What to Look for When Selecting a Dog From a Shelter

You’ve made the big decision to get a dog. You have everything in order; you know the size dog you can handle given the size of your house/yard/apartment, you’ve purchased bowls for food and water, and, with true civil devotion, you’ve decided to get a shelter dog.

Now the real chore begins: how do you select a dog from the shelter? In some ways, your choices are going to be more limited; you won’t be able to guarantee getting a particular breed, so you don’t have to decide which breed is right for you. But at the same time, if you’re choosing between all the dogs in the shelter, you could have quite a wide variety of options, indeed.

So how do you go about selecting the perfect pup for your needs? First of all, of course, what size are you looking for? If you live in an apartment, you won’t be able to get a great dane sized dog. Know the size you’re looking for, and narrow your choices accordingly.

Second, do you have any “special needs”? For example, do you have children, other pets, or other dogs that the new family member will have to get along with? Ask shelter workers which dogs will best suit the needs of the rest of your family; in most cases, they’ll be able to tell you which dogs get along with other dogs, cats, small children, etc.

Third, don’t be in a rush. Be willing to make more than one trip to the shelter, to spend time with the dogs there and to develop a bond with the one dog you think you can spend the next ten or fifteen years of your life with.

The first couple of trips, you may want to spend time with several dogs; shelter workers are usually glad to make it easy for you to spend time with dogs individually. On the third trip, you may narrow it down to one, perhaps two dogs that you want to get to know better. Don’t take a dog home until you’re certain it’s the right one for you; all too often, pet owners make snap decisions because a dog is cute, and the dog ends up right back at the shelter in a matter of months or even weeks.

Finally, involve your kids, if you have them, in the selection process. Let them come with you and spend time with each dog, as well. Their word should never be final, but do listen to them and get input from them about which dog they think you should take home. After all; a new dog is a member of the whole family–not just a part of it.
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