Consider These Dogs When You Are Adopting, Part I: The Big Four

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:

Pit Bulls

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.

Chloe lounging on bed
Yep, Chloe is just that sweet, and so are many, many others of her breed. (Photo credit: Peashelle)


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.

Running Chi
Watching a confident, happy Chihuahua play outside is one of life’s great joys. (Photo credit: Tim Massey — Flickr: Bucky)

Shar Pei

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.

Buff Shar Pei
Shar Pei have distinctive looks and strong personalities. (Photo credit: MCarillo)


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.

Bluetick coonhound
Bluetick coonhounds are sweethearts who need good adopters. (Photo is in the public domain.)

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.


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Moretta is a caring nurturer, a member of several 12-step programs, but not a licensed therapist. Her Twitter is

10 thoughts on “Consider These Dogs When You Are Adopting, Part I: The Big Four”

  1. Moretta had to help me word my adoption advertisement for my coonhound fosters because I kept getting people who were clearly going to be horrible dog owners. One guy first tried to convince me that they were all his and I needed to return them, and then wanted to buy all 8 puppies, but only if they weren’t spayed and neutered. I know not all dog hunters are monsters but coonhounds really do attract the worst possible people for them.

  2. I am and forever will be a sucker for a chihuahua in a bad situation. Our newest (who is a puppy; WHAT WAS I THINKING) came to us largely because the people at the shelter were lamenting how hard it is to find qualified chihuahua adopters, and he had particularly special circumstances.

    That’s like my Batsignal.

  3. Have you done any writing about Shar Pei personalities? Maybe some more details on the quirk? I heart my quirky dogs! But is it like, “I don’t like to get my feet wet so I’m going to wait until you’re not looking to go pee in the basement” kind of quirky? Cause I already have one of those.

    I’d love a pittie, but I think (know!) that we’re way too sedentary for one. Which is too bad, cause those big block heads just fit perfectly into my hands and they would get ALL the ear rubs…and butt rubs…and belly rubs…and noogies! Block head noogies!

    1. SPs are aloof, low odor (if they’re healthy) and incredibly fastidious. They tend to self-housebreak and would rather die than go inside. They hate water, too, though, so they just hold it.

      They are aloof and tend to take a shine to one person in particular. They tend to be assertive around other dogs, and typically won’t back down once challenged. The scariest dogfight I ever encountered was the near-fight between the SP I fostered and my Chow. They had hold of each other’s necks and were tugging away when I was able to separate them by sprinkling some water on them (both hate water). Fortunately no one was hurt because SPs have loose skin and spiky fur and Chows have huge ruffs and enormous necks, so they really didn’t do any damage.

      1. Thanks :) Seems like a breed I might do more research into, particularly if it seems like I can bribe the dog into liking me better! My current boy-o is anti-social, so I’ve gotten used to avoiding other dogs, although I do live in Seattle, so, ya know, rain. But that’s why G-d invented coats for dogs!

        And it might be nice to have a dog that won’t get slobber all over my walls :P

  4. You know how I feel about my rescue chihuahua/jack russell mix. She’s such an amazing dog. I think the most important thing I have learned about chihuahuas is the way they attach themselves to the person they love and are so incredibly loyal and dedicated to that person. I wonder a lot about who she was attached to before me, and I hate that that person didn’t keep her or want her. Her willingness to connect with me after who knows what happened before we met makes my heart swell. There are challenges to having such a small, territorial dog in a house with two kids, but I’m so happy she is in our family now.

    Oh, crap, now I’m getting all teary-eyed.

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