The Benefits of Adopting a Dog Instead of Buying One

I hope that you don’t take this the wrong way, but I have to confess that I’ve always been slightly confused by the reaction that many human beings seem to have to the concept of dog adoption. If you’re wondering how a handsome Husky like me has ever even encountered such a subject, trust me – talk of adoption really does come up quite often amongst the people I “meet and greet” at places like the doggy daycare center that I occasionally get to visit (I sure wish I could hang out there more often) or at the vet’s office (a place I’d really rather NEVER visit again). Think about it – who better is there for you humans to talk with about adding another dog to your family than with another pet person.

During those discussions, I’ve overheard the various reasons that people are concerned about bringing an adopted shelter or rescue dog into their home – and yes – I really do understand those concerns. Many of you wonder if such dogs have ended up in their current situation because they have something “wrong” with them, whether behavioral or physical. You might think there are simply too many “unknowns” about them for you to bring them into your home, only to have it then turn into a safety and/or financial problem for you. Some of you might also have your heart set on a certain breed of dog and think you’ll have better luck finding a “good” one by dealing with a breeder or pet store. For other people, the desire to save money and/or to help someone out is the driving force behind adopting a “free” dog from someone you know (or perhaps don’t know) and who has to “get rid of” their dog. Because of all of these concerns, I’m often left with the impression that human beings consider adoption to be a “last resort” to complete their family.

Let me try to put some of those concerns in perspective for you. I can obviously only speak from a canine perspective, so I hope that what I say doesn’t sound judgmental or disrespectful in any way. I simply think it’s important for humans to gain a better understanding of just how VERY critical it is to my furry friends and I that adoption from an animal shelter or a rescue group be given the same consideration – if not even more – than that given to the idea of buying a dog from a pet store or breeder. I hope that you’ll also begin to understand the potential benefits to you, should you “opt to adopt instead of shop.”

My own personal story actually involves being purchased by a family who met me at a pet store. It was what I later often heard them refer to as an “impulse buy that they regretted.” They really didn’t seem to give much thought to the fact that I could live for many years – who knows, maybe even 15 or more – and that the decision involving me was as important as it is for other life-changing events, like buying a car or a house. They just saw a cute puppy one day that they thought they could “rescue” from the confines of a pet store.

Little did they know that my life had actually begun at the home of someone who bred Siberian Huskies, as well as a large number of other dog breeds. Not all breeders have the best interest of their dogs or those who eventually buy them as their top priority though. Such was the case for the “backyard breeders/puppy mill” that first sold me to the pet store. It truly was all about the money for them. We dogs had very little socialization with humans (in fact, we were kept in outside pens 24/7), we received minimal health care, and had few “boundaries” to prevent canine family members from inbreeding. Life at the pet store wasn’t much better though as it simply involved “living under the lights” and receiving just enough care to survive on until someone came along and bought us.

The people that bought me assumed (oh, the trouble that can lead to) that paying a “small fortune” for me would ensure they had a puppy that would require minimal training or supervision. Such was not to be the case. It wasn’t that I was an unruly pup – I was simply a normal one that needed enough attention to ensure that hours didn’t pass in between my “potty breaks” (thus leading to very unpopular “accidents”) or that I didn’t get bored and chew someone’s sock that had been left on the floor (yet another thing I eventually learned was a big “no-no”).

After spending only several months with this family, they decided that they wanted to “cut their losses,” so off to the shelter I went. They simply told the shelter volunteers that – the reason they were “surrendering” me – was that they just didn’t have enough time to spend with me. Why they themselves didn’t try to find me a new home, I’ll never know.

Based on research by NCPPSP, the National Council on Pet Population Study and Policy, I’ve since come to learn that the top five reasons people provide shelters with as to why they have to “give up” their dog is: they’re moving, their landlord won’t allow them to have a pet, they have too many animals, it’s too costly, and/or they’re having other personal problems. Wouldn’t you agree, that’s not exactly the physical or behavioral issues that we discussed earlier about potential adopters having concerns about?

I like to think of myself as a pretty tough (but loving) doggy-dude, but I can’t even begin to describe how very afraid I was during the days I spent at the shelter. The people there treated me wonderfully, but I could literally smell the fear and confusion that we furry “residents” were feeling about why we were here and about what was going to happen to us. Every night, after the humans had gone home and the lights had been turned out, we introduced ourselves to one another and swapped stories between our kennels. Every night, there were new arrivals, but there were also missing faces and we just knew that wasn’t always a good thing.

The NCPPSP estimates that 25% of the dogs that end up at a shelter are “purebreds” and, I can tell you from personal experience, that’s pretty darn close to what I saw. I think people would be GREATLY surprised to discover they can find Golden Retrievers, Chihuahuas, and just about every other dog breed at their local animal shelter. Again, many of them being dogs that might have started life at a breeders or a pet store, just like me.

However, adopting a purebred dog from an animal shelter (or rescue group) almost always costs only a small fraction of what it would compared to if they were purchased from a pet store or breeder, especially when you consider that shelter/rescue dogs are usually already spayed or neutered, vaccinated, wormed, and “de-flead,” as well as occasionally microchipped. Some shelters and rescue groups also provide a “coupon” for a free veterinary exam within a certain time period after being adopted, along with a “trial subscription” of health insurance. Talk about a bargain!

And don’t forget, this would also be true for a mixed breed dog – dogs which numerous scientific studies have actually concluded have fewer overall health and behavioral problems due to their bigger and more “well–rounded” gene pool. That might just be one of the best reasons I know of to adopt what you humans beings so often refer to as a mere “mutt!”

During my shelter stay, I was also amazed to hear that most (~30%) of my caged canine compadres weren’t strays that had been brought in by people who didn’t know anything about them, but instead were dogs that had been “acquired” from friends of their owner, another finding that’s consistent with NCPPSP’s various studies. So much for humans helping out a friend and/or for saving some money when adopting a “free” dog. For whatever reason(s), that option just doesn’t seem to have a very high success rate of a happy ending. Perhaps people are simply too embarrassed to return the dog to the person they got him/her from, thus they simply rely on a shelter to find them a new home?

My story took a happy turn one day when a kind lady from a nearby Husky rescue group happened to see me as she was walking through the shelter. I then found myself living at what I heard people refer to as a “foster home.” Here, the people paid more attention to me in one day than I was use to receiving in my other home over the course of an entire week! They truly took the time to train me to be well-mannered, house-broken, and all of those other wonderful qualities that people look for in their canine companions. For the first time, I was happy, healthy, and made to feel like a well-loved member of a family.

It wasn’t long before other people came to visit me at my foster home. I heard those people talk about wanting to “adopt” me and that’s when the concept of adoption started to make sense to me. I began to realize that finding me a fantastic “furrever” home was both the animal shelter and rescue group’s ultimate goal, not merely making a profit off me. I also began to understand that there really were people who wanted a special dog who were willing to take their time in finding one, even if it meant spending some time (potentially sad as it might be) looking at all of the needy furry faces at the animal shelter and/or in filling out shelter/rescue group applications, providing references, permitting home visits, etc. They did this – not only to increase their chances of successfully finding a dog that was a good match for their lifestyle and desires – but to ensure that the dog they adopted would be happy as well.

That was the moment I fell in love with the idea of “opt to adopt instead of shop.” And yes – I’m so happy to report that the happy ending to my “tail” is that I was indeed eventually adopted into an amazing human home.

Again – please don’t get me wrong. There are good breeders out there, just as there are good pet stores. The bottom line though is that many dogs that end up at the shelter or in a rescue group originally came from a breeder or pet store. Few people seem to realize (or want to hear) that – of the estimated 5-7 million (yes – million!) dogs and cats that end up at shelters every year – 3-4 million of them never leave there alive. Their untimely deaths are usually due to a lack of space and too many other animals needing to be given the same chance at adoption. Why then would people want to buy from breeders and pet stores? It only seems to encourage them to continue to contribute to the massive pet overpopulation problem. It just doesn’t make any sense – at least to me it doesn’t.

I hope that what I’ve written has encouraged you to seriously consider adopting one of my furry friends from an animal shelter or rescue group the next time you’re thinking of expanding your family. In case you’re not yet familiar with it, a great place to begin your adoption search is at Petfinder. You not only can search their extensive database of dogs that are available at shelters and rescue groups across the United States and several other countries, but you can narrow your search based on such characteristics as breed, gender, age, size, and location, as well as other traits like whether they’re housetrained, can be with other dogs, etc. Talk about having options! I think you’ll be amazed at how many adoptable shelter and rescue dogs are out there that “fit the bill” for what you have your heart set on.

However you decide to begin your dog adoption quest, I hope you’ve come to realize that it literally can be a life-saving event for the dog you adopt, as well as a life-enhancing one for you and your family. The dog you adopt will likely love you more than you ever thought was possible and you yourself will probably never cease to be amazed at what a wonderful “recycled” dog you found. And don’t forget, by opening your heart and home to an adopted dog, you will have potentially helped save the life of another dog that can now occupy the shelter kennel or foster home that your adopted dog came from. That’s what I call a “win-win-WIN” situation and it really just doesn’t get much better than that.

About Nanook

Nanook is our resident Siberian Husky, who lives for adventures in the great outdoors. Although just past puppy-hood, Nanook refuses to admit he has to grow up. He has agreed however, to provide us with some insights as to what dogs really like and how to make them tail-wagging happy.