Whole Dog Journal's Blog March 15, 2011

Please, Don’t Bring Home the Wrong Dog!

Posted at 12:20PM - Comments: (9)

So, dog lovers, has this happened to you? You have a friend or relative who has been dogless for some time, by choice or situation or because they’ve been grieving the loss of their last dog. For some reason -- the planets have realigned, they finally own their own home, they just got reduced to a part-time job, whatever – they have decided that they are now ready to get a dog, and they want one, and they know just what they want. They want a male Poodle or Bichon-mix because they have allergies, and it has to be friendly. Or they want a little dog, but good with kids and not a Chihuahua not matter what because they know several and don’t like them.

Despite the fact that you’ve promised to find them the perfect dog, one that meets their every wish in a dog, if they would only give you a bit of time, the next thing you hear is:

“Hey, we got our dog! We just couldn’t wait, and we went to the shelter to look, and we got this dog, she’s great, she’s so sweet, she’s a Cocker Spaniel-mix!” 


“We adopted a dog! It turns out, he IS a Chihuahua-mix, but he’s so CUTE! And he’s been so great with the kids.”

And then the very NEXT development is that the Cocker is making both of them ill with allergies and she also bit the mailman when he tried to pet her. And the Chihuahua is adorable with the kids but how do they stop him from barking all day he’s driving them crazy!

How do you convince people to be patient and selective and wait for a dog who meets their criteria, instead of rushing in and adopting the first cute face in the shelter they see? A face that brings a body or temperament or coat that is all wrong for them, that is going to make that dog’s very existence in their home a challenge for all of them? I’m frustrated today, because I have two friends looking for a dog RIGHT NOW and they keep sending me photos from Petfinder of dogs that meet NONE of their stated requirements in a dog, and I foresee two more disasters in the works. And it might take a few weeks or even months, but I know in the very busy shelter where I volunteer, a dog who meets their every wish will be coming through those kennels, if they would just be PATIENT! And I don’t think they will!

Am I being hysterical? Should I just relax and let them discover the joys of the unexpected? Or is this a legitimate reason to gripe?

Comments (9)

I know this is an older post but I had to comment because I'm experiencing this same issue right now! I do a lot of agility training and a lady in club is ready for a new dog (her lovely mixed breed is getting older) and has decided she wants and Aussie. This is the breed I have and I know their pitfalls. This lady is not ready for such a demanding dog. I politely offered her advice, being very careful not to be offensive, but instead told her some of the trouble I had with my own dogs and the frustrations I continue to experience. She seemed to heed my warnings and thanked me. The next day her facebook profile photo was of an Aussie puppy she has ordered. Sometimes, once people make up their minds there seems to be no reasoning with them :(

Posted by: Christina B | May 6, 2011 11:49 AM    Report this comment

I agree completely with this article. I am feeling extremely frustrated with this same problem at the moment. I was unable to convince my parents who ordered a dog online and was shipped out to California that if you are going to buy from a breeder, at least make sure its a responsible breeder. (Yes the dog is suffering now from both a lack of training--my parents fault-- but also from problems that stemmed from not being properly socialized by the quote "breeder".)
But now I have another close friend who put down a deposit on a puppy that is so obviously the wrong breed for her household, but is very cute...
Our society is driven by instant gratification and aesthetics. My friend is buying the wrong dog because it looks cute and she wants one now. She won't be patient while I help her to look for a dog that suits her and her families needs that may or may not come from a shelter.
This issue becomes extremely frustrating when the people looking to get a new dog are close to me and I am unable to show them the wisdom of being patient and not relying purely on the aesthetics of a breed and their own impulsiveness.

Posted by: Rebecca R | April 14, 2011 8:02 AM    Report this comment

Nancy, your friends are truly lucky to have you as a resource with your professional and practical knowledge of all things "dog". As a friend, you can persist in calmly and rationally reflecting back to them what their stated requirements are and where you see the obvious disconnects---and what those potential outcomes might produce: the good, the bad, and the ugly. Be as honest and blunt as you can--true friendship requires no less. As an intelligent, compassionate dog lover, you will no doubt continue to feel frustrated over situations such as these---I think many of us who work and/or volunteer in dog world feel much the same. To your point, perhaps "letting go" and seeing what the discovery process brings is all you really can do to remain sane in a situation that is totally outside your control. Because when (not if) your friends, in their irrational, emotion-driven fervor proceed with adopting a dog RIGHT NOW, I'd give it a 50/50 chance they wind up with a problem child instead of a model citizen. That's when you'll quickly become the trusted resource who can help them figure out how to deal with the inevitable challenges that we know could have been avoided. Oh well. It's small consolation, but like I said at the outset: your friends are very lucky to have you.

Posted by: Stacey B | March 15, 2011 4:18 PM    Report this comment

I have been a rescue volunteer for over 10 years -- mostly a foster home so I understand trying to match people with dogs and I agree with most of the comments posted, but I do take offense at the comments about easily eliminating mastiffs and rottweilers from the choice.

I volunteer for a rottweiler rescue -- and there are a lot of people who love the breed and would not even consider any other dog. Please don't be so prejudiced about any particular breed.

Patti D.

Posted by: PATRICIA D | March 15, 2011 3:07 PM    Report this comment

These are all very excellent points so I cannot really expand on them. But no matter what people bring home -shelter or breeder -I'd like to see alot more committment to training. Alice points out so correctly that it takes awhile for the "true colors" to show as I know with my own recent shelter dog...you simply cannot fully judge based on shelter interaction. But proper household pack structure rules/groundwork, diligent schooling (especially marker training), sufficient exercise and patience in an overall stable dog will make the family addition that much more successful IMHO...
Also, I know people that have layed out a lot of money for their perfect "sport" candidate from a reputable breeder..only to find that the dog just doesn't have the nerves for Schutzhund or a true drive for agility. They all come with their unique strengths and challenges...it is up to the owner to discover and honor those -not hold fast and sometimes unrealistically to some preconceived notion of what the dog should do...

Posted by: Hilarie C | March 15, 2011 2:51 PM    Report this comment

I used to talk to a lot of 'shoppers' at the dog adoption stands and I was fairly blunt about it.

I would tell the people that a dog is not a toy and it cannot be a 'gift' to a child. A dog is a creature with feelings and an ability to reason.
I would tell them to narrow their search by learning which groups of dogs NOT to consider (Mastiff and Rottweiler are easy to eliminate for many folks).

And they need to hear that a dog is an individual with breed characteristics and should be chosen at least as carefully as a car (and will outlast a new car!).

And if they started getting their feelings hurt, I would call them on it. "Folks, I am here with all these redscue women who keep these homeless digs in their own homes. The reason there are so many dogs out of a home are because of people turning them in to shelters and not neutering their own dogs...and a lot of those are from people who got the wrong dog and didn't train it..." usually gave them a more serious perspective.

"Love them enough to get the right dog for your home and then take him for training.... make that commitment now..."

Posted by: Douglas H | March 15, 2011 2:44 PM    Report this comment

I didn't want a coyote snack, nor did I want to potty train but my husband didn't want the "possibly too big and hairy" shepherd-ish mix, so we took the other option available in the two month old age group...coyote bait. I was so happy that I got my husband to go the shelter in the first place that I went along with the terrier mix that he liked of the age he wanted. I have been volunteering in a shelter for three years so I know about behavior issues and returns ... and now I have experienced the "get one tonight" delirium. I am a dog trainer so I will deal with whatever arises but a two month old terrier isn't exactly what I had in mind.
I really like the suggestion of handing a requirement list over to the shelter. If my shelter had a check list I would have checked off the size of dog I wanted because having coyotes in our area is stressful and MAYBE we would have waited. Maybe. It is a powerful delirium, I think it must be a real chemical release in the brain.

Posted by: WENDY H | March 15, 2011 1:55 PM    Report this comment

It IS a legitimate reason to gripe, but at the same time...we cannot convince everyone that the dog they want is NOT best for them. Unless we live with them 24 hours a day and know absolutely everything there is to know about the person/family, we cannot forsee all disasters.

It is our job to guide them in the right direction. Find out what they are looking for in a dog. Have them make a list (which is what my husband and I did when we went to adopt our dog). Have them put on their list EVERYTHING that they are looking for in the perfect canine companion. Ask lots of questions. Why do you want a dog? Who will be the primary caregiver? What are your intentions with the dog (agility, therapy dog, etc.)? Once the list is done, they need to get together with a shelter rep and go through the list and look at each dog that matches or is close to their criteria on the list. All of this will help make closer matches for people than just allowing people to mindlessly walk through shelters and pick that cutest face. Sure, it can take soem time, but it can also be the best thing to do for ALL involved.

Here is the issue that I see. Though a dog may be adopted that meets almost all (if not all) of the criteria that someone is looking for, that still doesn't mean that the dog is going to be a good match. Once dogs are adopted, as they settle in, their personalities can change. Humans can also change the way they feel about the dog. Maybe the people are not training the dog as the dog needs, so the dog is behaving in ways that they don't want it too. Maybe someone has been diagnosed with a deadly disease. Who knows. Sadly, nothing is guaranteed when that dog is adopted and leaves the building.

As for allergies...allergies can arise with ANY animal! Allergies are not something that can be predicted. As we know, there are NO allergy-free dogs; only dogs that may lessen allergic reactions. Allergies are something that potential owners need to prepare for. They may not be allergic now, but what happens if they become allergic down the road? Allergies can occur at any age and at any time. I have had allergies in the past that I no longer have. Bodies change.

Things can and will occur with ANY dog, no matter how detailed the criteria is followed for the dog that is adopted. Dogs will be dogs and humans will be humans. We cannot predict nor solve all the potential issues that will arise. All we can do is attempt to help people make the most informed decision that they can, but ultimately...the decision is theirs.

Posted by: Therapy Dog Mom | March 15, 2011 1:26 PM    Report this comment

Yes, you have a legitimate gripe. But the longing and desire to start loving something this very minute and then that cute face--what's a person to do? Luckily, I have a very dear friend and she would be very upset with me if I didn't consult her on the next dog. Every time a rescue comes up on the agility site she sends me an email, "Don't even think about it." I already have two dogs 8 and 9 years old but am chomping on the bit to get a very young one to start training again. My friend isn't only looking out for me but also my husband (who tolerates dogs). So I also waste time on pet finder. In the meantime I try to help out by doing transport for a rescue organization every few months. Yes, the right dog will come along--I have to be one to two years patient and have to consult my friend--our friendship and my marriage depend on it!

Posted by: Katherine N | March 15, 2011 1:23 PM    Report this comment

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