The 5 Most Common Rescue Dog Myths — And Why They're Wrong

You can find your dream dog at a rescue!

5 most common dog myths

When someone first decides they want a dog, they often settle on a few things right away: what dog breed they want, if they want a boy or girl, and if they want a puppy or an older dog.

Sure, some people are happy to just go to a rescue and find any cute dog in need — but there are tons of others who think of shelters and immediately dismiss them as not being able to meet their dog preferences.

Guess what? Contrary to popular belief, rescues can have plenty of purebreds — and many more happy, well-adjusted dogs ready for you to take home.

Jennifer Brooks, executive director at Second Chance Rescue in New York City, spoke with The Dodo to debunk some of the most common rescue dog myths.

Myth #1: Dogs end up in a shelter because they have behavioral issues

“Dogs end up in shelters because of humans abandoning them,” Brooks said.

Those dogs, Brooks said, can be abandoned for tons of different reasons unrelated to their behavior, like the family not being able to pay a vet bill for a treatable issue, or lifestyle changes like moving to a new city.

Since so many dogs are surrendered due to no fault of their own, many just want to find a forever home to love them again and would be overjoyed to join a new family — especially since a shelter can be a stressful and unfamiliar environment.

Myth #2: There are no purebreds in shelters

A big reason why some people don’t try a shelter is because they assume all rescue dogs are mutts, or that they’ll have a really hard time finding the breed they have in mind.

But according to Brooks, there are plenty of purebreds in shelters. “We rescue at least three purebreds a month,” Brooks said. There are also many breed-specific rescues that only take in certain types of dogs. 

That being said, what’s most important is a dog’s personality, not breed. But if you do need a specific breed due to allergies, or a weight limit on dogs in your apartment building, you shouldn’t assume a rescue is off-limits.

Myth #3: Rescue dogs are unhealthy and sick

“False,” Brooks said. She added that the majority of rescue dogs don’t have any illnesses, and the ones who do usually have very minor issues. “Most are very easily treatable: URI [upper respiratory infection, AKA a cold], mange, emaciated.”

Once these dogs are properly taken care of at the rescue, they recover and are good as new and ready to find their forever home. And a good shelter will always let you know upfront if a particular dog has longer-term health issues (unlike a pet store), so you shouldn’t be worried you’ll be caught by surprise.

Myth #4: Previously abused dogs won't make good pets 

“There's a lid for every pot,” Brooks said. “Most rescue pets require patience and understanding and the tools to succeed.”

What this means is that although some — not all — rescue dogs have had a harder life, it doesn’t mean they’re lost causes. Most just crave love and attention just like every other dog.

If you do adopt a dog who needs some extra patience, you can try these tips to help a scared rescue dog come out of his shell.

Myth #5: You can only train puppies, so getting an older dog means they can't be trained

Actually, one of the benefits of getting a rescue dog is that most come already trained, so you don’t even have to worry about those tireless nights housebreaking an 8-week-old puppy (or teaching them not to bite your fingers, or chew on the furniture).

“Older dogs are mostly trained — no fuss, no muss,” Brooks said.

If you're thinking about adopting a rescue dog, here are some more reasons why it's a great idea.