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The Fallacy of the “Bonded Pair”

Two pups in play-hug

These two pups are best buds but are they a “bonded pair?”

There’s a recent development in the rescue and shelter world about the “bonded pair.” Videos abound on social media platforms showcasing two animals, often found as strays together (but sometimes surrendered by an owner), who appear to be very attached to one another. Organizations often require that these two animals be adopted together.

However, there’s a problem with overzealous use of the phrase “bonded pair.” While animals do often grow attached to other animals they’ve lived with, it is rare that two animals form such a close bond that they cannot humanely be separated. Requiring that two animals be adopted together when they don’t need to be leads to real problems.

The first obvious problem is, of course, that two dogs are harder to adopt than one. As a result, pairs usually stay in their shelter kennels longer. Of course, a heart-wrenching video on the Internet might change that scenario, motivating someone to adopt the pair and thereby quicken their adoption, but that’s never a sure bet (and hasty adoptions spurred by momentary pity might not be conducive to long-term adoptions).

There’s another problem with advertising dogs as “bonded pairs.” People seem to think there’s some kind of magic in that term which ensures the dogs will never fight. Owners often take their two new family members home with unrealistic expectations. In some cases, those expectations can lead to disaster in the home when the members of the “bonded pair” are left alone together and end up in a fight.

Play fighting

Two dogs looking scary (but really playing)

Fights have, in fact, broken out between “bonded” dogs. Two young male Pit Bulls were labelled as a “bonded pair” by one local shelter and adopted together. After a few months in their new home, they began to fight. The shelter, having the best intentions, truly thought it best that these two seemingly best buds be adopted together, but in reality, these dogs should have been separated. Same-gender pairings are a little trickier than opposite gender pairings and can sometimes lead to fights down the road as gender-driven conflicts may arise after the dogs mature.

These gender-driven conflicts, as mentioned, tend to arise after the dogs reach two to three years of age, highlighting the issue with adopting younger dogs as “bonded pairs.” Young animals often get along well. When they reach and surpass maturity, problems may develop. These problems can be serious enough that the new owners relinquish one of the dogs to a shelter. An older dog in a shelter is a lot more difficult to adopt than a younger dog, and that older dog may end up waiting for months in a shelter kennel before finding a home…or may not find a home at all.

Of course, some breeds might be more prone to gender-driven conflicts than others (such as the terrier breeds), but overall, the advice related to bonded pairs applies to dogs of all breeds.

Younger dogs, in particular those under a year, tend to be more adaptable to new situations. They can be adopted separately from their buddies, usually with very few ill effects. When it seems like two dogs are inseparable, often one finds that they get along just fine without the other dog as long as they’re getting enough attention.

The only case where it may be more difficult for two dogs to adjust to separation arises when siblings from the same litter grow up together and are separated at adulthood. These may truly be bonded to one another (but that also doesn’t mean they won’t get into serious fights, especially if both are of the same gender). This littermate syndrome is one huge reason we never recommend keeping littermates together. Littermates often do bond closely to one another and become more interested in one another than in their human caretakers unless diligent efforts are made to spend individual time with both, separate from the other. However, most littermates can be separated and adjust to life without the other.

Even dogs that are truly bonded pairs are unlikely to be together forever. Unfortunately, time will take one of them away first, leaving the other alone. Many people have gone through the experience of bringing in a younger dog when they already have an adult dog. Eventually, the older dog passes away, and the younger dog learns to carry on without the companion he or she had known since puppyhood.

These two dogs lived together for 10 years before the older one passed away.

These two dogs lived together for 10 years. The tan dog passed away at age 14.

We encourage organizations to use the term “bonded pair” as conservatively as possible. Very few dogs should truly fall into that category. Even when the term is appropriately used, organizations should make sure the new owners are educated about the pros and cons of having two dogs and the potential need to manage conflicts between them.

Overzealous Dog-Lovers of the Internet, Please Chill Out!

Prince George offered his dog a lick of ice cream. The Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) responded, “It is lovely that Prince George is trying to help keep his family dog, Lupo, cool in these high temperatures. We would advise people to be cautious when giving their dogs food meant for human consumption as some items, like chocolate, can be highly toxic to dogs and dairy items can be difficult for them to digest.”

The RSPCA is absolutely right that  some human foods can cause issues for dogs. Some dogs have issues digesting lactose and chocolate can be fatal to dogs.

Here’s the catch: dogs have been licking ice cream cones from kids since ice cream was invented (roughly sometime around the 15th or 16th centuries).  A lick or two of ice cream won’t hurt a dog. Also, the ice cream on the little prince’s cone was white, so we can safely say it wasn’t chocolate ice cream (I know, you’re going to say, but it could’ve been white chocolate)! Go away– white chocolate isn’t really chocolate. You can go here for a chocolate toxicity meter.

However, even if it had been chocolate ice cream, it would still very likely be okay. Let’s be realistic, only the most premium of chocolate ice cream brands contain any significant amount of cocoa (read the ingredients), and dark chocolate or baking chocolate is much more dangerous than milk chocolate.

So, let’s chill out on that issue (ice cream pun intended).

The bigger issue is that there are just too many people on the Internet who feel compelled to say something when someone posts a cute photo or video with a dog. By all means, if a dog is photographed in genuine peril or deplorable conditions — say something! But many people have gone over the edge. Let’s just get back to enjoying our dogs and letting them indulge in the simple (but not always 100% healthy) pleasures of life…in moderation, of course.

That goes across the board. If you see a dog in a car on a cool day in shade with the windows cracked, don’t break the window, post the poor abused dog on Youtube, and pat yourself on the shoulder as being a hero. Literally, I had a friend who left her dog in a car on a rainy, cold day while she went into the store and came out to find an officer berating her for doing so because her windows weren’t open.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t intervene to help a dog in genuine distress in a warm vehicle–please do so in the way safest for yourself and the dog. Too many idiot dog owners do leave their dogs in hot vehicles, in dangerous conditions.

When we incorporate dogs into our lives by taking them along for errands when weather permits or giving them licks off our ice cream cones, we benefit them through these social interactions. A hundred years or so ago, dogs were often seen accompanying family members, trotting alongside horses or riding in carriages. These were never the safest activities for dogs. They could get kicked by horses, be enticed to jump out of a carriage and injure themselves, or get banged around during the bumpy ride.

Despite these risks, the dogs were often better socialized and definitely more acclimated to other animals, horses, people, and noises.

By keeping our dogs isolated and protected, by never letting them lick that ice cream or go with us on errands, by only taking them around the block during their daily leashed walk or, more rarely, to a park, we’re not doing them any favors. Is it any wonder why so many dogs have behavior problems and socialization issues?

Get out there with your dogs. Be sensible and be safe….just don’t try to to be so safe you end up actually diminishing your dog’s quality of life.

And to those on the Internet like the RSPCA who feel the need to warn about simple, normal interactions between kids and dogs….relax.

I mean, I could make all kinds of comments about the photo — the dog isn’t wearing a leash or collar (apparently), the toddler is too close to the dog’s face and isn’t wearing shoes (he could step on something, even a bee)! There isn’t even any visible water for the dog, and it’s summer! Okay, so it’s England (come to Sacramento for actual heat!) and Prince George and his companion are likely in their own private, fenced estate. They probably even have groundskeepers that get rid of anything even remotely dangerous, bees included, and maybe the water bowl is just outside the camera’s view. Unfortunately, I know none of this from the photo, and gosh darnit, what irresponsible people!

Really, though, I think it’s just a cute photo, and I wonder how little George’s hair stays so perfect and how the photographer managed to photograph that very black dog so perfectly, especially next to his fair skinned companion and that dolop of white ice cream!

When You “Have” to Give Up Your Dog

“A dog is a commitment for life.”

“I’d sleep in my car before I’d give up my dog.”

“Would you give up your children?”

Dog at the Sacramento County Shelter

Dog at the Sacramento County Shelter

The quotes above are all things that animal advocates tend to say on social media sites whenever there is a post about someone who needs to give up his or her dog. Because I am with a Pit Bull rescue organization, I get hundreds of emails every year from people who need to “surrender” or “donate” their dogs to us. Whenever possible, I try to steer people to resources that might help them either keep or responsibly rehome their dogs.

And, while I do think that dogs are a 10-18 year commitment and many people give up dogs for just plain selfish reasons, I also recognize that there are situations where people legitimately need to rehome their pets (and when doing so would be in the best interest of the pet). Of course, anyone who is just taking the easy way out after getting tired of his dog is still going to give up the dog, and telling that person he shouldn’t do so isn’t going to make him keep the dog (and even if he did, the dog would likely be woefully neglected).

Therefore, I’m writing this blog post so I can offer this link to anyone who does email me about needing to surrender a dog and to give resources to anyone searching about how to rehome a dog.

I’ll start with the most important piece of advise first….

Be Sure You Can Commit Before You Get a Dog

Don’t get a dog if you’re not in a position to commit to the dog for the next 15 years. Yes, I realize circumstances change, but if you know your situation is precarious and unpredictable, don’t get a dog. This applies to many college students, military personnel (especially those subject to deployment who don’t have family sticking in one place to care for the dog), those with unpredictable employment or serious financial problems, and people facing serious health issues with an uncertain future and little family support (and I’m saddened by such circumstances, but the reality is, it’s likely not a good time to take on a 15 year commitment). I recognize there are exceptions to every rule, so if you must comment about how it worked out for you, that’s perfectly okay, but realize these are some of the most common situations in which people end up needing to rehome pets. If you feel like you need a dog in your life during such a period of time, consider fostering.

Recognize it can be hard to find a good place to rent with a dog, so if you aren’t absolutely willing to take some crappy, tiny house in a terrible part of town, if that’s what it takes to keep your dog, don’t get a dog. Of course, if you’re sure you’re going to be in your current residence for at least 15 years, then great, but the reality is, most people cannot realistically be sure about that. The future is not predictable.

Finding housing is especially difficult for owners of certain breeds like Pit Bulls and Rottweilers. Securing a nice place to live can take time and be filled with frustration. Housing issues are the number one reason folks give for needing to give up their dogs. In fact, we created a PSA on that very subject. Yes, you can find a place to rent with a Pit Bull. I promise. I’ve done it myself. It just means you might need to live somewhere you’d rather not, at least for awhile.

Don’t get a dog if you currently have existing pets and it’s a deal breaker for you if the animals don’t absolutely always get along in the future. In that case, stick to one pet. If you’re not willing to separate or crate and rotate or make some adjustments to your place via baby gates or kennels just in case your animals don’t always feel the love toward one another, it is best if you stay with a one animal household. If you decide to forge ahead anyway, even if pet conflicts are a deal breaker, at the very least be absolutely willing to keep BOTH animals until you can responsibly rehome one of them with the right person.

Choosing to Rehome Your Dog

Even if you are the best owner and you thought carefully before getting a dog, sometimes things do happen (terminal illness or other unexpected medical issues, among other things). If you have to rehome your dog, please try to do so in the most responsible way possible for your circumstances. My suggestions below are guidelines.

1. Rehome your dog yourself, as I mentioned above. Don’t try to give the dog to a shelter or rescue. If you are rehoming your dog due to conflicts with other animals in the home, please take the time to rehome one of the pets (ideally, the easier to place pet). Of course, if you have three or more pets and one is the problem, then you may have to rehome that more difficult one. Recognize it can take a long time to rehome a dog, especially one that doesn’t get along well with other animals.Make sure you keep the problem dog away from your other animals while you search for her new home. That means getting a SECURE crate (see this one if you have an escape artist), and putting that crate in another room for anytime when you’re away. Consider an outdoor, shaded kennel (dig proof, with a top) if you need to be gone during the workweek. Crate and rotate. Be diligent. Do that for as long as it takes while you market your dog on Facebook, Instagram, and yes, even Craigslist. Of course, make sure your pet is chipped, vaccinated, and spayed or neutered prior to rehoming him or her.When you do get someone interested, screen that person. Interview him or her on the phone and ask for a couple of references (at least one professional like a veterinarian, groomer, or even coworker). Check out their home (take along a buddy if you feel unsafe doing so alone). Let the person have a trial adoption period with their new pet and charge a low but reasonable rehoming fee. Of course, be willing to take the dog back if it doesn’t work out with the new owner.

2. Board your dog until you can figure out something better.
This can be an expensive and impractical solution in the long term, but some folks have had luck putting a call out on social media and offering a flat monthly fee (say, $200/month) to someone willing to house their dog for a few months. That gives you some time to find a new place to rent or make other arrangements for the dog. Just make sure you screen the person carefully.

3. Show them the money!
If for some reason time is not on your side and you cannot board your dog, then shell out as much money as you can and offer it to local rescues willing to take your dog. Research the rescue. Make sure the rescue is legitimate and treats dogs well, and when you find one you trust, offer them as much money as you can to take your dog. Does this sound crass? Absolutely, but running in the red is often a reality of rescue work (especially Pit Bull rescue).  Let me dampen your hopes, however. A reputable rescue won’t take a dog it otherwise would not have taken just because money is attached. Chako gets offers to take dogs that come with sponsorships or other money all the time, and we rarely take them in because we almost always run full or have another dog slated to take an opening foster space. However, if a rescue happens to have an open foster space, and there are two dogs that are equally a match for that one foster space, then, yes, the donation might just make the difference. Plus, it’s your dog, and you should offer up some money to help the organization with expenses like food, vet care, advertising, etc.

4. If all else fails, surrender your dog to a shelter, but…
Please don’t surrender a senior dog to a shelter. Don’t surrender any dog, of any age, to a high-kill shelter. I know this isn’t easy to hear, but the truth is simple and brutal. It is far kinder to give your dog a fantastic couple of final days with you, in her home, eating hamburgers and doing all her favorite things, then to force her to spend her final days scared and alone in a crowded, noisy shelter wondering why she is there and when you’re coming back. If, on the other hand, you are lucky enough to live near an animal shelter that has a low euthanasia rate, talk to the staff when you surrender your dog. Ask if you can sign up to volunteer at the shelter. If the shelter is okay with that (and most will be), visit your dog and others as many times in a week as you can. Take him for walks. Play ball in the exercise yards, etc. But here is a caveat to remember: once you surrender your dog to the shelter, that dog becomes the shelter’s property. Recognize the shelter might have to make a tough decision about the dog you surrendered. If they do, that’s not the time to throw a fit over the shelter’s decision. Ultimately, it was your decision to give up your dog.

I hope this advice helps. Yes, all of the advice I’ve given involves some tough decisions and hard work. Hopefully, if you’re reading this blog, you believe your dog is worth that effort. Good luck.

Chako Pit Bull Rescue Now Offering Dog Saliva Anti-Bacterial Hand Gel

It is well-known that dog saliva has anti-bacterial properties. Chako Pit Bull Rescue volunteers have access to huge amounts of dog saliva as part of their daily work with rescued and shelter Pit Bulls in need.

Our volunteers are now capturing excess dog saliva and bottling it. Our all-natural anti-bacterial dog saliva will be sold for $2 for each 3-ounce bottle, and 100% of the proceeds will go directly to our rescue efforts. No dogs are harmed during the collection process. Volunteers are able to collect free flowing drool by holding treats in front of drool-prone dogs. Other volunteers reclaim saliva left on cheeks, necks and hands.

Look for sales of Chako’s anti-bacterial hand gel soon!

Tiger is a Saliva Donor

Adoptable Pit Bull Tiger is one of our saliva donors!

The Plight of the “Average Joe” Dog

Today, I’m going to talk about something that is well known in rescue circles, but not something that people really shine the light on in social media. Today, I’m going to talk about the plight of the average shelter or rescue dog…the dog that is not emaciated, with bones sticking out, doesn’t have a cleft palate or three legs, didn’t make the  news because of some celebrity dog fighting case, and is therefore more likely to end up taking that short walk into some room where a syringe full of pink medicine ends his or her life.

Now, don’t get me wrong. It is GREAT that rescues take on these hard cases. Chako has taken on a lot of medical cases, such as little Sabrina (aka Oreo) who was blind from birth, Hank, who had a juvenile autoimmune condition and needed MANY months of treatment before he could be adopted, and Henry, who had one of the absolutely worst cases of demodex we’ve ever seen when he came to us (literally, small pieces of him were falling off as he waddled).


Sabrina was born blind and needed surgery to remove her deformed eyes so that she would not be susceptible to infections.

Let’s talk about the Michael Vick dogs. They got national media attention. They were flown to rescues all over the nation, thousands of miles away. Meanwhile, the shelter dogs in those communities thousands of miles away that didn’t have media cameras pointed at them languished in their kennels; many took their last breaths in those shelters. No cameras captured their last moments. Not enough people cared about them because they weren’t famous and didn’t come with large sums of money.

Let’s talk about the three-legged puppies, the swimmer’s puppies, the puppies with knuckling over (which Chako has taken, as well). These dogs do need homes, and yes, they are more expensive to rescue, certainly.


Spunky Brewster was a pup was pulled from a shelter. She suffered from a condition known as knuckling over, which is often caused by poor nutrition.

However, they also tend to get a lot of attention. People feel sorry for them. More people, it seems, become interested in adopting them and showering them with much-deserved love to make up for the hardships they’ve endured.

That is all perfectly okay. It is understandable. There’s absolutely NOTHING wrong with that.

But it does lead to an interesting collective phenomenon that ends up hurting the regular dog in a shelter or the regular stray–the one that doesn’t have media attention or a sad story or the cutest darn face you’ve ever seen. The one that’s just average looking, with no heart-tugging medical condition. The one that didn’t come from a celebrity dog fighter but whose history is unknown. That dog, few people want. That dog doesn’t have a compelling story. That dog doesn’t realize he’s not famous. That dog doesn’t understand that no one wants him because he is the the “average joe” of dogs.

Take a recent case of a seemingly stray dog that was photographed snuggled on a Teddy Bear. The organization that published the photo, Forgotten Dogs of the 5th Ward, tries to save many of the stray dogs in the area. They frequently photograph dogs. They cannot find foster homes or adopters for all the dogs. But this one dog, this one photo, called out to people. People demanded someone save that dog and asked why didn’t the rescue take him in.

The answer is simple and one many people don’t seem to understand: there aren’t enough foster homes. There aren’t enough people who want to adopt. Rescues have to make decisions all the time–logical, rational decisions. They have to choose which dogs to save and which dogs to pass by. Shelters often have to make the same decisions. This means that the dogs that have a special story, or a heart-tugging medical condition, or that have national media attention often get saved. They get people who ask to foster them. They often get adopters lining up for a chance to adopt them.

Another case in point: the dogs that came to Sacramento months ago from a South Korean meat farm ended up with massive media attention and a LINE of adopters wanting to take one home. Meanwhile, hundreds of other local “average” shelter dogs waited and waited. Some even died, still waiting.

This blog post is not about guilting anyone who steps up to take in a hard luck case. Those hard-luck dogs need to be adopted JUST AS MUCH as the “average Joe” dogs, of course. But the opposite is also true. The “average Joe” dogs are equally deserving.

So, next time you or someone you know thinks about adopting or fostering, all I hope is you’ll take a look at all dogs in need and work to find the best match for you, regardless of whether that dog has a sad story, lots of media attention, or is otherwise in the shadows–going relatively unnoticed in some shelter kennel or rescue foster home.

Mouse, an average dog who went unnoticed at the Sacramento County Shelter and is currently in a foster home.

Mouse, an average, soft-hearted dog who went unnoticed at the Sacramento County Shelter and is currently in a foster home, where she lives with another dog and two cats.