit for everyone for many reasons.
Not All Adult Shelter Dogs Are Friendly with Everyone
It is a common misconception that simply because a dog is in an animal shelter and has not been put to sleep that it is friendly towards everyone including children. Some dogs in certain shelters are aggressive towards children and adults because they are afraid of being harmed. This is called fear-based aggression. Our dog is never aggressive when my husband and I are the only ones with her because she trusts us and knows we will never hurt her, but she has fear-based aggression towards our family and friends when they come to visit because she does not know or trust them enough yet.
We often hear about the physical harm that has been done to dogs that are rescued, but we hardly ever hear about the mental issues that these dogs continue to suffer from even after they are placed into loving homes. Dogs that are afraid of people can become aggressive because they may feel the need to defend themselves even when there is no longer any threat to them. They may not realize that their new family does not intend to hurt them. A fearful dog is not a good fit for a family with children. An adult dog with fear based aggression issues is a good fit for an understanding, patient owner who has no children and has lots of spare time to work with the dog.
Fear based aggression is not the only mental issue adult shelter dogs can experience. Other anxiety related disorders can develop in dogs that have been abused and neglected. Dogs that end up in shelters can even have Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. Our dog suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder behaviors such as obsessively licking her front paws.
Never Bring an Adult Shelter Dog Home that has Not Met Your Children
If you have children, go to the shelter without your children to find a dog you are interested in adopting. Then find out if it is aggressive towards you in any way. After you find a dog that you may want to adopt, bring your children with you to meet the dog before you bring it home, so that way you can find out whether or not the dog will be aggressive around your children. When you let your children meet the dog, make sure the dog is on a leash or in a crate so it will not be able to harm your children if it is aggressive. Never bring an adult dog home without it meeting your children first. Just because a dog is not aggressive around you does not mean it will not be aggressive around your children.
Are You Prepared for Possible Veterinarian Bills?
You may discover that your newly adopted adult shelter dog has a health problem or even multiple health problems after the shelter tells you the dog is in good health because the health problems went undetected at the shelter. This can happen because the people who work at shelters have many dogs to care for every day. Most likely you will spend more time with the dog you adopt than the people who work at the shelter ever will. Because of this, you may find that your dog has a health problem that needs costly veterinarian attention. You have to ask yourself if you are prepared to pay for any possible major veterinarian bills. This is something you need to consider before you get any kind of pet.
Our dog had infected anal glands when we got her. The day we brought her home she had constant diarrhea with blood in it along with vomiting. I was horrified and immediately took her to the vet. This kind of thing does not always happen when you bring home a dog from a shelter, but it can happen, so you need to be prepared for it in case it does.
You May Have to Train an Adult Shelter Dog Just as You would Train a Puppy
If you are adopting an adult dog with the hopes that it will already be trained, you will probably be unpleasantly surprised. You cannot expect your newly rescued dog to know everything you want it to do because you have no idea whether or not it was trained to do anything at all in the past. Even if it was train in the past, the stress of moving into a new environment can negatively impact an adult shelter dog’s behavior. Remember that dogs, like people, learn at different paces as well.
Even if you newly adopted adult shelter dog is not trained, it is most likely fully capable of learning. The best thing to do when you are training your adopted adult shelter dog is to treat him or her as you would treat a new puppy.
Separation Anxiety is Common in Adult Shelter Dogs
Even dogs that have grown up in loving homes their entire lives can have separation anxiety, but adult shelter dogs are more prone to suffer from it. Generally older dogs will cease destructive behaviors, but older dogs with separation anxiety will chew and become destructive when they are left alone. Some adult dogs with separation anxiety even become destructive while you are home with them if you are not in the same room with them.
Despite the possible problems that adult shelter dogs can have, when you find the right shelter dog for you, it is the best choice. Some shelters will even let you bring the dog you adopt back to the shelter and give you back your adoption fee within a week or two if you adopt a dog that is not right for you or your family. Our dog was adopted by another couple and returned to the shelter by that couple before we adopted her, so if you adopt a dog that is more than you can handle, do not hesitate to bring the dog back to the shelter because someone else who is more tolerant will probably adopt that dog after you return it. Keeping a dog that you do not want does not benefit you or the dog. Every dog deserves a home where it is loved and wanted.