The decision to add a canine companion to your family is certainly a big one. Many factors need to be considered including breed, size and energy level. With the growing awareness of pet overpopulation more and more families are choosing to adopt a shelter dog and save a life. When adopting a rescue there are added considerations on selecting the right dog for your lifestyle.
Right at the top of the list is the awareness that your new rescue has a shady history, especially if it was a stray. Rarely do shelters know anything about the dog’s history when they first come in and the longer a dog lives at the shelter the more impact it will have on their emotional well-being.
This shady history and unfortunate circumstance of being in a shelter is guaranteed to have a dog acting like anything but its natural personality. But don’t be discouraged, there are 5 questions that will lead you to the best matched companion possible.
1) What is the dog’s temperament?
The shelter staff will do a behavior assessment to determine a dog’s adoptability soon after arriving at the shelter. To get a better feel for their temperament ask if you can see the dog in a room or fenced yard area away from the other shelter dogs. If allowed, take him on a short walk and assess his leash manners. Make a mental note of the dog’s reaction to touch and sounds.
A dog’s temperament will dictate the type of interaction you can expect from your pet on a daily basis so don’t rush through this process. A skittish dog that cowers from your hand will prove to be a real challenge for a busy house with frequent visitors.
2) Does he get along well with other dogs/cats?
Many shelters have the ability to test dogs with other dogs as well as cats. Even if you don’t own other animals it’s a good idea to take advantage of this process. Knowing how your dog will react to other dogs when you’re out walking around can save you a lot of stress and embarrassment later on. Additionally cats frequent every neighborhood. You’ll want to know if you can anticipate being drug up the driveway to get after the neighbor’s cat!
3) Is the dog high or low energy dog?
Depending on how long the dog has been at the shelter the staff can give you a good idea of the energy needs of the dog you’re interested in. Knowing their energy level is crucial to a smooth transition of bringing your new pet home.
If you’re family is active and spends a great deal of time outside then it’s better to find a dog with a higher energy level that can keep up with yours. On the opposite end if you’re family spends most of their time at home in front of a computer or television you’ll want a low energy dog that will enjoy lounging around with you.
4) How long has the dog been at the shelter?
The longer a dog is at the shelter the more it will impact their emotional state. Most shelter staff will refer to this as kennel fever, noted by a negative impact of remaining locked up in the kennel too long. Some dogs react aggressively while others withdrawal. Either way it’s best to consider other dogs if you’re not experienced in handling dogs with emotional traumas. How long it takes for kennel fever to set in is partly determined by the circumstances that landed them in the shelter as well as the temperament of the dog, so use this information as part of your selection process only.
5) Was the dog a stray or an owner drop off?
For many people this question may seem irrelevant when looking at shelter dogs but the answer can help differentiate between a potentially unhealthy or unstable dog and a well-loved family member. Not all strays have health issues and many of them are simply pets that got loose and never claimed, however this question should still be asked. To help separate the strays with potential health or emotional problems ask about the animal’s condition when it arrived at the shelter compared to its current health and temperament.
By taking the time to ask the shelter staff these five questions you’ll better understand what to expect from the dog you’re interested in. Remember that no matter how cute a dog is there’s a real chance that he’s not a good fit for your family. Consider your rescue carefully instead of simply adopting the cute dog that catches your eye and you’ll guarantee yourself a lifetime companion.
About the Author:
Mikki Hogan is the proud owner of three shelter dogs as well as foster mom to shelter dogs in need of more time before finding their forever homes. Working from home helping others find allergy solutions she has the time needed to provide excellent care for her rescues. In her years of experience with dog rescue she’s learned one very important key to successful adoption, knowing how to choose the right dog for your lifestyle.?