Whole Dog Journal's Blog July 25, 2011

Shelter Puppies: Too Cute for Their Own Good?

Posted at 03:26PM - Comments: (7)

The stars backstage at my local shelter are the six Basset puppies (and their doting mama) that the staff saved from coccidiosis (an illness caused by a nasty single-celled parasite). A guy brought the two-week-old litter to the shelter, signing over the whole lot, saying “they were just pooping too much.” Well, they were pooping so much because they had diarrhea; one puppy died within minutes of arrival. But our brilliant vet tech whipped into action and saved those dang puppies – mama, poop, and all. And they have just gotten cuter and cuter and cuter.

They’ve been the delight of the staff, but now that they have finally tested clear of the parasites and have put on weight, they are nearly ready to go up for adoption. We volunteers and staff are all asking our friends who might want a Basset hound; we try not to actually say the word “puppy” – at least at first. Because we know from experience: even people who don’t really want a dog, or who aren’t really in a good place to have a dog, are going to want one of these pups on sight. They are just TOO CUTE.

We know that babies are cute, in part, to help their parents remember to like them, especially when said parents are exhausted and at the ends of their ropes. But the “cute factor” works against puppies in a shelter; all sorts of folks bring them home – only to return them to the shelter eight or so months later, when the cute has worn off and left a pile of chewed shoes behind.

I think I’m biased, but in my experience, when someone adopts an ill-mannered, gawky teenaged dog; or a dowdy middle-aged dog; or a bleary senior with bad breath, I tend to feel more confident about the placement. Those adopters can’t help but see the flaws, and are still ready to take the dogs into their hearts and homes. But people who are fixated on puppies make me nervous.

See Whole Dog Journal's Facebook Page (http://www.facebook.com/wholedogjournal) for video of the puppies referenced in this blog.

Comments (7)

I wish shelters were allowed to screen the people before they adopt like the rescues do . I have fostered many a dog in the last 5 years go to families only to be returned in days or weeks later because the family didn't have time to devote to them, most either sick or fearful of humans.

Posted by: Doris R | July 28, 2011 8:36 AM    Report this comment

While we're on the subject of shelter puppies/dogs, I think that no one should adopt until they are schooled in the advisability of Pet Insurance. Too many people turn in pets because they find they can't afford the upkeep in medical bills and this is truly heartbreaking. I have 3 Rotties and wouldn't think of not having health insurance for them. I never have to say "You'll have to put him down, because I can't afford the treatment".

Posted by: Rochelle | July 26, 2011 11:25 AM    Report this comment

I think it should be mandatory for every person who wants to adopt a dog, especially puppies, to foster it for at least a week before the adoption is finalized. If you've done the home visits and intros, etc, I doubt too many people will mind having the shelter still be on the hook for vet bills for a week.

I was one of those people who was interested in adopting a dog, but fell in love with a puppy. I couldn't resist her. She was just so cute, but I fostered her before I adopted her. This gave me the chance to experience all her issues first hand (of which she had a few given that she had almost no human interaction until she was about 3 months old). In the end, it didn't change my mind about wanting her, but it give her the opportunity to find a forever home that could handle her needs if I couldn't.

Posted by: Alison C | July 26, 2011 10:48 AM    Report this comment

I think people who adopt senior dogs ROCK! but you are right about the older, gawky pups and the middle aged ones too. Basically if someone is willing to adopt a dog over about a year (!) they "feel" better. Of course, things still happen, people's fortunes change, some of those dogs even have issues that are difficult for the average working family to manage. But overall, i also mistrust people who "really just want a puppy."
That said, i have fostered many litters of pups and they need good homes too, so as long as people are willing to look to their shelter or rescue instead of going out and buying a puppy (even from a "reputable" breeder - 'nother issues altogether) then they have scored points right off the bat.

Posted by: Rachel S | July 26, 2011 10:39 AM    Report this comment

Bless you Amy for taking on another dog you know that is going to cost you money. That is true love of an animal and treating them like family.

Posted by: Bladesp | July 26, 2011 10:36 AM    Report this comment

I have to agree with both of you. Our local shelter is always full of 6-9 month old Lab, Border Collie, and Husky-type pups. The people take the cute puppy home without even researching the breed, first.
They are then surprised a few months later when they have a large teenage dog that has a great need for excercise and stimulation. Sometimes, just the tail of a 9 month Lab can clear the coffee table!
I have been encouraging our local shelter to quiz adopting families about the breed they are adopting in an attempt to stop the mistake before it happens...

Posted by: SONIA ANTONIDES | July 26, 2011 10:34 AM    Report this comment

This is so true! Everyone wants a puppy! I had a similar situation last summer when I was fostering a shar-pei. This guy is adorable - big, squishy face and all. People would stop me on the street to ask what kind of dog he was on a regular basis. It made me uncomfortable because I knew he was going to cost someone a lot of money in vet bills. He's got skin issues and needed surgery on his eyes. I've had 2 Shar-Peis before and knew the drill. In the end, I decided to keep him because at least I knew what I was getting myself into. I didn't want him to be adopted into a family who couldn't afford his ongoing vet bills, which is how he came to me in the first place. His first home wasn't his forever home, but his second one certainly is!

Posted by: AmyFeranec | July 25, 2011 2:51 PM    Report this comment

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