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Animal Shelter Reveals The Most Common Questions From New Pet Owners

Veterinarian Reviewed on June 1, 2017 by Dr. Janice Huntingford, DVM
Posted in Cats

Pet adoption is on the rise as of late, thanks in no small part to the increased accessibility to information regarding the many benefits of adopting shelter or rescue animals.

Still, you can’t blame aspiring pet owners for being skeptical about adoption. The Internet doesn’t exactly have the best reputation when it comes to cogency, and no two pet owners’ experiences are the same. That’s why staff and volunteers at local adoption centers are accustomed to answering droves of questions on a regular basis.

Earlier this month, Sarah Neikam, Marketing Director at the SPCA Albrecht Center for Animal Welfare in Aiken, South Carolina revealed the most common questions the shelter receives from aspiring owners. Her honest answers could prove very helpful for anyone looking to test the validity of the general public’s views on adoption.

1. What breed is that dog?

Up to 25% of shelter dogs are purebred, while the rest are mixed breeds, or “mutts.” This label isn’t exactly flattering, so shelter staff typically refer to mixed breeds as “American Shelter Dogs.” The breeds written on adoption information for such dogs are usually educated guesses by shelter staff, Niekam says. Staff members can provide loose estimations in terms of how large an animal will grow throughout its lifetime but cannot make any guarantees as far as the dog’s temperament.

Certain dogs are associated with certain temperaments but any shelter staff member will tell you that the owner has a far greater influence on the pet’s behavior “through the care, patience, training, enrichment and environment you provide.” So even if you adopt a pet that resembles a breed with a poor reputation, the way the dog develops depends almost entirely on you.

2. Is the dog house-trained?

This question usually refers to indoor bathroom etiquette, arguably the No.1 concern of anyone looking to adopt. Older rescue dogs are naturally more likely to be house-trained, as are dogs that were surrendered to shelters by their previous owners. “More often, though, dogs arrive after living outside, whether previously owned or not, and will depend on their adopter for proper, positive guidance and training,” says Neikam. It’s easy to imagine someone being intimidated by such a response, but shelter staff members aren’t about to leave you in the dark.

When you buy a pet from a store, staff members know close to nothing about the pet and your relationship with the seller ends the moment you walk out the door. Shelter staff members, however, will gladly offer advice and guidance at any time. Adopters should never be afraid to ask questions as they raise and/or care for their new pets.

3. Is the dog good with kids?

“I like to turn this question around and ask instead, ‘do you have kids who are good with dogs?’ “ Neikam says, because parents who teach their children good behavior will almost certainly do the same for their new pets. Kids who are good with dogs were raised to be patient, gentle and conscious of other peoples’ feelings. The pets of such children typically respond by showing them the same love and courtesy. As for children who do not possess the aforementioned qualities, virtually any dog could become aggressive if provoked.

Lower-energy dogs might be less resistant to physical contact but parents shouldn’t be surprised if their new pet reacts negatively to the curious, often-unruly tendencies of children, especially those who hug or lay on their dogs as if they were pillows with a heartbeat.

Niekam added that staff members are frequently questioned about pets that have remained at the shelter for long periods of time or were returned. These animals, she suggested, are often assumed to have some sort of unsolvable physical or emotional issue but this is usually not the case. Sometimes, the animal is overlooked purely because of its age. Others might have been returned due to a health condition that seemed more serious than it actually is. Her own cat, for example, was initially returned to a shelter because of a gastrointestinal problem. A simple change in diet, however, was all it took to solve the problem, and the cat hasn’t had a single health issue since!

Read also: Investigation Of California Pet Shops Supports Efforts To Have Them Banned

Our Expert

Dr. Janice Huntingford
Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan

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