There is no greater reward than adopting a shelter dog to add to your furry family. With euthanasia rates so high, adoption truly does save lives but where do you draw the line between making the right decision and not just giving in to the desperation of either your own needs or the dogs?
The experts at the Whole Dog Journal have five tips to help you find the right dog for your family:
- Be willing to wait: Not every dog you see is the one you should take home, even though they are all in need, they might need a different family, not yours. Adult dogs from shelters make great pets, but they aren’t one size fits all. Be willing to wait for the pet that’s perfect for your family.
- Meet the dog before you adopt: You wouldn’t marry someone without meeting them first, so think of adoption as a marriage…because adopting a dog is, on average, a 10 year commitment.
- Let your head rule you heart: The shelter environment isn’t ideal for every dog, don’t pick the most pathetic looking pet and think you can “fix him”. While it’s true that some dogs are totally different once you get them home, that is the exception, not the rule. Take your time to get to know the dog and get a feel for his temperament before you say “I do”. Ask if you can take him outside or into a more quiet environment to see if he relaxes and warms up to you. Fear is one of the strongest emotions a dog can feel and is one of the hardest to overcome so if you aren’t prepared to cope with your dog’s fear, choose a different one.
- Ask for a behavior assessment: Reputable rescue dogs know their dogs. They are aware of their basic temperament, behavioral issues and reasons they may have ended up at the shelter in the first place. Foster parents get to know their dogs quite well, so if you’re wondering about odd behaviors or what their “normal” is, talk to the foster parents. If you feel anyone is withholding information, find a different rescue. If they are really in it for the dogs they will be open with any and all information that will help the dog find the right home, even if it isn’t yours.
- Engage a professional: If you decide to take home a dog that might have some behavioral issues, be sure to consult with a professional to see if those issues are something you are capable of handling. Some behaviors might be more than you’re prepared to handle, so be sure you understand what the breed as well as the specific dog you’re interested in will require in order to be a happy, healthy pet. Find a trainer you trust right away to get you started out on the right foot with your new four legged family member.
Reputable rescue groups do the best job they can to place dogs in their FUR-ever homes, the goal is to get the appropriate dog matched with the appropriate family to eliminate return, etc. When you’re looking to adopt you should be very honest about the type of dog you want, the energy level of your family, how much activity you can give the dog, etc. Be certain to disclose whether you have other pets, including cats and how old your children are. Some of these factors can be “deal breakers” so its important to be honest, for your sake and the dogs.