Why are there so many dogs in shelters? That’s a question that a lot of people wonder about but is easily answered. There are usually two basic reasons why dogs end up in a shelter: the first reason is that humans are irresponsible and selfish. Yes, that sounds harsh but it’s true. Being the true and compassionate dog-lover that I am, I would no more give up my dog than my child. Dogs are loving, loyal to a fault, and completely devoted to their humans and giving them up because they are not convenient for you any longer is wrong. If you feel like it’s acceptable to surrender a dog because they don’t fit well into your life any more, do both of you a favor and never get a dog.
The second reason is that dogs are misunderstood. Although many people treat them like humans, they are not; they are animals. All animals need a lot of training in order to fit into a human household. Without the proper attention, exercise, stimulation, and love, a dog will remain a misunderstood animal with no manners and a lot of pent-up aggression.
What Goes Wrong?
There are many reasons why owners give up on their dogs and drop them in a shelter. None of which, in my opinion, are good reasons and all can be resolved with some effort.
- Dogs who bark too much (they are bored or nervous or begging you for attention)
- Dogs who chew too much (they are bored and need mental/physical stimulation)
- You need to relocate for job or some other reason (terrible excuse to desert your dog)
- Too lazy to take care of him (the dog’s better off in this case to find a loving owner)
Whatever the reason may be, that dog is a member of your family and will experience psychological and physiological effects because of your decision to separate him from his family. He looks to you as a pack leader and other members of the household as members of the pack. It’s a horrible fate for him to be deserted and he doesn’t understand what he did for you to do this to him.
What to do?
First of all, you need to understand what you’re working with. Dogs descend from wolves, which are pack animals and inherently understand a social order. They cooperate while hunting, raising pups, and communicate well with each other. Obviously such an organized species would do well interacting with humans, and they did. In exchange for protection and labor, dogs received companionship, food, and shelter from humans. Today, most dogs reap those rewards with nothing expected in return. The only thing most people want from their dogs is good behavior; but that only comes with hard work on your behalf. When people don’t put the time into it, they get very little out of the relationship.
Over 4 million dogs enter shelters every year and it’s mainly due to the fact that humans cannot handle dogs properly. Most dogs aren’t born with social problems, they develop them. What would happen to your child if he was left with nothing more than a bowl of food each day? Give him no love, schooling, attention, play, or exercise and see what becomes of him. Luckily, these problems are very easy to fix with the proper amount of time and some patience. There are thousands of websites and books that are dedicated to rehabilitating dogs with behavioral problems. There are classes and trainers that deal with dogs at all stages of their lives.
With a little bit of effort and a whole lot of compassion, you can make a difference in the life of a shelter dog. You can give him a new family to love and protect. You can give him a warm place to call home.