What’s best thing about adopting a dog from an animal shelter or rescue group? So many amazing pooches to choose from! Man’s best friend comes in all shapes, sizes and—of course—personalities. Before bringing a dog home, take time to consider whether or not you’re ready for the commitment of caring for an animal. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Are you willing to commit to caring for a dog for her whole lifetime, which could be as long as fifteen years?
- If your life circumstances change—you move, marry, have a child— will you keep your dog?
- Do you have time to spend with a dog? Dogs need lots of care and exercise, and they need to give and receive love and attention every day.
- Are you financially prepared to care for a dog? The average cost for basic dog care is typically several hundred dollars a year; it could be more if your dog gets sick, requires emergency veterinary care, needs treatment for chronic issues, or other things.
While almost any shelter dog can make a wonderful, lifelong companion for you and your family, some dogs will need more training, some will need more exercise and some will be happy to just sit on your lap staring into your eyes, trying to hypnotize you into providing more kibble.
Which kind of dog are you looking for? You may have an image of your perfect dog in mind, but is your heart open to a canine Mr. Right you may not be expecting? We find it’s best to keep an open mind, have conversations with shelter staff and adoption counselors, and consider these factors:
What’s my lifestyle?
If you live alone in a small, third-floor apartment, for instance, adopting a large, active retriever-mix might not be the best choice, for you or for the pooch… but, if you’re a runner and want a partner for your jogs, or you have a large family of kids who will play with the dog all the time, it could be a great fit! A dog’s age, size, exercise requirements, friendliness, assertiveness and compatibility with children and other animals should all figure into your decision. Remember, you’re not just getting a dog; your new dog is getting a family!
Purebred or magical mix?
How do you find out which dogs have the qualities you’re looking for? Information is the key: learn about the personalities of various breeds, visit with animals at the shelter—more than once!—and speak with an adoption counselor for guidance.
Dogs fall into one of two categories: purebreds or mixed breeds. Most animal shelters have both at various times throughout the year, and DCHS is no exception. The only significant difference between the two is that purebreds, because their parents and other ancestors are all members of the same breed, are similar to a specific “breed standard.” This doesn’t always tell you much about a dog’s good health or how she’ll behave, but it will help give you an idea of how big she’s likely to get and whether her ears will be adorably droopy or sharp and perky (and other such physical traits). With mixes, you’ll get a unique, never-seen-before blend.
More about mixed breeds
Of course, the size, appearance and temperament of most mixed breed dogs can be predicted as well. After all, mixed breeds are simply combinations of different breeds. So if you know the ancestry of a particular mixed-breed puppy or can identify what type of dog she is (e.g., terrier mix), you have a good chance of knowing how she’ll turn out, too.
Mixed breeds are more likely to be free of genetic defects common to certain purebred dogs because of overbreeding.
Once you’ve considered these factors, take the next step:
Visit with shelter animals
While you’re at the shelter, keep in mind that the animals there will be stressed out; quite often, a dog’s true colors won’t show until he’s away from other animals and the shelter environment.
An adoption counselor can help you select the available dogs who will match your lifestyle. When you spend time with each animal, consider the following questions:
- How old is the dog? You may be thinking about getting a puppy, but young dogs usually require much more training and supervision. If you lack the time or patience to housetrain your pup or to correct problems like chewing and jumping, an adult dog may be a better choice. Senior dogs, who are many times overlooked at shelters, often have a lot of energy and spunk when sprung from their kennels!
- How quiet or energetic is the dog? Although an active, bouncy dog might catch your eye, a quieter pooch might be a better match if you just want a TV and hanging-out buddy.
- Is the animal good with kids? Ask questions of the adoptions counselors, but remember, not all shelter dogs will have a known history. In general, a friendly dog who likes to be touched and is not sensitive to handling and noise is a dog who will probably thrive in a house with children. If you get a puppy for your kids, remember that baby animals can be fragile and that, regardless of the dog’s age or breed, you’ll want to supervise his interactions with kids at all times.
Choose a pal for life
Shelter animals (and all pets for that matter!) deserve lifelong homes. If you’re looking for your perfect pal, stop in for a visit and check out DCHS’s available dogs. We’d love to help you find a great doggy match! After all, you’re choosing a pal who will likely be with you 10 to 15 years—or even longer. There’s a dog out there who will love being part of your family—choose wisely!