Options for getting a dog—why not a shelter or rescue dog?

My old dear dog died several  weeks back, and I am looking for a new dog.  I checked PETFINDER, and area shelters, but they don’t have what I am looking for.  I am taking my time, but I had the following experience…

There are bad dogs.

I am sure all dog groomers can relate to this. A new client with a Lhasa Apso came into  the shop where I worked.  Owner had gotten the dog from a local animal shelter  several years back, and had been continually unhappy with the groomers she encountered.  She had also met the previous owners of the dog. They had surrendered the dog because she was a biter.

Now, mind you, according to this owner, this dog had never bitten anyone. When I went to  touch the side of the dog, just to feel the coat, the dog snapped at me, & it was very clear that the only reason that this dog had not bitten anyone yet is because they had gotten out of the way in time.

We can  go into all sort of irrelevant detail. Owner claims the dog was stressed at every shop because of the  noise, the amount of activity, having to be there so long….& she wanted to try a quiet place.  Her veterinarian (another one who didn’t want to alienate a client & tell her she had to train the dog) suggested  the shop where I worked.

Of course, I asked her if she brushed the dog once a week.  & the answer was,

“Ah, no…” & had she ever taken this dog  through obedience classes? “Well, that’s not the problem…”

So, I said, “You are going to have to get out the gloves, &  brush this dog.”


“Yeah—because this dog doesn’t like anyone being in charge of her, & she is going to bite you, and you are going to have to ignore  the bad behavior & continue to brush her.   If you can’t brush her, I can’t brush her.”

What made it worse, was the  owner of the shop I worked in, was making excuses for the dog’s bad behavior:  “”She just needs training…she might have been abused…”

The fact of the matter is—this is the dog’s temperament, and  while  it can possibly be turned around, unless everyone in the household worked with this dog,  the chances are slim to none that this dog will ever be a non-biter…and you are playing the statistical odds.

Do you know why all the books on  choosing a puppy stress  some of the things you should look for  in a pup?  That the dog come up to you, likes being held, does not seem nervous?  Because those are good indications that the dog’s natural temperament is  pack oriented. But more—the reason dog breeders who care about their dogs ( and many animal shelters as well) use the Vollhard Temperament tests,  is to determine  not just how trainable  a dog is, but  how to match the dog with the human personality who will  follow through on training &  being in control of the dog. Some dogs are not suited to being pets. They were never bred to be pets,  but some shelters never euthanize a physically healthy dog.
They can’t all be pets—and some breeds, due to their genetic temperaments, make worse pets than others, and if not  behavior shaped right from the start, will  be dangerous dogs.

The irony is that most large dogs—like Mastiffs, Great Pyrenees,  Saint Bernards, are of the  go along/get along types, and the smaller dogs—particularly the toy breeds, are  more dominate because they have  to be to protect themselves.

Every  true dog lover who knows dogs, knows that you do not tolerate behavior in a small dog that you would not allow in a large dog, but the  fact is that Americans tolerate, and even encourage, dangerous dog behavior.

They deny that the pet owner breeding his pet cocker spaniel is a breeder just like the person who has kennel runs  set up outside her house, and ignore that the  mother dog might be shy, or aggressive, or out of control, and NOT SO SWEET, and her puppies are bound to have the same temperaments.

I chose to own Afghan Hounds and Salukis, and they can be  very neurotic and emotional. It is so important to begin training—what we now know as behavior shaping— as soon as the pups are weaned, and  follow through.

In my area of metropolitan Chicago, some of the shelters are starting to do temperament testing, and try to do a good job of matching, but people aren’t always honest.The bad Lhasa came from a NO-KILL shelter  & would not be euthanized because of her temperament. Most likely the  family who adopted her  agreed to  start working with a dog trainer, and they didn’t follow through (and the shelter never followed up).

I am now looking for a new dog to be the companion of  the  13-year-old dog I have.  Bebop is very picky about his friends. He ignores the dogs at the dog park, and would be too rough with a little dog.  He has a thing about Arctic breeds and any dog with a mane.  As I didn’t get him I until he was 4 years old, and he came from a rescue, I don’t know what he experienced before me. All I know is he prefers to be with other sighthounds…as would I.

There are no Whippets in rescue in the midwest as I  write. The 2 Salukis in rescue in the midwest need a 6 foot fence, and all I have is a 4 foot.   There are no Ibizen or Scottish Deerhounds in rescue.  I have considered a retired racing greyhound, but most are too  large for me, and they tend to get into trouble in the house.  No matter.  By asking around, I found someone  who knew someone who took back a Whippet she had sold that wasn’t wanted by the buyer.  Most likely a bad -match.   That’s what good breeders do: They take dogs back so they don’t end up in shelters.

What I learned from this experience ( and doing a bit of research) is that there are very few purebred dogs in shelters  except for those bred by irresponsible backyard breeders!  Of course,  over half are Pit Bulls. That’s a given. The  ‘working class’ idiots who breed them for fun and profit have never been to a shelter, and really truly believe  it’s not the dogs they breed in shelters—those are what other people breed.  Lots of Chihuahuas and  toy breed ‘designer dog’ mixes.  & these are not the tiny show Chihuahuas. These are dogs double or triple the size, but had AKC papers that said ‘Chihuahua’.  and Shar Peis, and Huskies that got loose, and Merle colored Great Danes.  No Gordon Setters. No Briards, no Wire Fox Terriers, No English Cockers.  Seems that some of the hobby breeders are not just putting neutering contracts on dogs, but  making it very clear that if the buyer can not keep the dog for any reason, to bring it back.

My heart goes out to all those dogs languishing in shelters. Were I working steadily and ensured employment with health insurance, I would pick up 1 or  2 (especially the old, black dogs that nobody chooses), but I am not,  and I have to look at this horrible situation this way:  the people who bred these dogs don’t care about them.
They don’t stay in touch with their puppy buyers, and don’t think they should be responsible for them. Their attitude is that if we want to care, WE should adopt them and take care of them.

I don’t want these idiots choosing a dog for me.  What I want is for the rest of us dog lovers to do  is make it the conventional wisdom to demand these backyard breeders be responsible for the dog they bred that ended up in shelters.

How?  We have to get to veterinarians, for the most part. but we also have to get to our elected officials.

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