For most people looking to adopt a dog, choosing the dog is the most difficult part in the process. This is because there are so many well behaved, adorable dogs that are looking for homes. It’s important to try to stay as calm and clear as possible in order to make a decision with your head first, and heart second.
Bring Your List
In part one of How to Adopt a Dog I talk about creating a list of your wants, needs and deal breakers. BRING YOUR LIST WITH YOU! Bringing your list to the shelter or rescue will help you to stay on track with your goals, and it will also give you the opportunity to talk to the staff in order to find the best dog for you.
Don’t Adopt the First Dog You See
The common tendency for many people looking to adopt a dog is to walk into a shelter, lock eyes with the first sad eyes that they see, and rush into adoption. Many people will fall in love immediately and ignore all of the behaviours that may be deal breakers for them. It’s difficult not to want to take all of the dogs home, but you need to think rationally here. You can’t save them all, and it’s simply unfair to the dog to bring it into your home if he doesn’t fit with your lifestyle. Do not adopt the first dog that you see, but instead visit all of the dogs to see your options. It may be that you end up adopting that first dog, but at least you know that it will be because it was the best option for you, as opposed to an infatuation.
Talk to the Staff
At this point, the staff know more about these dogs than anyone, especially if the dog has been staying with the organization for a while. Talking to the staff will be your biggest asset in your search to adopt a dog. Ask them as many questions as possible. Trust me, you are not being invasive. They want you to ask them!
Common Questions Include:
- How long does the dog have left? (before euthanization)
2. How long has the dog been there?
3. Where is the dog from and how did it get here?
4. If the dog was owner surrendered, why was it surrendered?
5. Has the dog changed in any way since being there? For good or for bad?
6. Has the dog been tested with other dogs? How did it react?
7. How much exercise does the dog get here?
8. How is the dog on leash?
9. Has the dog ever bitten a person? A human? What were the circumstances?
10. What does your facility do for continued assistance after adoption?
11. Has the dog ever been exposed to kids? Other animals? Etc.
12. What is the dog’s energy level? (generally)
13. Have they had any medical issues since being here? Or prior to being here?
14. Are they spayed/neutered?
*These are some general questions, but feel free to ask questions that pertain to your particular living situation. The more questions you ask, the better!
Visit Multiple Times
Just as with humans, a dog’s day can be quite full, and his moods can alter throughout the day. It is a good idea to visit the dog multiple times before deciding to adopt to ensure that you’ll get to see all of the variations of his personality. Try visiting morning, midday and night. Don’t make a decision to adopt after visiting the dog one time. Have multiple different encounters with the dog. This will also help the dog to become accustomed to you before moving into your home.
Bring Your Family
It’s very important that your potential new dog meets all members of the family to ensure that everyone will get along. This includes children, parents, and other pets in the home (if the organizations allows you to bring them). Many people neglect to bring their entire family along for a visit before adopting, and then are forced to return the dog when there is a confrontation at home. Not only is visiting often beneficial for you, but some rescues require that you bring your family along to meet them and the dog before adoption. It is best to be prepared, and make sure that the whole family is smitten with your new dog before you bring him home.
Many rescue dogs have lived hard lives, and there may be some baggage that comes along with that. It’s also important to remember that the situation that he’s in, whether it’s a shelter, or a foster home, is not always easy for him, and his personality and behaviour may reflect that. Often times dogs will show some behaviour problems while in custody, but turn out to be fabulous family dogs once they’ve settled into your home. Be honest with yourself about if the dog’s behaviour problems will be manageable for you. Talk to the staff to gage their opinion on the extent of the behaviour issues. It is a great idea to hire a trainer after adopting your dog in order to help the transition process. You’re doing a very noble thing by choosing to adopt a dog, but you also want to make sure that you can handle any issues that arise.