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10 Tips to Choose the Right Shelter Dog

Are you thinking about adding a new pet to your family? Where should you go to find one? Animal shelters are a great place to start - they always have plenty of dogs who want to find their forever home.

But choosing a dog from an animal shelter can be difficult. It can be hard to really get a good idea for how the dog will behave at home when you only have a few minutes to spend with him at the animal shelter. Follow these 10 tips to help choose the right shelter dog for you and your family.

Ten Tips to Choose the Right Shelter Dog

  1. Try to start without any preconceived ideas about what type of dog you want. If you start your visit thinking, "I only want to look at dogs with short hair," you might be disappointed by what you find (or don't find). You may also overlook that smaller dog with medium-length hair that would be a perfect fit for your family!
  2. Do start with a few ideas of the temperament of the dog you would like. Do you want to take your dog running with you every day? Does the dog need to be good with kids and lots of noise? Are you looking for a lap dog? Do a little preparation before you visit the animal shelter so you have a few thoughts on what you are looking for.
  3. When you get to the animal shelter, take a quick walk through the kennels before stopping to visit with any one dog. The dogs probably want more human contact time than they are getting, and they should be interested in you - coming up to the door to meet you. Take note of any of the dogs who stand out to you as possible candidates for your family.
  4. Go back and have a short visit (through the kennel door) with any dogs who you think you are interested in. Watch for them to come up to the door and try to sniff or lick your hand.
  5. If the animal shelter has the space, spend a few minutes in a quiet place alone with each dog that you are interested in. The dog should be trying to get your attention, but not trying to aggressively jump on you. If the dog is ignoring you, it might be a sign that he is shy, or is not interested.
  6. If the dog is interested in you, try petting him down his back. You are looking for a dog who is social and enjoys petting - this dog will stand still or move closer to you, trying to increase the contact. If the dog moves away from you, seems nervous, or appears aggressive, this may not be the right dog for you.
  7. Ask about his behavior around food. If the animal shelter employees will allow it, watch the dog eat a small amount of food while in that quiet room alone. Is he food aggressive? If so, this may not be the dog for you (especially if you have small children).
  8. If the animal shelter will allow it, take the dog on a short walk outside the facility (always on a leash). See how his behavior changes (or doesn't) when he is away from the shelter and experiencing new things. Some leash behavior can be trained - if he is pulling on the leash, for example, it may just be because he is over-excited about the new person and the new situation.
  9. If you have kids, bring them along on the animal shelter visit to see how the dog interacts with them, or bring them back when you have narrowed your choices down to 1 or 2 dogs. You are looking for a dog who wants to interact with kids and can be gentle with them. If the dog jumps, barks, growls, or ignores the children, this may not be the right dog for your family.
  10. Ask lots of questions, anything you can think of! Ask how long the dog has been in the animal shelter, if they know why he was surrendered there, if he has a favorite person or other dog there, his medical history, what his normal behaviors are, and if the shelter employees have any concerns about adopting this dog (in general, or with your family in particular). The only silly question is the one you don't ask, so don't be shy!

Don't let the process of finding a shelter dog be intimidating to you. If you follow these 10 tips and take your time, you'll be able to find the perfect dog for your family.

Are you getting ready to add a dog to your family, or have you recently gotten a new dog? Call us or come in to get a full physical examination on your new pet, make sure he is up to date on all his vaccines, and to ask any questions you have about your new furry family member.

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