Written by Ioana Busuioc, July 2018
Special thanks to our fabulous Animal Behavior Coordinator Natasha Pupulin for her help on behavioral and temperament-related content!
When considering adopting a pet, many people wonder where the best place to get their new furry companion will be. There are numerous options, such as pet stores, breeders, even online on websites such as Kijiji, but the best option by far is through a rescue organization. That being said, rescue pets can often be at the center of misunderstandings due to various myths and misconceptions. Read on for some informative debunking!
One of the most common misconception about shelter pets is that they have behavioral issues that cannot be fixed.
Reality: It’s important to know that rescued animals come from all sorts of backgrounds, and yes, some of those backgrounds might be rooted in an undesirable or harmful situation for an animal, but the majority are happy-go-lucky pets who are ready for their forever home. Some animals end up in a shelter because they grew up without a family, their family can no longer care for them, their owners have passed away, from being lost and unable to reunite with their owners. Beyond this, there are animals who are rescued from hoarding situations, abusive situations. Naturally, animals who come from the aforementioned situations might experience cautiousness, fear, shyness, and so on. The most important thing to remember is that many of these issues are resolved with time, love, patience, and training from their fosters and adopters.At AARCS, it is why fostering and daily interaction with animals is crucial in order to help rescues come out of their shells and feel safe and secure so that their personalities may shine through for their future families. If there are ever issues related to the training of an animal, more commonly dogs, they are also addressed within shelter, and they continue into foster care to increase the animal’s adoptability. A reputable rescue will always disclose any existing concerns for your consideration prior to adopting, and will advise you about the prognosis for resolving those issues so you and your family can make a choice that is right for you.
An example of behavior we deal with that can be a concern to prospective pet owners is resource guarding. Contrary to popular belief, resource guarding behaviours do not originate from dogs raised in free-roaming environments or a history of scavenging behaviour. In fact, we see this behaviour reported in less than 1% of our dogs when observed in shelter and in home environments. Resource guarding can happen to any breed and at an age, and studies show that there is no clear correlation between genetics and this type of behavior. It is considered a fear-based behavior, and it is more often seen in dogs who are stressed and lack confidence. There are various ways of approaching this type of behavior, but ultimately there is a solution through consistency, patience, and care. Resource guarding is highly manageable, and in many cases, can be resolved quickly and easily using desensitization and counterconditioning techniques.
I don’t know what I’m getting with a rescue pet.
Reality: While it is true that shelters may not have significant information on various animals as they get taken in, organizations aim to put in the time and effort to get to know the animal before putting it up for adoption. AARCS is fortunate enough to have an Animal Behavior Coordinator. Natasha, and more than 600 dedicated caregivers and foster homes who take it upon themselves to improve adoptability rates, enrich the shelter environment, and deliver effective, kind and entertaining training activities to improve the quality of life for the animals in AARCS’ care as well as for their post-adoption lives! While breeders and retail stores might concern themselves more with quick turnovers, shelters like AARCS aim towards making great matches! It’s important to know that many of the animals taken in benefit from staying with a foster family prior to adoption. This is helpful for a few reasons, but most importantly it gets an animal the chance to get socialized with people, as well as potentially children or other animals, so that their personality can shine through and they can ultimately get adopted into the perfect family. All in all, animals that come through shelters get a lot of time and attention given to them so that rescue workers can be able to pinpoint any issues, address them, and cultivate positive traits and behaviors.
Getting a puppy is the best option because you know what you’re getting.
Reality: Not necessarily true. There is the appealing prospect of being able to shape the puppy as it grows, however puppies do not reach emotional and behavioural maturity until about 3 years of age. During this time, puppies go through a series of experiences, development stages, and fear imprinting periods that will shape their behaviours into adulthood. Adult dogs older than 3 years old will afford you more reliability in assessing behaviours long term. If there are ever any traits that may seem undesirable to you as a potential pet owner, adult dogs typically already have their own characteristics and behaviours set out, so it is much easier to know what you are getting. Additionally, puppies require A LOT of work, attention, and training, whereas adult dogs may already have some training!
It is fair to state tough, that based on experience, any adult, puppy, or adolescent may experience behaviour changes throughout their lifetimes, however the variation is greater in puppies when compared to adults after a period of assessment in foster care or in your home.
Thank you kindly for reading, I hope this was helpful and informative!
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