By Janet McAfee

A visit to one of the public shelters in Riverside and San Bernardino counties quickly confirms most of the animals there are large dogs.  Apartment dwellers and seniors usually prefer to adopt small dogs.  Most people who volunteer to foster request a small size animal, therefore more homes for large dogs are needed.  Large dogs need the extra boost to get adopted that foster homes can provide, helping to socialize them, and showcasing them in social media and in the community.

While there have historically been lots of pit bull dogs in shelters, today the majority of homeless dogs are majestic German Shepherds and Huskies.  In 2022, more large dogs ended up in public shelters for a variety of reasons.  As folks return to work, the big dogs they adopted during the quarantine may create a nuisance with their loud barking.  Other people mistakenly believed their dogs would suffer if they couldn’t spend as much time with them.  Landlords aware of the uptake in property values are selling their rental homes, and people with large size pets are at the bottom of the list in a shrinking rental market.

Sadly, greedy breeders are now flooding the market with cute Husky and Shepherd puppies charging exorbitant fees.  Breeders seeking profit provide little or no medical care.  They provide no training assistance follow up if the dogs they adopt are sick.  They usually refuse to accept return of their animals.  Some exasperated owners of large pups relinquish them to public shelters when faced with veterinary bills and lack of training resources.


Pictured here is Zoe, a beautiful German Shepherd dog with the face of an angel, a shelter staff favorite who did well in the big dog playgroup.  Zoe is just 1-year-old and 57 pounds of doggie love.  She is dog ID#A1700274.  Come and meet Zoe at the Coachella Valley Animal Campus, our Riverside County shelter, at 72-050 Pet Land Place in Thousand Palms.  Visiting hours are 10am to 4pm Monday through Saturday.  Ask staff to take Zoe to a private visiting room so she can meet you and your family, and you can experience her engaging personality.

German Shepherd are fabulous family dogs as well as best buddies for single people.  They provide great protection and security for anyone concerned about safety.  My parents adopted our first German Shepherd Boy when I was a baby, and this loyal guardian saved my life when I was a baby.  A couple years later he retrieved me as a toddler when I wandered down the block.  Boy is the reason I love dogs so much, particularly the Shepherds.

If you can’t adopt right now, what can you do to help?  Fostering is the key to the Coachella Valley and other communities becoming a “No Kill” community.  Fostering “expands the walls” of our often-crowded public shelters.  Most large breed dogs do not do well in a kennel for very long.  They become stressed and develop behavior issues they never had in their previous homes.  Sadly, this can result in their being euthanized when shelter space simply runs out.

Animals that are stressed or frightened in a shelter kennel begin to relax and transform in a foster home where they have a warm bed and loving attention.  Fostering may not only save a dog’s life, but it provides the socialization and training for a successful adoption.  People fostering or adopting these large active animals should have a large walled secure yard, with some exceptions for senior dogs. Homes should also provide indoor access for dogs to do what they love most, hanging with humans.

If you can open your heart and home to a foster dog, consider taking one of the medium or larger size pups.  Most large breed dogs are incredibly smart and easy to train.  They thrive in an environment where they learn new things.  Consider how amazing large breed dogs perform complex lifesaving tasks in law enforcement, search and rescue teams, and the military.

There are more advantages to having a big dog.  They require more exercise, and they would love to accompany you on a Fall hiking excursion.  Most large dogs are relatively calm during their time inside the house, content to relax by your feet.  Older dogs are very calm and very grateful to have a home. These magnificent creatures usually have an even temperament, and they are protective of their families.  They tend to reserve their energy for romping in the back yard and trips to the dog park.  Another plus is that they are very intelligent and almost never have an “accident” inside the house.

Coachella Valley residents can call Loving All Animals at (760) 834-7000 for more information about fostering.  Palm Springs residents can contact the Palm Springs Animal Shelter at (760) 416-5718  You can visit the county Coachella Valley Animal Campus shelter and select a dog of any size to foster or take on a day outing.  This shelter also has a wonderful foster program where you can take home a dog

Big dogs have big personalities and big hearts to love you.  They give gigantic hugs and colossal kisses!

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