I n some quarters, the public perception of rescue dogs is that they are in a shelter or foster home due to some problem related to their behaviour. As a behavioural expert, I can assert that this is certainly not the case, as many dogs are in rescue situations due to no fault of their own. While there are no doubt some dogs who are given up by their owners due to behaviour issues, there are numerous other reasons that dogs find themselves in need of a home.
The sad reality is that there are many more dogs needing a home than there are homes for them.
That being said, let’s look at some reasons why it might be preferable to consider rescuing an adult dog, as opposed to obtaining a puppy from a breeder. As I don’t want to incur the wrath of any responsible dog breeders, let me say that there’s nothing cuter than a puppy, and I don’t think that will ever change if you are a dog lover. On the other hand, if you’ve never had a puppy, it’s difficult to imagine the amount of time and effort required to raise one properly. Initially, it’s pretty much a full-time job if you’re going to do it right — that cute little puppy can quickly become a major imposition if you aren’t able to make the necessary commitment.
Compared with a very young puppy, a more mature dog has likely already gone through teething and, as a result, is not as likely to destroy any number of things around the house during this process (including the house itself). Score one for a rescue! Consider housetraining as well — an older dog is more likely to have already learned this important behaviour. Score a big number two for a rescue (figuratively speaking). Finally, the personality of an older dog is more evident, so you will have a better idea of what you’re going to be getting in the long term.
Now, I do know that there are numerous so-called temperament tests that are routinely given to puppies to reveal what they will be like as adults. I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade, but to my knowledge there is no accurate predictor as to what a very young puppy’s personality and behaviour will be like as an adult. This is just another one of those things in the dog world that has been accepted as valid over time, even though it is not supported by any legitimate studies.
Over the years, I have had many dogs, both puppies and rescues. One of the best dogs I have ever had was a very large German Shepherd who was found in a ditch, likely having been hit by a car. He was nursed back to health by the owner of an animal sanctuary just north of Toronto called Haven of the Heart. Because he was already an old dog (estimated at around 10 years of age) he wasn’t adopted for the longest time, as most people don’t want a dog that old. The owner of the sanctuary talked me into taking him, and he turned out to be an extremely wonderful dog. He was so well behaved that he even made a live appearance with me on Canada AM. When he finally passed away I was very sad, but at least I knew I had been able to give him three years of a very good life.
In terms of dogs that are currently living with me, among them are two Mastiffs (pictured above) — Lily on the left and Henry on the right. I got Lily through the Canadian Mastiff Rescue Club in Ontario when she was just under two years old; Henry was obtained from a breeder at the age of eight weeks. Lily was quite well behaved and fairly calm when she came here, whereas Henry was a typical young puppy, requiring constant supervision. He is eight months of age in the picture and had already grown to the same size as Lily, and by the time this magazine is published he is projected to be well over 150 pounds and still growing. While Henry certainly has a delightful personality, his nickname — the Monster Truck — will give you an idea as to what it’s like having an eightmonth-old puppy of that size around the house. I think there’s a conclusion to be drawn here about the virtues of adopting an adult rescue dog.
If you aren’t convinced yet, the other two photos are of Molly Moldovan and her two rescued standard poodles. Molly is a visual artist who resides in the Kawartha Lakes area of Ontario, and is a lifetime dog lover. This past winter she obtained Roscoe (pictured with her when he first came to her home) from Standard Poodles In Need, a.k.a. SPIN. As she already has a poodle from SPIN that has worked out well, she wanted to rescue another one. The second photo, taken this spring on her dock, shows Roscoe (four years old) with her other poodle Kanya (10 years old). Molly tells me that they get along well and she is very pleased with her decision to get two dogs from SPIN.
If you are thinking about getting a dog, I hope this article will at least get you to consider adopting a res
cue dog. There are so many wonderful dogs in shelters, and if they could talk, I suspect that pretty much all of them would say how much they wish they could have a real home.
If you are interested in this topic, I am conducting an evening seminar at St. Lawrence College in Kingston on October 25, 2017, from 7pm to 10pm entitled Behaviours Exhibited by Rescue Dogs. Registration information can be found at parttime.stlawrencecollege.ca/stlaw.
Kerry Vinson, founder of Animal Behaviour Consultants, has a BA in Psychology and has extensively studied animal learning and behaviour modification. In addition to conducting seminars on canine behaviour and assessing dogs with behavioural problems, he has been designated by the Province of Ontario as an expert witness in the areas of general canine behaviour, canine aggression and re-training. For more information he can be reached at (705) 295-3920, (905) 352-3353, or visit: www.animalbehaviourconsultants.com