American Bulldog in a dog shelter

American Bulldog in a dog shelter (Photo by Hannah Carl on Shutterstock)

Animal shelters play an important role in rescuing stray and unwanted animals. Shelter adoption is an excellent option for those who are able to take an animal into their home. While adopting is certainly a humane action that can be seen as a wonderful expression of compassion, would-be pet adopters should have some information before they begin their search. Our list of the seven most common shelter dog breeds could be a useful resource as you enter dog ownership.

“Don’t shop, adopt!” is a popular phrase that animal shelters use to help find dogs their forever home. So, what can new owners expect when they bring home a shelter dog? Researchers find that dogs adopted from shelters may exhibit various problem behaviors that fluctuate over time, but owners generally remain highly satisfied with their four-legged family addition despite the adjustment period. If you are considering rescuing, we have compiled this list of the most common shelter dogs you will find at your local rescue centers. Thanks to the consensus of 10 trusted sources, we were able to create this list. Let us know your thoughts in the comments below!

➡️ How Our “Best Of The Best” Lists Are Created

StudyFinds’ “Best of the Best” articles are put together with the idea of taking the work out of common consumer research. Ever find yourself searching for a product or service on Google and reading multiple reviews to find items listed across many of them? Our Best of the Best lists are created with that process in mind, with each item ranked by how frequently it appears on expert reviews or lists. With Best of the Best, you are getting consensus picks — making them truly the best of the best!

fawn pup on red and white textile
Puppy at a shelter (Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash)

The 7 Most Common Shelter Dogs, According to Experts

1. American Pit Bull Terrier

white and black American Pitbull
American Pitbull (Photo by Lucas Ludwig on Unsplash)

American Pit Bull Terriers are a controversial breed. They are well-loved by their owners, but reviled by those that view this breed as dangerously violent. Unfortunately, this can be a factor in why we see so many Pitties in shelters today.

Pit Bulls often face an unfair reputation due to their athleticism, being sadly misinterpreted as aggressive rather than the fun-loving companions they truly are. While their loyalty and courage make them excellent training partners, they deserve recognition for their gentler qualities too.

The majority of Pits do not actually line up with their stereotypes. According to Pedigree, Pit Bulls possess remarkable patience and are wonderful around children. This aligns with the observations of, highlighting their lovable personalities and lamenting the discriminatory breed bans that lead to an influx of Pit Bulls in shelters and rescues.

The Animal Rescue Site emphasizes the tragic consequences of these stereotypes. Pit Bulls’ unfortunate history as fighting dogs fuels breed discrimination and high euthanasia rates, despite their inherent loving, loyal, and kid-friendly nature. Their overbreeding compounds the issue, further contributing to shelter overcrowding.

It’s crucial to remember that judging individual dogs based solely on breed is unfair and inaccurate. Pit Bulls, like any other dog, deserve to be evaluated based on their own personality and temperament. By dismantling harmful stereotypes and promoting responsible ownership, we can create a brighter future for these misunderstood companions.

2. American Bulldog

American Bulldog
American Bulldog (Photo by Professionnel shop on Shutterstock)

American Bulldogs are adorable but can end up in shelters if they prove to be a poor fit for the original owners. Just like with many breeds, adopting an American Bulldog can require an adjustment period for the dog as well as the owners. Known for their strength and loyalty, this breed makes for excellent watchdogs and family pets. However, their presence in shelters reveals a hidden side to this popular breed.

Yahoo highlights their stubborn streak and high exercise requirements as potential challenges for some owners. Cuddly adds that they’re often mistaken for Pit Bulls, leading to similar prejudices and housing restrictions. They can also be prone to certain health issues, leading to owners surrendering them to shelters.

This beloved breed thrives under the right circumstances. Experienced owners committed to daily exercise, training, and understanding their temperament will find an amazing companion in the American Bulldog. However, potential adopters should carefully consider their lifestyle and resources to ensure a happy and fulfilling life for both dog and owner.

3. Labrador Retriever

Smiling yellow lab
Smiling yellow lab (Photo by Jonathan Daniels on Unsplash)

Labrador Retrievers have a high population density in the United States. As an unfortunate result of this, they are proportionately represented at shelters. Pet Insurance Review points out the seemingly contradictory situation: the high ownership rate translates to a high number ending up in shelters. Be Chewy echoes this, suggesting that the sheer volume of Labradors might contribute to lower adoption rates compared to other breeds.

So why the disconnect? iHeart Dogs sheds light on one potential factor: irresponsible breeding practices. With Labradors being the top dog in the U.S., puppy mills and unethical breeders churn out large numbers of puppies, often ending up in shelters when owners are unprepared for their needs.

While Labradors make wonderful family companions, it’s crucial to remember that responsible ownership starts before adoption. Choosing reputable breeders, understanding their energetic nature, and ensuring a good fit for your lifestyle are all essential to prevent contributing to this seemingly counterintuitive shelter population.

Ultimately, Labradors deserve loving homes that can provide for their specific needs. We can work towards a future where every Labrador finds the forever home they deserve.

4. American Staffordshire Terrier

An American Staffordshire Terrier lying in the grass
An American Staffordshire Terrier lying in the grass (Photo by Katerina Dalemans on Shutterstock)

American Staffordshire Terriers are another breed that carries a reputation for violence when not properly trained and socialized. This is a breed that is often banned from living communities. Staffies are often mistaken for its close relative the Pit Bull, and faces similar challenges of discrimination and misconceptions. This athletic and affectionate breed often ends up in shelters due to the consequences of this prejudice.

Cuddle Clones highlights the detrimental impact of mistreatment fueled by these misunderstandings. When faced with abuse or improper care, these inherently affectionate dogs can develop aggressive behaviors, leading to them being surrendered. Despite the challenges, iHeart Dogs says these pups can be “great companions for the right person.” Be Chewy reinforces this notion, describing them as loyal, playful, and good with children. Their historical roles as herding and farm dogs showcase their intelligence, courage, and strength, qualities that translate well to family life under the right guidance.

Understanding their needs and providing a stable, loving environment are crucial for unlocking the AmStaff’s true potential as a loving companion. Dedicated owners are sure to find a truly special love with an American Staffordshire.

5. Chihuahua

Brown chihuahua puppy on brown textile (Photo by David Vives on Unsplash)

Chihuahuas are another breed that some people dive into without adequate preparation. As a result, shelters can tend to have a higher population of Chihuahuas on hand. Renowned for their adorable looks and compact size, Chihuahuas hold a complex position in the world of dog ownership. Their popularity, fueled by celebrities and media portrayals, often overshadows their unique personality and needs, leading to a worrying presence in shelters.

Pedigree acknowledges their affectionate nature but also points out their potential for nervousness and anxiety around strangers. This can manifest as barking or snapping, behaviors that might surprise owners unprepared for their specific temperament.

But their feisty personality does not mean they are bad dogs! says owners usually overlook their attitudes. Unfortunately, when these characteristics, coupled with the demands of caring for any dog, prove challenging, Chihuahuas sadly end up surrendered. Chihuahuas deserve to have a great home just like any other breed! As long as you can deal with a little sass, you will love these tiny pups.

6. Beagle

A Beagle (Photo by Marcus Wallis on Unsplash)

Beagles are smart dogs that don’t do well with too much time alone or in a cage. As a result, some busy owners end up surrendering them for adoption. What’s behind this trend? Yahoo points to their historical role as hunting dogs, leading to overbreeding for this specific purpose. Unfortunately, not all Beagles are suited for hunting, or they might age out of the activity, leaving them without a dedicated role.

Despite sometimes being overbred, they make great pets! Cuddly adds another layer to the story, highlighting their appealing size for families and playful nature. However, their inherent love for vocalizing – a deeply ingrained trait from their hound heritage – can lead to problems. Their barks and howls, while charming for some, can become annoyances or even result in neighbor complaints, ultimately leading to surrenders. Some owners, unprepared for the constant entertainment needs of these energetic clowns, opt for giving them up instead of keeping them as companions.

However, there’s a happy ending to this story. Beagles, when placed in the right homes with individuals willing to cater to their specific needs, can blossom into exceptional family pets. Their love for children and playful personalities shine through, creating a harmonious and fulfilling environment for both dog and owner.

7. Boxer

Boxer with its tongue out
Boxer with its tongue out (Photo by Vidhey PV on Unsplash)

Boxers face a curious reality: while considered loving and loyal family dogs, they also find themselves frequently in shelters. Understanding both sides of the coin is crucial for responsible ownership. Pedigree points out their boundless energy and need for exercise, suggesting they might not be suitable for everyone. These playful pups thrive on activity and attention, making them ideal for owners who enjoy an active lifestyle.

Cuddly warns that without ample physical and mental stimulation, their energy can manifest destructively, potentially leading to surrender due to behavioral issues. Dog Time expands on this point, mentioning their historical role as guard dogs and goofy personality. While beloved family companions, their high shelter presence likely stems from factors that might clash with certain lifestyles. Their exuberance and energy demand commitment, which can be inconvenient for some households.


Note: This article was not paid for nor sponsored. StudyFinds is not connected to nor partnered with any of the brands mentioned and receives no compensation for its recommendations. This article may contain affiliate links in which we receive a commission if you make a purchase.

About Alan Corona

Our Editorial Process

StudyFinds publishes digestible, agenda-free, transparent research summaries that are intended to inform the reader as well as stir civil, educated debate. We do not agree nor disagree with any of the studies we post, rather, we encourage our readers to debate the veracity of the findings themselves. All articles published on StudyFinds are vetted by our editors prior to publication and include links back to the source or corresponding journal article, if possible.

Our Editorial Team

Steve Fink


Chris Melore


Sophia Naughton

Associate Editor

1 Comment

  1. cynthiaporter says:

    Where is this dog that’s on this ad.
    We had a American pit just like her that got stolen by a truck driver about 5 months ago.
    Charles and Cynthia porter