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We are celebrating Pet Appreciation Week, which gives us an opportunity to show our gratitude for everything that our pets have added to our lives. For our dogs, we can give them an extra-long walk, take them to the dog park, bake them some homemade treats, and make sure that all of their exam, vaccination, license, and microchip records are up to date.

Of course, the best way to show love and appreciation to your dog is to make sure that they get exercise, discipline, and then affection — in that order. Dogs want to work for their rewards because they need to earn affection, so let your dog be a dog first. They’ll appreciate you more that way.

If you’re thinking of getting a dog or adding a new one to your pack, you can even show your appreciation before that dog comes into your life, and here’s how.

When you get your next dog, skip the pet store and go right to the shelter. Remember: Adopt, don’t shop. In the U.S. in particular, shelters are overcrowded with unwanted and abandoned animals, particularly dogs, many of them in danger of being killed just because they don’t have a human pack.

People tend to think that dogs wind up in shelters because there’s something wrong with them, but that is not the case. They wind up there not because they have issues, but because a human somewhere was unable to fulfill their role as the Pack Leader.

Maybe their former owner’s inability to fulfill their dog led to misbehavior that got the dog dumped in the shelter, or perhaps a family had to move and absolutely could not find a new home that would accept dogs. In some cases, owners become too old or ill to take care of their dogs, and in others the dogs escape, probably because they aren’t being fulfilled and are bored.

There are also cases where dogs are taken away from people and end up in the shelter, either because they were terribly abused and neglected, were used in a dog fighting ring that was broken up, or were seized and are being held as evidence in criminal cases.

In every one of these scenarios, it’s not the dog’s fault that she wound up in the shelter. The only thing “wrong” with shelter dogs is that a human failed them terribly.

Now here’s the good news about shelter dogs: Each one is unique. They are quite frequently mixed breeds, which are the best dogs — they are not prone to the genetic or specific issues of purebreds, they are not likely to be inbred, and they don’t look like a clone of every other dog of their breed because they are one-of-a-kind.

People ask me all the time, “What kind of a dog should I get?” When they ask this question, though, what they’re really saying is, “What breed should I get?” But that’s asking the question in the wrong order. My answer to the question is always to get a dog with an energy level that’s the same or lower than your own. Yes, certain breeds do tend to have higher or lower energy levels, but mixed breed dogs more often than not fall into that middle energy, happy-go-lucky place which makes them much easier to rehabilitate and balance.

The other problem with people only looking at breed is that it makes them focus less on the dog inside and more on the “costume” the dog is wearing, which are the particular looks and traits of the breed. It’s fine to insist on a particular brand or “breed” of a thing, like a car or a computer — but doing it for dogs does them a disservice. Every time a particular breed becomes popular (frequently because celebrities start to favor them), shelters are flooded with that breed a year later when people realize that their energy and the dog’s are not a match.

If you really want to show your appreciation for pets, save the life of a shelter dog. They’ll be glad you did, and so will you.

Stay calm, and adopt!

Quatro Patinhas (“Four Paws”) in Brazil recently replaced pet store dogs with shelter dogs and gave a nice surprise to customers who came to shop for pets. See what happens in the video below. Don’t forget to turn on the captions if you don’t speak Portuguese!

Do you own a rescue also? Show off your pooch in the comments.

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