Over the past several months, we’ve seen more and more big dogs coming through our doors at Marin Humane. And we’re not alone. Shelters throughout our region, as well as throughout the nation, are seeing a disproportionate number of Siberian huskies, German shepherds and pit mixes, among other large breeds.
There are a few theories as to why we’re seeing this trend now. Many people believe the proliferation of Siberian huskies and Alaskan malamutes is due to the popularity of “Game of Thrones,” which featured dire wolves (now extinct) — animals which bear a resemblance to these dogs. It’s thought that people unfamiliar with these breeds bought them as puppies for their look or perceived personality only to discover they got more than they bargained for. While very intelligent and generally social, they’re also independent, adept escape artists and somewhat aloof. These breeds frequently have high prey drive. German shepherds, bred for herding and guarding, are very intelligent and highly trainable, but also high energy and in some cases, high strung. They’re fiercely loyal to their guardians but tend to be rather wary of strangers.
Pit mixes are the big galoots of the bunch. They’re super affectionate, fun loving and quirky, but can be rambunctious and hard to handle, given their size and strength. They may also have a strong prey drive.
When a guardian realizes their dog requires more work and time than they were prepared to invest, they often surrender them to shelters.
All these types of dogs require a guardian who understands their temperament, needs and limitations. They also need guardians willing to put in the time and training.
“That means learning to channel the working drive of these dogs,” says Virginia Grainger, Marin Humane canine shelter behavior manager. “It also might include some challenges during the dog’s adolescence, which starts at about eight months and can last until the dog is 3 years old. Just like human teenagers, dogs can go through a bit of a rebellion and may push boundaries, not listen and may even exhibit new behaviors you haven’t seen before. Patience, training and management help dogs ride out this phase of maturing. Appropriate outlets and enrichment experiences help everyone keep their sanity.”
Another important factor is housing.
With the tight and expensive housing market in the Bay Area, people with pets, especially large dogs, are having an hard time finding housing that allows them. Many property owners won’t allow any pets and others have strict breed and/or size requirements. Some charge exorbitant extra fees for pets, well beyond what might be needed and covered in a deposit.
Marin Humane has created a special section of its website dedicated to helping people with pets finding housing. We’re also reaching out to property management and insurance companies to encourage pet-friendly policies. However, these are big hills to climb, so we anticipate we’ll continue to see these large, lovable dogs in shelters for quite some time. To encourage more adoptions, Marin Humane is waiving adoptions fees on all animals during July. Visit marinhumane.org to see all the cuties — big and small — waiting for their forever homes.
Lisa Bloch is the marketing and communications director for Marin Humane, which contributes Tails of Marin articles and welcomes animal-related questions and stories about the people and animals in our community. Go to marinhumane.org, find us on social media @marinhumane, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.