Our work here at Dogs 4 Rescue mostly involves supporting dogs who have already suffered abuse, neglect or abandonment. But it wouldn’t be right for us not to address some of the key causes of the crisis in rescue we have currently here in the UK – and campaign for preventative change.
I wrote this blog after being asked once again whether we have a specific breed here at the rescue up for adoption. The unfortunate truth is that pedigree breeds are still favoured over mongrels. This is problematic for the dogs themselves and their owners – but it also contributes to the overwhelming number of rescues we see filled to the brim, putting out desperate pleas to help loving dogs who have been condemned to death row.
Even if you don’t feel you are selecting a breed based on looks and whether you choose to buy or rescue, being selective over the breed you would like often isn’t as ‘safe and sound’ a strategy as you’d like.
In this blog we hope to dispel the stigma that surrounds rescues and in particular mongrel breeds. We write this in the hope that anyone who is thinking of buying a breed or coming into rescue with a specific breed in mind may stop and consider a different way that is better for them – and better for dogs.
1/ Medical reasons
Many pedigree breeds are bred for looks – not for their health. Pugs and French Bulldogs are incredibly popular at the moment – but their ‘design’ as left them with a short snout, which causes a host of lifelong health issues. Daschunds are also a fashionable breed – but their elongated shape can cause terrible spinal problems.
2/ Pet theft
It’s incredibly sad, and it shouldn’t happen – but when you have an “expensive dog” you run the risk of them being stolen. Recently there has been a sharp increase in people stealing dogs to order.
3/ No two dogs are the same
When a dog is a breed type it is often assumed that the dog is as the “breed type” describes – ignoring the fact it has had its own personality and set of behaviours developed from many experiences as well as its breeding (which no one will know). More on this below.
4/ Focus on aesthetics above all else
People contact us asking for a French Bulldog or a chihuahua or a Labradoodle. They don’t care what it’s like, they just want to adopt one – as though these dogs are going to be a fit for them just because they look a certain way.
It’s apparent that looks mean everything to many dog owners, people who think of themselves as ‘dog lovers’. People have to ask “What breed is your dog?”. If they look a bit black and tan and it’s “A Rottie type” many people instantly panic and recoil. But if it’s white and curly it must be a poodle type – surely – then everyone relaxes. It’s would actually be laughable if it wasn’t so worrying – and highlights just how far removed we are as ‘animals’ ourselves.
It is not socially acceptable to make assumptions about people, but we unashamedly do it with dogs all the time. Every type of dog can end up in rescue, but the ones who are breed types will get homes no matter what their temperament may be. Those who are black, older, no matter how good – will get left behind. We are so fickle and judgemental and it really reflects on how they are treated. The fact one dog is worth more than another is what breaks us the most.
5/ Assumptions about behaviour attached to a breed
There’s a practical side to the argument above, too. What does it mean when a dog doesn’t look like a breed? It means people don’t know how to treat it – which just shows how far removed we are from assessing dog behaviour. People may rush to pet a big fluffy Poodle, but back away from a bouncy Staffie. Cue surprise when the Poodle snaps, and the Staffie rolls over for belly rubs! Tying behaviours to breeds is dangerous not only for us, but for the dogs themselves, as it actively contributes to the crisis in rescue happening right now.
Labradors – One of the worst known breeds for dog bites. Yet people see them and only think of guide dogs or Andrex puppies.
Staffies – The status symbol of the wide boy – with their 10 kids, lax lifestyle who let the dogs roam free – all over every council estate in the UK – yet the reports of Staffs biting kids? Well I’ve never known it. Demonised in the press – feared by people who refuse to let us have a Staffie in the room when they visit – all because they’ve never met one.
Jack Russells – Typical grandad dogs – everyone I’ve met who works in rescue has been badly bitten by a JRT or few along the way. My only scars are from them and one of the dogs we cannot rehome for behavioural issues is Smokey our resident JRT.
Plenty of pedigrees suffer with horrendous psychological issues, separation anxiety, aggression, fear – all attributes commonly (and unfairly) associated with rescues.
Don’t judge a book by its cover
So what happens when you meet a “mongrel” – an unknown entity? No assumptions can be made. People spend hours and dwell over the possible origins. They get DNA tests done on them, they wrangle over what they think is “in them” as though it will give them a clue as to their behaviour. Better still just treat them all as blank slates – give them a chance and assess them based on how you find them, not on how you assume.
If you take on a dog assuming it will be a certain way it’s bound to be disappointment. How does anyone know how a puppy will turn out? The answer is you don’t. It is the biggest gamble anyone can take.
Where do the issues develop? Historically the ‘rescue dog’ has issues but when did it become a rescue dog – at what point? When it was given up by the breeder? No of course not. When it was given up by the first owner to their friends? Or when their friends gave it to a kennels? Then it is surely a rescue dog – but where do the issues come from?
We’ve rescued puppies who have more issues having grown up with socialisation and surrounded by dogs yet can become dog aggressive in time. We have rescued older dogs deemed dog aggressive who have spent time here and changed completely. When do we ‘write them off?’
Our upset is owning a daycare centre where 99 per cent of the dogs who go were bought – many from puppy farms and certainly most from ‘back yard’ or ‘unscrupulous breeders’. These dogs not only have major health concerns but many also have extreme behavioural issues that if we had in our rescues would deem them un-rehomeable.
If we get a cockerpoo in rescue it doesn’t matter if it would savage your granny – people want it and will fight over it. A brindle Staffie who wants to love and kiss everyone they meet is treated like scum and the last dog on earth most people would agree to even meet when they come.
Ask anyone in rescue and if they get a breed type in (save JRTs, Staffies, American bulldogs etc) – and they will get people arguing and fighting over a dog they’ve never even met. All due to assumptions of how it will be. They appear to want to adopt and pay straight away with no concerns of the ‘normal’ rescue adopter.
A Labrador comes in and we get parents inundating us because they ‘know they are good with kids’ Why do people think there’s such distinctions based on breed? We certainly don’t feel comfortable categorising people as to “breed”, colour, religion etc – but with dogs it suddenly means everything?
You can generalise to a degree based on a dog’s breed as to certain aspects of their characteristics – Whippets run quickly and Greyhounds can have a high prey drive. Staffies can give serious kisses and Chihuahuas can be snappy but at the same time I’ve met and spent time with many thousands of different dogs over the last 13 years and I can honestly say there’s no assumptions that can be made. Each dog should be judged and assessed on its own merit. We’ve had Greyhounds rehomed with loads of cats, dogs who were deemed ‘fighting dogs’ turned around and live with cats and dogs and never an issue. We’ve had the softest golden retriever types who have been unable to be rehomed due to savage attacks on people. We have 3 Chihuahuas here who haven’t been dog socialised or met children yet they’re perfect with all. They’re old – the mum is actually a ‘rescue dog’ herself – so what does that tell anyone? Except prove my point completely.
Breeds were developed by humans don’t forget – they are not the origins of the domestic dog! Please, please don’t judge a dog on its breed.
The most important reason of all – kindness
We understand that this is an incredibly uncomfortable truth for most – and a bitter pill to swallow. But when you choose to buy a designer dog, you effectively condemn another dog waiting in rescue to death. We don’t write this to judge people who have already purchased a dog from a breeder. Instead we hope that this post changes minds, challenges perceptions, ends judgemental cherry-picking and breaks down the stigma attached to rescues and mongrels.