Back when I was in charge of deciding which dogs our rescue would take, I’d be approached by people with all sorts of dogs who needed help. Some of these were abuse and neglect cases. After a while, I noticed a pattern: certain breeds seemed to be magnets for people who horrifically abused them or neglected them. Ever since then, I’ve always felt a special fondness for people who adopted these breeds, because they are at so much more risk than some of their peers.
If you are considering adopting a dog and your household otherwise is compatible with this type of dog, I’d like to urge you to consider them:
This one isn’t going to be a surprise to anyone, I don’t think. Pit bulls attract some of the worst, vicious, most deliberate cruelty you can even conceive of, far beyond the sadistic horrors of dog fighting. I suspect at least part of the mentality is that these are considered to be tough dogs, and they attract a subgroup of people who want to be seen as stone cold killers.
It’s just tragic, though, that you will not find a more forgiving dog than a pit bull. Time after time, I saw that pit bulls who have been starved, mistreated and even tortured will approach the humans rescuing them with wagging tails. They LOVE people, possibly more than any other breed I’ve encountered.
Pit bulls present challenges for adopters, in large part because of breed bias. There are many counties with breed bans, which means that if you live there, your pit can be confiscated from you. They are strong, active dogs, which means they need a great deal of exercise. Because of breed prejudice, you’ll need to make sure they are the best-behaved, most-secured dogs in the neighborhood, and even then, some people will be quick to demonize them.
The next breed that seems to bring out the cruelty in certain humans are Chihuahuas. In addition to physical abuse (sometimes seen in domestic violence situations), it is simply astounding to me how many people callously discard these dogs by leaving them behind when they move, or just plain forget to feed them for a few days. A lot of rescue Chihuahuas have been kept in closets before they were surrendered. Considering that these are tiny dogs, a few days of neglect can devastate their health, so this treatment is immediately life-threatening.
Unfortunately for Chihuahuas, these dogs attract adopters who think they are toys a lot of the time. Such adopters don’t vet them, don’t exercise them, and try to feed them entirely on scraps from their own meals. As a result, even though such breeds are desirable (thanks, Beverly Hills Chihuahua), rescues and shelters have to weed through a LOT of dreck to find the good adopters, and there just aren’t enough of them. You might think that Chihuahuas are hothouse flowers, and in some ways, they are, at least physically. But ask anyone who has ever taken in a chi who has had a rough time of it and they’ll tell you: those dogs are stronger, braver, and more resilient than you can possibly imagine. Yes, they’re tiny, but when you watch them take on a world where they are so physically vulnerable, you quickly become very impressed with their courage. They also have really winning personalities. I fully intend to adopt a Chihuahua during a window that is appropriate (i.e., I have two lively kids right now, and I’d want them out of the house first). We’ve written more about Chis, including this article.
The next kind of breed that attracts a lot of human vermin is Shar Pei. They are very distinctive dogs, and are exceptionally cute puppies, and that can originally draw the attention of a superficial owner; however, it’s really two factors that make these breeds magnets for bad treatment. The first is that Shar Pei originally were used for dog fighting, among a myriad of other purposes, and they attract people who like the idea of having an exotic, badass dog. Second, they are aloof, which means that with the wrong kind of human, “breaking” a Shar Pei can become a battle of wills that becomes physically abusive to the dog.
Shar Pei have health problems that make them expensive dogs to keep, but for some reason people seem to pass them around rather than surrendering them to rescue or even a shelter. It’s not uncommon to find a Shar Pei who has had four or five homes before he ends up in rescue, and that’s not good for a dog who tends to view humans as optional anyway.
If you are a real dog person and want to help a dog with very few options, the Shar Pei might be the dog for you. They are quirky, very clean dogs, and they are absolutely fascinating to be around. The Shar Pei we fostered, Daisy, was simultaneously the toughest of all of the dogs we’ve had and the one with the best manners.
The final category is a favorite of both mine and Laura Temple Carroll, if she doesn’t mind me speaking for her. Coonhounds are singled out for unimaginable treatment as part of the process of being trained as hunting dogs. I’m not saying all hunters do this, but a subset definitely does. We’ve had coonhounds come into rescue emotionally destroyed by their treatment. It takes them a long time to recover from the neglect and cruelty they have seen, and it will take a patient human to work with them while they regain trust. However, the emotional sensitivity and sweetness of your hound will amaze you. We’ve written more on their appeal, and knowing that they often attract the wrong adopters might make you give them a second look.
If you know a friend who’s a dog person and who’s thinking about adopting, please forward them this article. You’ll be doing them and the animals a favor.