Adopt a Shelter Dog
… and give a Deserving Animal a Chance
The pleasures of dog ownership are varied: some people love the affection, some the companionship on long walks, and the happy greeting you get when you walk through the door after a long day at work. I cannot imagine not having dogs in my life and my home. It would take a stone-cold heart not to find a puppy in the pet shop window cute. I understand why people fall for a puppy. There is however a well-documented dark side to supporting the pet trade. Puppy farms are common knowledge nowadays, and if you don’t know, a quick search on Google will reveal all. The puppy farm is a worldwide occurrence, and it’s not unique to Taiwan.
The perils of rearing puppies
I often find it strange (although I’m guilty of it myself) as to why people so often want a puppy. After all you are getting a dog, the puppy phase is fleeting, and you will spend hopefully fourteen years living with the adult dog. It’s also ridiculously hard work to look after a puppy properly. Many of the people who contact me ask about housebreaking a puppy. I tell them it’s simple, but not easy, and although that seems like a contradiction, it’s not. An eight-week-old puppy will need to go to the bathroom every two hours on average: that’s twelve times a day! He is physically not able to hold his bladder at that age. At twelve weeks it’s on average every three hours. At four months you hit the golden moment when you only need to get up once in the night to take the puppy out. I said it was simple. There are many other issues to deal with too: the training, the chewing phase and many more.
Adopting an adult dog
With this in mind, I find it strange that people so often reject the idea of adopting an adult dog from a shelter. There are many advantages to adopting a mature dog. The first one is right there: it is an adult dog, and what you see is what you get. You know for sure how big this dog will be. But there’s more. The reasons each person decides to bring a dog into their life are varied, but each dog is an individual too. You may want a dog to accompany you on long walks into the hills. My dog, Bugsy’s idea of a good walk is to the corner of our street to go to the bathroom. Nothing would ever make him want to go hiking. Worse is when you have a dog that ideally needs to go for a long run beside a bike twice a day to burn off its energy, and you don’t want to or are not able to. Another common complaint I receive is destructive behavior, which is commonly due to stress or boredom. Exercise is a crucial part of solving the problem here.
Finding the perfect dog for you
There are some fantastic shelters here in Taiwan, run by people who devote their lives to rescuing dogs. There are also numerous individuals who have in some cases over forty dogs in their care. If you went to one of these places they would be able to match a dog exactly to your needs, or equally importantly be able to say if a dog is not a good fit for your lifestyle. If you have children they would be able to say whether or not a particular dog is good with kids. I have visited Animals Taiwan many times, but obviously don’t know their dogs as well as they do. But if someone asked me which dog would enjoy hiking and is nice and calm, and friendly with people and other dogs, I would say without hesitation that Uni fits the bill perfectly. Or if I was asked if I knew of a small- to medium-sized dog, that was friendly and playful, affectionate and liked a nice walk, I’d instantly suggest Merry from Sean McCormack’s Sanctuary. If someone showed me a litter of eight-week-old pups, all I could say is that at this moment in time this one is more confident than that one. But that may well change.
Teaching an old dog new tricks
Also an adult dog with a little training will very quickly be able to go the whole night without making a mess, and he or she has already gone through the chewing phase, although it’s still good to leave a dog with a bone or a chew toy, as they find the gnawing action therapeutic and relaxing. Adult dogs are also calmer than pups. Basically when you adopt an older dog, the hard part has been done. It is completely untrue to say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. The adult dog you take home will be amenable to training, and easier to train than a young pup, as it will be settled and calmer, and less easily distracted.
You are also saving a dog’s life. The space you free up in a shelter will quickly be filled by another dog: a dog that may have been destined for euthanasia somewhere else. So if you are thinking of adding a dog to your life, have an open mind, visit a shelter, and see if there isn’t one there waiting for you.
If you insist on having a puppy, the shelters often have these too. Otherwise nearly every weekend Zhang Ma Ma is outside the Jianguo Flower Market near Daan Station. She doesn’t bring all four hundred of her dogs, just a selection of the puppies she is caring for.
Getting to know your dog
So you have been to a shelter, discussed with the staff what you are looking for in your new canine companion, and found the dog you want to adopt. What should you do when you get home? It’s easy to see your dog and feel sorry for him; maybe he has scars where he had to fight over scraps of food. Possibly he has a foot or a leg missing from being caught in a trap. There are many things that could have happened in the past. However the first thing to do is remember dogs live very much in the present. Don’t look at them and feel pity, as it will pour through to them via your body language and they will think there is a problem now. They will be uneasy around you because of it. All those things and more could have happened, and that’s why the day you adopt them is such a happy, positive time, because they have their forever home. Therefore you should project happiness and calmness, which will relax the dog and make him feel safe.
The next step is to go for as long a walk as you can both manage. The longer the better. You don’t need to do anything special, just go for a long walk. It’s a good way for the dog to check you out, there’s no pressure and you can relax in each other’s company. When he is good and tired, take him into his new home. Put his bed in a quiet corner so he can see and hear what’s going on from a distance. Put some water down and give him his dinner. Try and avoid putting a food bowl in a corner, as it’s quite easy to cause a dog to guard their food if it’s placed in a corner, so let’s start on the right path.
Let him be for a day or so. If he comes to you, give him a treat and praise him; maybe occasionally encourage him to do so, but take things as slowly as the dog wants to. Start getting into a routine of taking him out when you get up, and at regular times through the day. If he knows he will go outside soon he will try and hold on and go to the toilet then. If he doesn’t know when he goes out, he has no incentive to hold on. When he goes to the toilet outside praise him and give him a treat. Never tell him off for going to the toilet inside, it actually makes housebreaking much harder. One of the best methods for training a dog is to praise and reward behaviors you like and to ignore ones you don’t like. So if he one day decides to sit at your feet, praise him; if he lays down on his bed, praise him. You are just telling him all the things that it’s OK to do. And all the while you’re building his trust in you.
There is obviously far more I could say about training. But if you have a solid routine, patience, remain calm, reward good behaviors, take him on nice long walks and let him get to know you at his pace you will be on the right path. And in time you will see how grateful he is to you for giving him a home.
If you don’t have the time or space for a dog, there is still a great deal you can do. All shelter dogs appreciate a good walk, and if you contact the shelter, they can arrange a time with you to take some dogs out. You could also help out by bathing the dogs, or helping clean their kennels. Whatever you can do would be so appreciated.
Dog Shelters around Taipei
For adoptions or volunteering, contact Arnold on 0917-454-250
Zhang Ma Ma
If you can’t find your dream dog in one of these places, I will be amazed!
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