So far this month, we’ve brought you several posts on dogs that are frequently overlooked when it is time to add a canine member to your family. These dogs represent only a portion of the dogs desperately in need of forever homes across the country; that’s right, we’re talking about shelter dogs!

Many people are hesitant to adopt a shelter dog, as these poor pups seem to have gotten a bad rap as “second-hand” or “rejects.” This could not be further from the truth! The majority of dogs that wind up in shelters are there through no fault of their own; oftentimes their surrender is due to a death in or addition to the family, a change in financial circumstances, or an owner who didn’t realize just how must time, effort, and money goes into caring for a dog. Occasionally, dogs land in shelters or rescue organizations after being seized from a dangerous or unhealthy environment.

Shelter dogs are often mixed breeds, but Petfinder, the most popular online database for finding shelter animals, estimates that 25% of dogs at animal shelters are purebred. Breed-specific rescue organizations exist as well. There are definite advantages to adopting a mixed breed or other shelter dog. Here are 5 of our favorites:

1)      You may very well be saving a dog’s life. According to the Humane Society of the United States, about half of all animals in shelters will be euthanized due to lack of good homes. Your choosing to adopt a shelter dog instead of buying a dog from a pet store or breeder will prevent it from being the 1 in 2 dogs that gets put down for no reason other than having the misfortune of being placed in a shelter.

2)     Fewer genetic health issues. Mixed breed dogs, as most shelter dogs are, may very well have fewer health issues that purebred dogs. Purebred dogs, even when bred responsibly, tend to possess some breed-specific health issues like hip dysplasia, heart murmurs or other cardiac conditions, predisposition to cancer, and respiratory issues. Since mixed breed dogs rarely come from the same gene pool on both sides, they tend to escape a lot of the breed-specific health conditions.

3)      Many shelter dogs come pre-trained! Shelters are staffed with volunteers who care for, train, and socialize the pets to give them their best chance to find a great forever home. Many shelter dogs are already leash and toilet-trained, and know basic commands such as “sit,” “stay,” and “come.” It doesn’t get much easier than that! Also, because shelter volunteers spend so much time with the individual dogs, they can usually give you a pretty detailed description of the dog’s personality and likes and dislikes. If you have children or other pets in your home, a shelter volunteer ought to be able to tell you how they expect a specific dog to react to that situation, and point you toward dogs that might be suitable for your home and your needs.

4)      Shelters take care of their dogs’ basic medical needs before adopting them out. Shelters include spaying/neutering and vaccinations, and often deworming, in their adoption fees, which rarely run more than $400, and are cheaper if the dog was already ‘fixed’ prior to arriving at the shelter. Shelter fees are also generally cheaper than what a pet store charges for a dog that does not receive any medical treatment prior to adoption (and whose care can be somewhat suspect while at the store), and definitely cheaper than the price to purchase a purebred dog from a breeder, who like pet stores, generally do not spay or neuter their puppies prior to selling them.

5)      Variety is the spice of life! Shelters have myriad mixes and sizes of dogs to choose from, and get new dogs nearly every day. You will have a great selection of pups to pick from, and there is no need to make a decision on the first visit. If you don’t find a dog that fits what you’re looking for on the first trip, wait a week or two and come back, or visit another local shelter, or check out Petfinder to find all adoptable dogs in your designated search area. Some shelters will even make waiting lists for certain sizes or mixes; you let them know what you’re looking for, and they’ll call you when they have a dog that might match!

Need more convincing? Here are a few great shelter success stories that, if you’re anything like us, will make you want to run, not walk, to your nearest animal shelter!



Stella was adopted by the Mosher family of Kennebunk, ME a year and half ago after they found her on Petfinder. She is a four year-old Lhasa Apso/Cocker Spaniel mix who loves hoarding tennis balls and squeaky toys, frolicking on the town beach, and curling up with whoever will give her attention. Stella believes people were put on earth to love her, and will greet anyone within leash-distance with a giant, black-lipped, underbite grin. Her nicknames are Stella Bella, because she’s such a beautiful girl; Ewok, due to her striking resemblance to the adorable Star Wars creatures; and Arf Marf, after the noise she makes when she’s playing tug of war or struggling to extricate her ball from whatever piece of furniture she’s gotten it stuck under (which happens on an hourly basis).



Roxie is a Nashville, TN transplant who now resides in MA with owner Alicia. A nearly two year-old Chow Chow/Shepherd mix, Roxie believes everyone is her new best friend. Many people warned Alicia against getting Roxie, as Chow Chows are known to be fairly aggressive dogs, but Alicia says that Roxie is the sweetest, most affectionate dog she’s ever met. Look at that face; how you could you argue? Roxie loves lying in any body of water she can find, “like she’s at a spa,” Alicia says. “She doesn’t swim. She just lays.” Roxie also enjoys gently chewing on the scruff of her “brother,” a five year-old fluffy white cat who Alicia describes as “patient but not amused.” And if you break out a piece of cheese, you’ll have the privilege of seeing Roxie run through her arsenal of tricks, which is quite the amusing sight!


Sammy, right, with his "siblings" Ginger and Andy. Sammy was determined to squeeze his way onto that bench!

Sammy is a six year-old Chocolate Lab/Golden Retriever mix who lives with the Farmer family and his two canine “siblings,” Ginger and Andy, in Radcliff, KY. Sammy was adopted from a shelter when he was roughly a year old, and was malnourished at the time, but as you can see, he is one healthy pup now! He’s a sweet boy who is incredibly protective of his family, and his owners absolutely believe he would lay down his life for them. Sammy LOVES to eat; his tail wags the whole time, and his owners believe it’s because he remembers being hungry. Sammy made his way into their hearts and their home, and hopes you’ll open your heart and home to another wonderful shelter dog like him!

So, ready to run to the shelter? Here are a few links to check out before you load up the car!

ASPCA’s guide to choosing and adopting a shelter dog

Excerpts from Petfinder’s “The Adopted Dog Bible,” which we’ve read and highly recommend

ASPCA list of adoptable shelter dogs

Photo credits, top to bottom:

Klearchos Kapoutsis via Flickr – image is cropped

(C) 2011 Theresa A. Grenier

(C) 2011 Alicia MacManus

(C) 2011 Laura Ward Farmer