Whether purebred or mixed, shelter dogs can make a wonderful addition to your family. However, choosing from your many options can prove daunting, and there are also some key factors you need to keep in mind.
If you're thinking about adding a dog to your household, you're sure to feel the rush of excitement and warm, fuzzy feelings as you head out to select your new best friend. However, adding a dog to your home means a lot of new responsibilities, and if you're choosing a shelter dog, there are some special considerations you need to make.
#1 A Puppy Is A Lot of Work
Many people opt for a puppy when they decide to add a dog to their family. However, a puppy isn't the best option for everyone. Not only will having your heart set on a puppy greatly reduce how many dogs you have to choose from at the shelter, it will also mean that you now have to plan on devoting extra time to potty training, obedience training, socializing, and so on.
#2 Older Dogs Have A Good Foundation
The great thing about considering a dog of 6-8 months or older is that they have likely already been house trained and perhaps have some obedience training as well. While you can't control how their previous owners may have treated them as far as care and socialization, you'll be able to get a good idea of their personality since it has likely already formed by this age.
#3 Meet-and-Greets Matter
Gone are the days when people mindlessly walked into pet shops and picked out whatever cute puppy happened to be staring at them through the window. While most people could learn to love any dog they bring home, it is important that the person who will ultimately be caring for the dog (whether that's you, your loved one, or a child) is going to "click" with their new friend. A meet-and-greet matters to get an idea of the dog's personality and traits.
#4 Breeds Aren't A Big Deal
While you may have your mind set on getting a specific breed of dog, keep in mind that this is not necessarily a determining factor. For instance, just because golden retrievers have a reputation of being big sweethearts, that doesn't mean they are the absolute best dog for your family. There are plenty of options out there, and your shelter probably has plenty of mixes and just plain "mutts" to choose from.
#5 Size Is A Consideration
What's more important than choosing a specific breed is thinking about the specific qualities of a dog you're considering. Size is one of those factors and it's going to impact your decision based on where you live and how much room you have to keep them. An apartment dweller is going to have to opt for a smaller breed than a person who lives on a farm in the countryside.
#6 Energy Is Also A Consideration
While breed may not be a big deal to you, knowing a dog's breed can help you look up their stats to know how much energy they generally have. Even without that information though, you can spend some time with the dog during your meet-and-greet to get a good idea of how hyper they are. Of course, keep in mind that most dogs are shy while in the shelter and may not show all of their true colors. Ask the staff if they think the dog is high energy or not, and then consider if that fits your lifestyle.
#7 Take Them Up On The Trial Offer
Most shelters realize that dogs act differently while in the strange, loud kennel. They are likely to change a bit, perhaps becoming more relaxed or more fun-loving, once you bring them home and they get settled in. For that reason, most shelters offer a sort of "Trial period" where they encourage you to keep the dog for days, weeks, or even months. If things don't work out, remember that the shelter always welcomes and encourages you to bring the dog back to them and let them know what happened so future adoptees can have more information about the dog.
#8 Prepare Before You Adopt
Adopting a dog is not an easy feat. Many shelters want to do a home check beforehand, but most don't actually have time. Regardless, you should make sure you're prepared for your new four-legged friend by going ahead and purchasing a dog bed, transport kennel, and at-home kennel where you can put them for the first few days when you don't want to leave them alone. You should also pick up some toys for the dog so they can settle in more quickly.
#9 Consider Their Needs
When you adopt your dog, be sure that you ask the staff what sort of food they have been eating and whether or not they like certain toys, baths, or walks. This will help you get prepared for the arrival of your new buddy and it will make their transition to your home that much easier for everyone. If you decide to change their food, be sure you gradually mix the new food in with what they're currently eating so as not to upset their stomach. Your dog will already have enough on their plate, so try not to throw them any major dietary changes as they adapt to their new lifestyle.
#10 Spend Time Bonding
Many people who just bring a dog home don't actually give it too long of a chance before they get overwhelmed with them. Your new dog will most certainly be excited that they are entering a new home, but you should give them upwards of 2-4 weeks in order to really get to know them. If it doesn't work out, it's okay. There are more dogs to choose from and one of them is surely right for you. Plus, the dog you take back is more certainly right for someone else out there.