Choosing a Pet

Adopting a Dog? Make the Right Choice!

There’s one problem with adopting a dog from an animal shelter: the selection of available canine companions can overwhelm you! Man’s best friends come in all shapes, sizes, and, of course, personalities.

The good news is that almost any shelter dog can make a wonderful, lifelong companion for the right person or family. The bad news is that some dogs will make less appropriate pets for you than others. The key is simply knowing what to look for! Here are a few things to think about:

Examine Yourself

Choosing the right dog generally means identifying the type of animal that matches your lifestyle and wants. If you work long hours and prefer to spend your evenings watching TV, for instance, adopting a young, active retriever mix might not be the best choice. You will probably be happier if you choose an older dog who doesn’t need much exercise any more and who’s more interested in cuddling with you than in playing fetch. Conversely, if you have a family of four and are looking for a companion to match your active family lifestyle, a young, active animal may be perfect for you.

Find out what you want before you get it – and try not to judge a dog by its looks only. A dog’s size, exercise requirements, friendliness, assertiveness, and compatibility with children should all figure into your decision.

Learn About Different Breeds and Mixes

So how do you know what kind of dog will have the qualities you’re looking for? The best way to find out is to learn about various breeds, visit with animals at the shelter, and speak with an adoption counselor for guidance. There are many online resources which can help you to make the right choice.

Most animal shelters have lots of both purebred dogs and “mutts”. The only significant difference between the two is that purebreds, because their parents and other ancestors are all members of the same breed, generally conform to a specific “breed standard.” This means that if you adopt a purebred puppy, you have a good chance of knowing how big he’ll get when he gets older and what general physical and behavioral characteristics he’s likely to have.

Of course, the size, appearance, and temperament of most mixed breed dogs can be predicted as well. So if you can recognize the ancestry of a particular mixed breed puppy, you have a good chance of knowing how he’ll turn out, too. If you are not sure about what you see in a puppy, our adoption counselors will be happy to answer your questions.

When you adopt a mixed breed, you have the benefit of getting the combined traits of two or more different breeds in one animal. You also get a dog who’s likely to be free of genetic defects common to certain purebred dogs. Mixed breeds, in fact, are often considered the more “natural” dog. When you adopt a mixed breed, you adopt a totally unique companion.

Visit With Shelter Animals

While you’re at the shelter, keep in mind that the shelter is a stressful place for any animal. Quite often, a dog’s true colors won’t show until he’s away from other animals and the shelter environment. So even if you walk past a kennel with a dog who isn’t vying for your attention, don’t count him out. He may just be a little scared or lonely. Of course, it is also possible that he’s being lazy because he just came back from playtime, or because he’s hot.

An adoption counselor can help you select canine candidates who’ll match what you’re looking for. When you spend time with each animal, you’ll want to ask yourself:

  1. How old is the dog? You may want to select a puppy as your new companion. However, young dogs usually require much more time, training and supervision than more mature dogs. If you lack the time or patience to housebreak your puppy or to correct problems like chewing and jumping, then an adult dog may be a better choice.
  2. How shy or assertive is the dog? Although an active, bouncy dog might catch your eye, a more quiet or reserved dog might be easier to live with and care for.
  3. How good is the dog with children? Learning about a dog’s past from his kennel card or from an adoption counselor can be helpful here, but past information isn’t always available. In general, a dog who is active, likes to to be touched, and is not sensitive to handling and noise is a dog who’ll probably thrive in a house full of kids. Also keep in mind that puppies under four months of age, because of their fragility and special needs, often won’t be adopted out to families with children less than six years old.
  4. Is the dog housetrained? Does he have any special needs? What does he like? What else do I need to know about him? If you have any other questions that aren’t answered on a dog’s kennel card, please don’t be afraid to talk to one of our adoption counselors. We may not always have much time, but your questions are always appreciated as we would like to make sure you will find the companion you’re looking for.

Choose a Pal for Life

Every dog in a shelter can provide you with boundless love and companionship, and every dog certainly deserves a lifelong home. But some dogs are better for you and your lifestyle than others. That’s why you should take the time to make a thoughtful choice. After all, you’re choosing a pal who’ll be with you 10, 15, or even more years. Select the right dog, and you and your companion will enjoy those years to the fullest.