5 common myths about adopting a dog from RSPCA NSW

At RSPCA NSW, we encourage our supporters to ‘adopt not shop’. This means rescuing a dog from reputable organisations like us, rather than buying them from a breeder or pet shop.

However, we understand that without the proper information, soon-to-be owners may be confused about what it means to adopt from a shelter. 

We sat down with Thanh Nguyen, who has worked at our Sydney Shelter for over 12 years, to debunk some common misconceptions about RSPCA NSW shelter dogs.

1. “The RSPCA is full of big dogs”

Dog adoption myths

We put a variety of dog breeds and sizes up for adoption. “With the little dogs, they get adopted so quickly that when you do come into the shelter, you see mostly large dogs,” Thanh says. “But every day is different.”

The RSPCA team is always assessing, desexing and microchipping animals to get them ready for adoption. If you would prefer to adopt a small breed dog, keep an eye on our website or come in to the shelter regularly.

But, as Thanh points out, don’t let the myth that bigger dogs are “more work” than smaller ones keep you from adopting a larger breed. “All dogs are work. All dogs need work and time and effort. If you want a dog that listens and does the basic things, you need to put work in,” he says.

2. “All rescue dogs have issues”

Dog adoption myths

“All dogs have issues,” Thanh says. Of course, he means that every dog, no matter their background, has their own specific personality traits.

It’s true that some of our dogs may have suffered trauma at the hands of their previous owners, but animals come into our shelters for a variety of reasons. As well as inspector cases, we rehome owner-surrendered dogs and injured strays.  

Just like you would with a person, you can speak to an expert if you’re worried about a particular issue. Your local veterinarian or RSPCA NSW location will be more than happy to offer help and advice.

3. “Older dogs won’t love you as much”

Dog adoption myths

This is absolutely untrue!

“All dogs have a loving ability – same with humans!” Thanh says. “Some maybe take longer to get used to their new owner, but with a lot of treats, TLC, and getting used to their new routine, they’ll come around.”

Don’t be worried that adopting an older dog means they won’t be as loyal or smoochy towards you. They’re absolutely fit to be your new best friend.

4. “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks”

Dog adoption myths

It may be a popular saying, but the old adage of not being able to teach an old dog new tricks isn’t based on fact.

Dogs may take a little longer to pick up things than a puppy would, but it’s by no means impossible.

In a study conducted by the University of Veterinary Medicine Vienna, researchers tested the skills of 145 Border Collies ranging in age from six months to 14 years. They used two tests – one with toys and one with humans, to test the attention span of pups and dogs.

Turns out, when dogs were presented with a toy on a string, they lost interest faster than puppies did. But, when a human appeared in the room, dogs became just as engaged as the puppies were.

Thanh recommends treating your older dog as a puppy when you’re training them. “Bring out treats, bring out rewards. You want to bring out the positive behaviour so make it fun for them,” he says.

If you’re engaged with them, they’re more likely to learn.

5. “If an animal doesn’t get adopted, it gets put down”

Betty 190470 1

This is one of the most common misconceptions about what we do at our RSPCA NSW shelters.

“All animals available for adoption stay in adoptions until they find their forever home,” Thanh says.

“The reason why they’re waiting for a certain amount of time is because we haven’t found the right match for them. Some have special needs, some have different circumstances, or they’re a large breed. We certainly don’t euthanise because they’ve been waiting in a shelter for X amount of time.”

Our adoptions process is rigorous and designed to find a family that suits both the dog and the owner. This could mean that the dog gets moved to a more comfortable environment like foster care while they wait.

We hope this clarifies things for you. If we’ve successfully convinced you to adopt not shop, check out our website here.