Adopting From A Dog Shelter [Know The Pros And Cons!]

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You’ve thought long and hard about adding a furry best friend to your family. You have done your research and are considering adopting from a dog shelter. That’s great! But, there are pros and cons of adopting a dog that you will want to be aware of.

Adopting a dog is a huge commitment, one that you will not want to take lightly. By adopting a dog from a shelter, you are giving that dog a second chance at life. According to the ASPCA, approximately 3.3 million dogs’ enter shelters across the US every year. Out of the 3.3 million dogs’, approximately 670,000 are euthanized every year.

Those numbers are HUGE!! By adopting from a shelter, you are helping to reduce the number of dogs’ that get euthanized each year, and you are freeing up space for other dogs’ in need of a home.

Not All Shelters Are Alike

There are many types of animal shelters, some of them are privately run, and some are run by your local government. In both cases, funding for shelters is quite low, and they rely heavily on community volunteers and donations.

Most shelters will either be classed by one of the two following categories:


No-kill shelters will not kill healthy or treatable animals, even when the shelter is full. Animals who are terminally ill, or considered dangerous to the public will be euthanized. These shelters will turn away animals that they don’t have room for, and if the animal is deemed as un-adoptable.


Open-admission shelters will take any animal that is in need of a home, regardless of health, temperament, or space available. These shelters are often overcrowded, and animals are euthanized when there is no room.

When comparing the two types of shelters, many people think that no-kill shelters are better, simply because they think no animals are killed ever. A common misconception.

No-kill shelters turn away animals in need, and those animals still end up facing untimely deaths. Animals that are turned away are often killed by their owners, dumped on the streets, left to starve, hit by cars, or end up producing more litters of animals.

Why Do Dogs End Up In Shelters?

Brown and white dog looking at you from behind a cage.

So many shelters all across the world are overfilled with dogs waiting to be given a loving home. As a loving dog owner myself, I just can’t understand how someone can give up their dog and surrender them to a shelter.

Dogs end up in shelters through no fault of their own, most of the time, if not all the time it is the fault of the owner.

So, what are some common reasons that dogs end up in shelters?

1. Behavioural Issues

Dogs that display behavioural issues will often be given up at shelters. Behavioural issues such as biting, showing aggression, excessive barking, jumping or lunging at people, anxiety or fear, digging, poop eating, and the list goes on.

Signs of aggression in dogs should be dealt with immediately, and behavioural issues can be avoided with proper training and socialization. Dealing with any issues right away is the best way to prevent them from getting worse.

2. Lack Of Training

Many people get dogs’ and fail to train them properly. Dogs and puppies need training, and they need rules to follow. They need to have a strong leader to teach them how to behave. Training is not just a one-time thing, it is ongoing and it requires a lot of time and patience.

Puppies do not come housebroken. They need to be potty trained, and they need to have rules to follow. Many people ignore bad behaviours in hopes that their puppy will grow out of them. For instance, allowing a puppy to jump up on people, or digging in the backyard. It may be cute when they are puppies, but you certainly don’t want an 80-pound dog jumping up on you or guests in your home.

3. Not Having Enough Time To Care For The Dog

Brown coloured mixed breed dog looking at you.

A dog becomes part of your family and should be treated as such. Many people fail to realize just how much time and effort it takes to own a dog. Dogs need to be trained, played with, fed, walked, groomed, and loved.

Many owners are too busy with their lives and neglect the needs of their dog. A lot of times, parents give in to their children who want a puppy and promise to take care of it. Children often become interested in other things and start to become less interested in being responsible for their puppy. The parents are then left with the added responsibility of taking care of the puppy.

4. Failing To Research The Breed

So many dog owners fail to do their research on the breed of dog. They will pick a puppy or dog based on looks alone. This is a big mistake. All puppies are cute, but they grow up and have specific temperaments and needs depending on their breed.

Often times dog owners realize that their once cute and adorable puppy is too much for them to handle. Certain breeds are more active than others, and their activity levels need to be met.

5. Not Realizing The Cost Of Dog Ownership

Owning a dog is expensive. The first year of puppyhood is the most expensive, and then owning a senior dog is expensive with any health issues that arise.

Cost of owning a dog should include, food, treats, training, toys, leashes, beds, grooming, vet bills, daycare/boarding, and any other supplies needed, as well as costs for any health issues that may arise.

6. Lifestyle Has Changed

Many dogs end up in shelters because their owners get divorced, they lost their job, they are moving, they had a baby, they are ill, or they developed allergies.

Some people move and cannot bring their dog with them, their new home perhaps does not allow dogs. Having a new baby in the house means less time given to the dog. Some people have health issues of their own, and they cannot take care of their dog. They may have developed allergies, or a family member or roommate has allergies.

7. Expensive Health Issues

Senior dogs or dogs that are ill are usually found at shelters because their owners cannot afford to take care of them. Senior dogs and sick dogs require even more patience and time, as well as money. Some people decide to get rid of the dog instead of continuing to take care of it.

8. Homeless/Abandoned/Lost

Many of the shelter dogs are strays that are homeless or abandoned. People who find dogs on the street will take them into their homes temporarily in hopes of finding their owner. When their owner is not found, they will take them to the shelter in hopes of finding a new home for them.

Some dogs are put in shelters because they were found without identification tags, they are lost and their owners cannot be located.

9. Other Animals In The Household

Often times a dog will be taken to a shelter because it does not get along with other animals in the household. Some dogs’ do not get along with cats, or other dogs’, and when this happens the new family member will be given to the shelter.

10. Abusive Owner/Rescue Situation

Many dogs come from an abusive background, their owner neglected to take care of them, they were treated cruelly, or they came from a puppy mill.

Many people assume that dogs that are in shelters have something wrong with them, and they are there because they are bad. This is not true. Dogs who are in shelters are there because their owners have been cruel, lazy, ignorant, neglectful, and irresponsible.

The Pros Of Adopting From A Dog Shelter

Adopting a dog from a shelter or rescue group has many wonderful advantages. Here is a look at some pros:

You Are Saving A Life, Plus Another

When you adopt a dog from a shelter, you are saving that dog’s life. Many rescue and shelter dogs’ are euthanized, because shelters are overflowing and there is simply no room. The dog you adopt will be given a second chance. You are also saving the life of another dog. Every dog that gets adopted, means a new spot has opened up for other dogs’ in need of shelter.

Watch this short video of two girls who saved a rescue dog’s life.

You Are Saving Money

Adopting a dog from a shelter will save you money when compared to getting a dog from a breeder. There is a small adoption fee, and many shelters include spay/neuter, microchipping, and all vaccinations up to date.

Often times shelters will also include free pet insurance for a certain amount of time.

Many Are Mixed Breed Dogs, Meaning Less Health Problems

You can find some really beautiful mixed breed dogs at shelters. Not all the dogs are mixed breeds, there are purebreds as well, but the majority are mixed.

Your dog will be unique, and mixed breed dogs are less prone to breed-specific health issues.

Your Dog May Already Be Trained/Housebroken

There may be a chance that the dog you adopt is already housebroken and trained. When you adopt an adult dog that is already housebroken, it takes the stress away from having to potty train and teach your dog manners. Dogs that already have been taught manners and are housebroken, can be an ideal match for first-time dog owners.

You Will Feel Good About Yourself

Knowing that you have saved your dog’s life, and the life of another will make you feel good about yourself. Not only that, but dog ownership is a very rewarding experience in itself. You will be rewarded with a furry best friend to share memories and experiences with.

Dogs can be very therapeutic. Owning a dog will bring you joy, and improve your quality of life. A dog will get you outside and moving, no more excuses for not going for a walk!

Rescue Dogs Show Greater Appreciation

Woman holding a small mixed breed dog in her arms.

I have met many people who have said that the dog that they adopted or rescued has been the best dog. Rescue dogs just show a greater appreciation to you, because they instinctively know that you saved their life. They will spend the rest of their lives showing you how much they appreciate you.

You Will Help The Fight Against Puppy Mills

When you buy a puppy from a pet store, online, or a classified ad in the newspaper, chances are the puppy is from a puppy mill. Puppy mills are factory-like breeding operations, that breed their female dogs over and over again. The mother dogs are kept in cages, and when they are no longer able to breed, they are sold at auctions, abandoned, or killed.

Puppy mills house their dogs and puppies in overcrowded cages, and the conditions are unsanitary. Dogs and puppies do not get proper food, veterinary care, human interaction, and they are bred carelessly.

By adopting from a dog shelter, you are helping to put puppy mills out of business.

The Cons Of Adopting From A Dog Shelter

When you adopt a dog from a responsible shelter, there really aren’t that many cons. However, you still need to be aware of some downsides.

Shelter Dogs Are Not For Everyone (May Not Be Ideal For First Time Owners)

Not everyone will decide to get a dog from a shelter, and that’s okay. A shelter dog may not be for you. Perhaps you are looking for a purebred puppy, finding one at a shelter can be difficult. Even if you do find one, you will not know what the parents look like, their temperament, or their health history. The chances of getting a purebred puppy with papers is very rare.

A shelter dog might not be ideal for first-time owners because you will not know the dog’s history. Not only health issues but any behavioural issues. If you are inexperienced, having unwelcome surprises is not a good thing. The dog you adopt might have a fear of men or a fear of other dogs’, and not knowing how to handle the situation can make it worse.

Being put in a shelter is a traumatic experience for a dog. Shelters are loud and scary to a dog, and not only that, you don’t know what the dog has been through in the past. Many dogs’ have been abused or neglected, by their previous owners. It may take a great deal of training, time and patience for the dog to be able to trust you.

You May Not Know The Breed Of Your Dog

Finding a purebred dog in a shelter is possible, but the majority of dogs are mixed breeds. While you may be able to guess what breeds make up your dog, based on looks, finding out for sure is more difficult.

There are DNA tests that allow you to find out what breeds are present in your dog. There are many at-home DNA kits that are easy to do and will give you an idea of what your dog is, but they may not be very accurate. Tests may indicate that your dog is 60% Golden Retriever, 30% German Shepherd, and 10% other. DNA tests range in price, and some expensive ones require a blood sample from your vet.

Puppies Are Hard To Find

3 Puppies biting a wire cage.

If you have your heart set on getting a puppy, the chances of finding one at a shelter are slim. Puppies are rare, and when a shelter does have puppies they go quickly.

The Adoption Process

When you adopt a dog from a shelter there is a process that you must go through. The adoption process may vary depending on the shelter, but in general, it involves:

  • Going to the shelter to meet the dogs available, and talk to the shelter staff.
  • Filling out an application to adopt.
  • An interview. You will be asked personal questions, about your work, home life, financial situation, etc.
  • There may be a home visit.
  • A waiting period, usually 24 hours. This is to make sure that you are a suitable candidate, and it is a chance for you to change your mind about the dog.
  • If you are approved, you will need to sign an adoption contract and pay the adoption fee.

To some people, the adoption process can be annoying. Some do not like answering personal questions or having to wait to be approved.

It May Be Hard Work To Train And Bond With Your Dog

When you adopt a dog from a shelter, chances are it will take a while for you and your dog to adjust to each other, and for your dog to adjust to his new home. Don’t expect your dog to trust you right away or feel safe and secure in your home. It will take time.

You may find out that your dog has some behaviour issues, or is not housebroken, or doesn’t know basic obedience commands. It may take a lot of work and training, but it is certainly possible to teach old dogs new tricks.

While it may be easier to bond with a puppy right away, bonding with a dog that you adopted may take some more time. But, with a little time and effort, you and your dog will be best friends, and share a strong bond.

Final Thoughts On Adopting From A Dog Shelter

I hope that this article has helped you decide whether adopting from a dog shelter is right for you. There are many wonderful dogs’ in need of a loving home, and you may just find your new best friend at your local shelter.

Even if you decide not to adopt a dog from a shelter, there are many ways that you can help out. Shelters are always in need of volunteers, and donations. If you are not ready to commit to dog ownership just yet, you can spend some time volunteering at your local shelter and get to know some amazing dogs.

Have you adopted from a dog shelter? Share your thoughts and comments below. I would love to hear from you.

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I am the proud owner of a Golden Retriever named Ellie. She keeps me busy, and when she is resting, you can find me working on my blog. She is always close by though. I live in Stirling, ON Canada with my husband, and we both enjoy the never a dull moment life with our Ellie.

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