The number of puppies being abandoned over the past 12-months has doubled according to worrying statistics revealed by the UK’s largest dog rehoming website, www.DogsBlog.com.
The recession and general belt tightening has been cited as a major cause for the upward trend, however the rapid rise in the number of dogs between the ages of 7 weeks and 12-months of age suggests more dog owners are taking on pets when they are ill equipped to fulfill the lifelong commitment to the animal.
Financial hardship and relationship breakdowns are the two most commonly cited reasons for dog abandonment and this has become especially pronounced over the past two years as people have been hit by the recession.
With over 100,000 dogs currently residing in the UK’s over-stretched welfare system and each dog costing the animal charity sector £6.65* per day, experts are concerned that any further pressure on shelters and charities will be unsustainable and a tipping point already appears to have been reached as one major charity (Battersea Dogs and Cats Home) recently announced they were putting to sleep many healthy dogs as they struggle to cope with the sheer number of surrendered animals.
Co-founder of DogsBlog.com and former professional dog trainer, Ryan O’Meara, believes a radically different approach is required to bring about a shift in attitudes toward dog acquisition and abandonment.
To try and debunk the myths about dog adoption and encourage dog lovers to consider adopting, DogsBlog.com and Butcher’s Pet Care, launched National Dog Adoption Month in September with the emphasis firmly on spreading the message that breed research is the most essential preparation any potential dog owner can do. Understanding the unique quirks and habits particular to a specific breed enables even the most experienced owner to make a better judgement about the compatibility of their lifestyle and any new dog they intend to bring in to their home.
O’Meara believes the increase in dogs being given up is as much to do with people failing to properly research their dog of choice as well as a growth in irresponsible breeders/suppliers of dogs who are exploiting the complete lack of regulation in producing dogs at wholesale levels
"Sadly, we now live in an instant, must-have-it-now society. People often formulate the idea of getting a dog and before they’ve taken the time to really plan out what breed, age or even whether they’re actually able to provide a suitable lifestyle for any dog, they’ve gone out and got one. This creates a vicious cycle as responsible breeders and indeed rescue shelters will often reject unsuitable people, which in turn puts them in to the path of the irresponsible ones. So you have a situation where the have a situation where the needs of a certain breed are not matched correctly with the owner’s lifestyle and the cycle of misery and abandonment is perpetuated for the poor dogs.
"All too often we see small behavioural problems cited as a reason for people giving up their dogs. In many, indeed most, cases we find the owner hasn’t sought professional help but has assumed the problem to be insurmountable. This is often not the case and even the seemingly serious problems can often be corrected with the right advice and guidance. We always say it’s very similar to living with a child in the so-called terrible two’s age range. Problems may appear but they can just as easily be cured. Unfortunately, unlike children, pet parents are sometimes too quick to assume the worst and the dog finds itself looking for a new home, competing against more than 100,000 others.
DogsBlog recently celebrated the successful rehoming of Axis, an eleven week old German Shepherd pup. But even by eleven weeks, Axis had been passed to three different homes, all of which rejected him through no fault of his own. Fortunately, Axis is now in a secure permanent home.
O’Meara believes that a lack of research in to suitable breeds is compounded by perceptions of dogs
and their adoptability when dogs reach a certain age
In an effort to bring wider awareness to this problem, O’Meara offers a 5-step strategy to anyone thinking of getting a new dog
1) Understand what your dog breed of choice was originally bred to do. If you like the look of an Irish Setter but don’t recognise the breed’s original purpose was to be a long distance working dog, don’t be too surprised if you find your beautiful puppy grows up to be a challenging proposition in relation to their desire to run off ahead of you
2) Recognise that function is more important than form. In other words, if you buy a dog purely on looks alone, you may encounter several problems that you hadn’t bargained for in relation to health and behaviour. You wouldn’t buy a Ferrari to do the school run with if you have several children you need to reliably shuttle from one location to another – yet this is exactly what many dog owners do when they select a breed purely on how it looks rather than its all round suitability to live a particular lifestyle. It’s an error that can create misery down the line as the dog reaches maturity
3) Most puppies are similar, regardless of breed. The fatal mistake owners make is in assuming a puppy will remain a puppy. A German Shepherd puppy is not entirely different to a Labrador puppy in terms of their behaviour and personality, until they start to reach maturity. Never judge a dog’s suitability for your life on the basis of how it acts and appears when it’s a puppy
4) Seriously consider an older dog. An older dog doesn’t have to mean ‘an old’ dog. A dog of 12-months can be far, far more suitable for many people in terms of assessing its adult size, its temperament, its trainability and its suitability to live with children, other pets etc. There is a myth that in order for a dog to truly bond, you should get it as a puppy. This is completely and utterly false. Dogs can and will bond within family environments regardless of age and very young puppies, whilst cute, can actually be a real handful and a lot of work in comparison to a more mature dog. Don’t think for a second that just as much fun can’t be had with a dog over the age of 8-months…PLUS you get the added benefit of missing out on tearaway, disobedient phase that many puppies go through before they reach maturity
5) Listen to experienced, professionals. If you go and visit a shelter – EVEN if you’re NOT considering getting a rescue dog – you can get invaluable, experienced advice that could save you (and any future dog) heartache at a later date. Never pass up the opportunity to get free, knowledge from the people who see the most common errors made by new dog owners, day in day out. Speak to shelter staff and pick their brains. You will be amazed at how much can be gained from just 10 minutes in the company of someone who’s seen it and done it over and over.
For anyone thinking of acquiring a new puppy, there is an upside to these figures. There are more puppies than ever before looking for a new home, disproving the myth that only old or badly behaved dogs find their way in to the welfare system.