Are Shelters GOOD For Dogs? (Common Misconceptions)

Are shelters good for dogs?

This is a question that animal lovers have asked for years. The answer, unfortunately, is not a simple one.

Factors like the size and population of the shelter, the quality of care the animals receive, and the individual temperament of the dogs all determine if shelters are good for dogs.

In this article, we discuss whether or not shelters are good for dogs and what it’s like to adopt a dog from a shelter.

Are Shelters Good for Dogs?

Individual shelters can either be good or bad based on their treatment of dogs.
There are some shelters that go out of their way to make dogs comfortable and get them adopted, while others are more neglectful.

Are shelter dogs safe?

The simple answer is that it depends on the shelter in question.

Some shelters are run by passionate animal lovers who do everything they can to ensure the animals in their care are happy and healthy.

Other shelters, however, are overcrowded and understaffed, which can lead to poor conditions and a high-stress level for the dogs.

When considering whether or not a shelter is good for a dog, it’s important to look at the individual dog in question.

Some dogs do very well in a shelter environment, while others do not.

It depends on the dog’s personality and temperament.

Some dogs thrive in a shelter setting because they enjoy being around other dogs and people and they find comfort in the social interaction and routines of shelter life.

Other dogs, however, are more prone to anxiety and stress in a shelter setting.

These dogs may become withdrawn and depressed, and may even develop behavior problems.

The bottom line is that whether or not a shelter is good for dogs depends on the individual dog and the level of care and staffing at the shelter.

Read More: Why Are So Many Chihuahuas in Shelters? You may have noticed that shelters are full of these feisty dogs. Learn why!

Advantages of Dog Shelters

Dog shelters are safe places for dogs that would otherwise be on the streets.
For dogs spending their lives on the streets, shelters provide them with a safe place to rest and plenty of food and water.

Shelters not only provide a safe place for dogs that have been abandoned or lost, but they also offer a place for people that want to adopt a dog in need of a forever home.

Most shelters require potential adopters to fill out an application and go through a screening process.

This helps to ensure that the dog is going to a good home where it will be loved and cared for properly.

Many shelters also offer low-cost or free spay/neuter services for adopters.

This helps to reduce the number of homeless animals and save lives in the long run.

Most shelters vaccinate all of their animals before adoption. This protects the dog from diseases and helps them live healthily.

Shelters also offer a variety of resources and support for adopters, including training classes, behavior hotlines, and more.

Read More: How Long Does a Shelter Keep a Dog? Discover how long shelters keep dog before they’re put up for adoption or considered for euthanasia.

Disadvantages of Dog Shelters

Are shelters bad for dogs? They can be.

For starters, shelters can be stressful places for dogs.

They may be overcrowded, with loud noises and strange smells and this can be especially hard on shy or fearful dogs.

Some shelters do not have enough staff or volunteers to give the dogs the attention they need.

This can lead to behavioral problems such as aggression or separation anxiety.

Many shelters also do not have the resources to properly care for sick or injured animals.

These animals may be put down if they cannot be adopted within a certain time frame.

Puppies in shelters are especially vulnerable as they may catch diseases from other animals (unless the shelter has a policy on quarantine) or they may be adopted by people who are not prepared to care for them properly.

Read our related article, Do Animal Shelters Put Dogs to Sleep? for more information on euthanasia in shelters.

Should You Adopt From a Shelter?

Adopting a dog from a shelter saves a life and frees up space for other homeless animals.
Adopting from a shelter helps save a life and frees up more kennel space for other homeless animals.

Adopting a shelter dog can give you a lifelong friend and save an animal in need.

It’s often recommended by animal lovers to adopt, as this prevents overbreeding and gives a home to an otherwise homeless animal.

You should always take your time looking over and interacting with shelter dogs before going forward with adoption.

Some dogs do well in shelters, thrive in that environment, and are ready to be adopted.

Other dogs do not do well in a shelter and might need extra time in a foster home or in socialization training before they find their forever home.

When you’re considering adopting a dog from a shelter, it’s important to do your research and tour the shelter before making a decision.

Ask questions, meet the staff, and get to know the dogs before you commit.

Watch this video on choosing a shelter dog that’s right for you:

Read More: Do Dog Shelters Have Puppies? If you’re looking for a puppy, your local shelter may have some!

Common Shelter Dog Myths

Let’s go over the most common myths about shelter dogs.

1. Something is Wrong With Them

There is a common belief that most dogs at shelters are either strays, sickly, or dangerous and need to be euthanized.

However, many dogs end up in shelters because their owners gave them up for reasons unrelated to the dog’s behavior.

Households may need to abandon their canine companions because they are no longer able to support them or because they relocated to a location that does not allow dogs.

For the most part, the only thing wrong with dogs at a shelter is that they were with a family that was the wrong fit.

This is one reason house calls are so important, as they allow the adopter and the dog to interact at home before the adoption is carried out.

Read our related article, Do Dog Shelters Do House Calls? to learn about how shelters may use house calls to benefit you, dogs, and the community at large.

2. They Have a Bad History

Although this may be the case with some shelter dogs, not all shelter dogs have a bad history.

Plus, dogs at shelters are tested and often retrained before being deemed adoptable. Some rescue groups even provide information on the dog’s background.

Oftentimes with care and attention, dogs at shelters have moved beyond whatever horrible experience they went through in the past.

If a dog has special needs such as PTSD, the shelter will take greater care of the dog and the potential adopter.

Read More: Why Do So Many German Shepherds End Up in Shelters? We answer this question and discuss what you can do to help!

3. They’re Just Mutts

A wide variety of dogs are found at shelters, including mutts and purebreds.

Even if you’re looking to adopt a purebred, don’t count mutts out yet!

Mutts generally don’t have the same inherited or learned tendencies that plague some purebreds, such as hip dysplasia in German shepherds or digging obsession in terriers.

Plus, mutts’ appearance is inherently more varied and engaging than that of purebreds.

Finally, having another distinct breed in the mix can help you avoid trouble with breed-specific laws (BSL) that ban certain dogs, such as pit bulls or Rottweilers.

Read More: Can You Volunteer to Walk Shelter Dogs? Shelter dogs love a good stroll, and you may be able to volunteer for it!


Canines are not harmed by being housed in shelters, and in fact, many dogs perform quite well in these settings as most shelters can be the best thing in a homeless dog’s life.

Before making a choice, it’s essential to conduct research and examine all available options at the shelter.

Ask questions, get to know the staff, and spend some time with the dogs before making a decision.

There are many wonderful dogs just waiting for someone to take a chance on them!

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Jesse Hopping, CCDT

Jesse is a natural-born dog-lover certified dog trainer (CCDT), dog foster, and former volunteer at Richmond SPCA and surrounding dog shelters for over 10 years. Her pack includes a Bernedoodle and 3 Boston Terriers. She’s sipping caramel coffee and watching her pack play in the sun when she’s not writing blogs. Jesse has her Certified Dog Trainer designation from CATCH Canine Trainers Academy since 2018 and and majored in English from the University of Virginia.

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