Shelter Geezers: Check 'Em Out!

Why you should consider adopting an adult dog from your local shelter.

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA
2-minute read


Almost everyone who visits a shelter looking to adopt a dog heads for the puppies right off the bat. Maximum cooing! But let me suggest that you keep an eye out for a shelter wallflower instead: the large middle-aged or older dog. Here’s why:

Almost anyone who does doggy manners training or works with behavior problems will tell you that they get a lot more calls about big dogs than about little ones. This isn’t because big dogs are more aggressive, or more skittish, or less mannerly than little dogs. It’s because little dogs with problems are easier to manage than big dogs with problems. And often humans perceive little-dog problem behavior as cute, whereas a big dog it would be scary. (How many times have you seen people get all amused by a Min Pin lunging and barking, when a Shepherd mix doing the same thing would have them crossing the street?)

And because big dogs with bad manners or behavior problems are harder to manage, people bail out on them sooner – in adolescence or young adulthood, not when they’re 5, or 6, or 7. This means that a big dog who lands in a shelter in middle age or later could well be an absolute gem - a pup who lost his home because his family got foreclosed on or his guardian died.

There’s no set formula that will find you the right dog, and no guarantee that that old geezer you’re looking at is a sweetheart. Get to know him before deciding whether to bring him home. But by all means, get to know him first.

About the Author

Jolanta Benal, CPDT-KA, CBCC-KA

Jolanta holds professional certifications in both training and behavior counseling and belongs to the Association of Professional Dog Trainers and the International Association of Animal Behavior Consultants. She also volunteered with Pet Help Partners, a program of the Humane Society of the United States that works to prevent pet relinquishment. Her approach is generally behaviorist (Pavlovian, Skinnerian and post-Skinnerian learning theory) with a big helping of ethology (animal behavior as observed in non-experimental settings).

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