When A Less Adoptable Dog is More Adoptable

Hound mix on the porch

A few steps away are hundreds of people, loud bands playing nearby, and dozens and dozens of dogs. Does she look scared?

The Less Adoptable Dog

If Chérie, our foster pup, had found herself in a shelter making tough decisions about how to use their resources, she would not have made it out alive.

She had a few strikes against her. Chérie

  • was in heat, necessitating a more challenging spaying surgery
  • feared everyone and everything and was nearly unapproachable
  • could not empty her bladder unless she felt safe, which was more often in the house
  • had an ugly skin condition
  • had suffered a major injury (hit by a car?) that went untreated and permanently altered her legs and gait

Luckily for Chérie, the Tompkins County SPCA is committed to finding a forever home for every pet in their care. Their greatest gift to Chérie, besides getting her out of her earlier bad situation, was time.

The More Adoptable Dog

Time allowed us to see that Chérie is not really a less adoptable dog at all. In fact, she’s probably more adoptable. Why? She

  • is less than two years old which gives her forever family many years to enjoy her company.
  • is easy to walk with a harness and leash. Her injury doesn’t keep her from having fun but it does mean she won’t pull you off your feet.
  • has no bad habits like counter surfing or stress barking.
  • loves other dogs and has excellent doggy manners.
  • is very cuddly and affectionate.
  • has modest exercise needs—a morning walk and some play time during the day keeps her happy.
  • is very healthy, no food allergies or sensitivities of any kind.
  • makes smart choices when she’s scared. Yes, as much confidence as she has gained, Chérie will always be a shy girl. But she reacts to scary things by sitting in her crate calmly until she feels more brave.
  • sleeps in. Yes, you read that right. Chérie sleeps quietly in her crate until you’re ready to get up!
hound mix lying in the sunny backyard

Like sunbathing? Want company?

It has taken time to learn all these things about Chérie. And it’s probably true of other “less adoptable” dogs, that are older, have behavioral issues, or health problems.

Maybe all it takes to make a less adoptable dog more adoptable is time, a low-stress temporary home while waiting, and for potential adopters to learn that there is no such thing as a less adoptable pet. There’s only finding the pet who is more adoptable for you.

Support Chérie, Enter to Win an Amazon Gift Card 

Support me, Honey, and Chérie in the Tompkins County SPCA March for the Animals and you’ll be entered for a chance to win a $20 Amazon gift card. Support the leaders in no-kill, open admission sheltering and you’ll be supporting a movement whose time has come.

It’s Adopt a Less Adoptable Pet Week, sponsored by Petfinder. Have any or all of your pets been considered less adoptable?

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  1. Thank you, Pamela! I have a badge on my website for the less adoptable week but need to put one on my blog, too. Sometimes, time in a foster home (even short time) turns around an “unadoptable” dog. The only dogs in my view who are unadoptable are those who are truly vicious, whether or not it’s their fault :(. All others juet need the right fit with compassion to see their positive qualities.
    I sent in my adoptable legally blind dog Cyrano to be featured as a less than adoptable dog; sure, he doesn’t see well but he is completely house-trained, watching him use his nose is a joy to behold and on the few times he will cuddle, priceless.

  2. The more I’ve been around blogville, the more I’ve learned. Such as it’s hard to judge the disposition and personality of a dog when they are in a shelter environment.

    I’m so glad that Cherie has the opportunity to learn from a gentle and kind teacher the life skills she will need to continue in her forever home. It’s also good that her adoptive parents will have opportunity to speak with you and determine what method helps Cherie best when she is learning.

  3. You had us at “no-kill”! You know, I keep forgetting Cherie isn’t your dog – she seems so at home!


  4. Oh Yah, my two long-timers are for sure “less adoptable”–in fact at one time they were “unadoptable,” which is why they’re here! I’ve been amazed, especially over the past few months of fostering with the city shelter, how quickly “less adoptable” can show a totally different personality once out of the shelter. My last 4 fosters were all having serious problems at the shelter, and were showing terribly because of their anxiety. Once at home they became “highly adoptables.” Thank you for giving Cherie that chance!

  5. I’ve thought about this a lot. Shiva wasn’t a less adoptable pet when we got her. She’d only been in the shelter for two weeks and had yet to show any signs of stress. She was young, healthy, and unique in appearance. The day we met her, there was another family behind us in line who also wanted to take her home.
    However, it wasn’t long before she started showing behaviours that would have made her much harder to adopt: separation anxiety, reactivity, destructive abilities, fear-based anxieties, an overload of energy, and a high prey drive, just to name a few. If we had returned her to the shelter, she may have been given this moniker and who knows how long it would have taken her to find a home?

    She’s lucky she got stuck with a pair of suckers. At least, that’s what I like to tell her.

  6. I guess we’re the opposite of Kristine and Shiva. One of the huge factors in my keeping tiny puppy Silas was that we thought he was deaf. Even reasonably well-intentioned dog-owners in the area we found him let their dogs roam free. There was just no way that a little deaf puppy would have survived there. Our secure urban house and yard seemed like a much better fit.

    Then it turned out that the little stinker could hear just fine. He had a belly full of worms and was just a little lethargic. We joke now that he could hear exactly well enough to tell that the gravy train had pulled up.

    If, in a bizarre alternate dimension, he were in a shelter now, I’m not sure. He barks, and he pees on people when he’s excited. He won’t walk on the sidewalk, so depending on where the shelter was he wouldn’t show to advantage. But he’s a perfect size and cute as a button, and he can be very, very sweet to people he knows. The physical dimensions would probably help him a lot.

  7. Bless you and your work. I had a special needs dog, no teeth, deaf, fresh out of the puppy mill. She was in her low teens. She was a lot of work but worth it.

  8. I give everyone credit for fostering dogs. I think about it and then how sad it would be to give them up.

  9. Chérie sounds just perfect! I think/hope that a forever family is going to come along soon and think just the same thing about her.

  10. Cheri is absolutely beautiful! Thanks so much for fostering her and helping the shelter.
    Maggie and Duke were definitely less adoptable, they still have some fear issues but have improved so much since we adopted them. They are such sweet dogs and are great with the cats, which is really the most important thing for us.

  11. I think Cherie will make a perfect pet for somebody!

    I think of our dogs, Morgan would be the hard to adopt one. And I’m not sure what the magic formula would be to make her more adoptable!

  12. This is a perfect example of why foster homes are so important! It is so important for dogs to be given a chance to show their true personalities without the stress of being in a shelter. Cherie is so lucky to have such a great family to foster her! I hope she finds her forever home soon, she is such a sweetie! :)

  13. My peoples took in Meadow, whose personality seems very similar to Cherie’s, and I think they are pretty happy with her. And she has definitely gotten to be less of a scardy dog over time. It is so nice of you to help Cherie until she finds peoples of her own.

  14. Not only was Brooks 11 years old when we adopted him but: he had a skin condition and had been shaved down, was covered in ugly white bumps, has hematomas in his ears that will never heal, was on steroids, has a funny gait due to injury or being hit by a car, suffered malnourishment from being dumped and left on his own, and oh yeah, he was quite flatulent! Now he still suffers from allergies but most of those problems are improved by proper nutrition, and his coat is growing in beautifully.

  15. Honestly, I feel like the only thing I can muster up to say about this post is “YES!”.
    The right family is out there for every dog and vice versa, it just takes time.

  16. My Felix was considered “less adoptable”. He had severe allergies & skin problems, incredible separation anxiety, was a fear biter, he coat had been severely neglected making a full shave necessary and to top it all off? He’s black. Today, he is the MOST ADOPTABLE dog I know. Everyone who meets him loves him and even strangers from the internet have contacted me to find out his breed and learn more about his precious little personalty. You’re completely right, all it took to make him super adoptable was time. Luckily, I already had him in my paws by then ;0)