The Myth of the “Broken” Shelter Dog

On April 16, 2012, I adopted a Sheltie mix from the Jay County Humane Society in Portland, Indiana. I’ve really enjoyed my journey with Shelby so far, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the reasons people give for not adopting from shelters. There is a perception that the dogs in the shelters are “broken.” While it’s true that many of them may have been surrendered because of behavior problems… I have come to the conclusion that it’s less of a “dog issue” and more of a “human issue.”

Before I continue, let me acknowledge that not ALL shelter dogs are there because of behavior problems. I understand that sometimes the owner passes away or becomes ill and the family is unable to care for the dog. Sometimes people lose their job/house/ability to care for a pet and are forced to take their dog to the shelter. But let’s take my dog Shelby as an example.

I was told that her former owners dropped her at the shelter because they just had a baby and she was too hyper. And here is my first point: EXPECTATIONS. Some people simply have unrealistic expectations of their dogs. In my experience, Shelby is NOT a hyper dog. However, I provide daily exercise and training sessions. It is simply not realistic to expect a six month old puppy to sit in a crate all day then lie quietly on the floor while you watch TV. That’s not the dog’s fault; it’s the fault of the owner.

When I first got her, Shelby was a jumper. She gets impressive vertical air for a thirty-five pound dog. Let’s assume that jumping was an issue for her former owners. My second point: TRAINING. For whatever reason (laziness, not knowing better, getting bad advice, money), some people fail to consistently and fairly train their dog what to do. A dog is a dog, and left to her own devices will do what a dog does. So if an owner fails to properly train his dog then dumps her at the shelter, why do we assume that it’s the dog that is broken? Truly, the owner had unrealistic EXPECTATIONS and failed to effectively TRAIN. It was the owner who was broken. That’s OK, because I feel very lucky to have little Shelby in my family.

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