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You don’t have to go to a pet store to find a purebred dog. Certain breeds are quite common in animal shelters, and by adopting such dogs, you are saving a life. Of all dogs entering shelters, approximately 35 percent are adopted, 31 percent are euthanized and 26 percent of dogs who came in as strays are returned to their owners, according to the ASPCA.
It’s always wise to research the personality and other characteristics of any breed. Since the origin of many dogs available for adoption is unknown, shelter managers describe an animal as the breed it most resembles. In some cases, this assumption is completely inaccurate. Unless it is obvious that a dog is purebred, you may want to have his DNA tested after you bring him home.
Pit Bull Terrier/American Staffordshire Terrier
This isn’t a contest any dog wants to win, but there’s no question that the most common dog breed found in shelters is the pit bull terrier. In many parts of the country, they make up nearly all of the dogs found in shelters. As few as one in 600 pit bulls are adopted – the rest are euthanized. While pit bull is a type, the American Staffordshire terrier is an actual breed. Some pit bulls entering shelters come from a dogfighting background, but for most, it’s simply a matter of over-breeding. From 2005 to 2014, pit bull-type dogs were responsible for 62 percent of all fatal dog bite attacks in the United States. Pit bull advocates describe them as loving, easily trained dogs, which is certainly true of many of these animals. However, it’s not uncommon for insurance companies to refuse homeowner coverage for pit bull owners and for landlords to refuse to rent to pit bull-owning tenants. Throw in some cities with breed-specific legislation against pit bull types, and it creates a perfect storm of unwanted dogs.
Pit bulls are probably not the breed for novice dog owners, and obedience training and spay/neutering is imperative. Pit bulls were originally bred to fight other dogs, so even a pit bull that is good with people may exhibit some aggression.
The Labrador Retriever consistently achieves the highest number of annual American Kennel Club registrations, so it’s no surprise that a fair number of these dogs end up in need of new homes. Young labs are highly energetic and exuberant, and may turn out to be more than some folks can handle. Properly trained labs are a joy to own, and they soak up knowledge like a sponge. Remember this is the breed of choice for guide, therapy, and search-and-rescue dogs. Give your rescue lab plenty of love, exercise. and education, and you should have a first-rate pet.
German Shepherds and shepherd types often enter shelters because they are too large for their owners. Among the smartest breeds, German shepherds are also quite dominant. This is a dog that needs physical and mental exercise, and a person to train him correctly. If they are left alone and bored, they will find a destructive way to channel all that energy. For the right individual, this dog is an extraordinarily devoted companion. German Shepherds also makes a good family pet for older children.
Jack Russell Terriers
The TV series “Fraser” and “Wishbone” were possibly the worst things to ever happen to the Jack Russell terrier. Before these shows became popular, the Jack Russell was primarily found on farms and in stables, doing what he does best: killing rats and getting into mischief. People watched these well-behaved TV dogs and decided they’d make great companions, with no comprehension of the demands of living with a working small terrier. Jack Russells do make good companions for those who can live with the breed’s traits. These dogs love to hunt and kill smaller creatures, including cats, and they often don’t get along with other canines. They bark, dig, require lots of exercise, and don’t like being left alone. On the plus side, they’re funny, smart, and a good dog for those with an active lifestyle.
Boxers are such intelligent, loving, people-oriented dogs it’s hard to imagine why they so often end in shelters. There are two common scenarios. Boxers have an abundance of energy and need a lot of exercise, and some people can’t deal with their needs. The other scenario is more difficult to overcome – boxers are subject to a lot of genetic diseases. These include cardiac issues, cancer, arthritis, colitis, hypothyroidism, and more. Owners who can’t afford their dog’s treatment may relinquish them to a shelter. If you fall in love with a shelter boxer, get as much information as you about the dog’s health history.
Beagles are ruled by their noses. Many beagles end up in shelters as strays, because they wander off from home and have no identification or microchip. That’s a shame because these happy-go-lucky canines make great pets for the right person. Beagles are generally friendly, if a little stubborn, and get along well with kids, cats, and other dogs. They’re smart, but not particularly easy to train. Because the scent of rabbit, squirrel, or other wildlife is so tempting to the beagle, it’s never a good idea to let this dog run off-leash.
Many shelters are chock full of these tiny dogs. Chis are surrendered to shelters for lots of reasons, but housebreaking difficulty probably tops the list. They are hard to housebreak, and even with love and patient training, some Chis are never going to approach 100 percent in that department. If you can put up with a 75 percent compliance rate, consider adopting a Chi. These little dogs definitely have attitude, and their small size makes them potential fear biters. They are generally one person dogs, and too delicate for a family dog. On the other hand, they’re portable, long-lived, don’t eat much, and adore their special someone.
For more information on shelter intake and surrender statistics, please visit the ASPCA.