Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Choosing a Shelter Dog

You have decided to adopt a shelter dog--- Congratulations! You have chosen to save a life and provide a second chance for a dog that has had a bad turn in life. There are certain things you must do before you adopt and things you will need to do once your dog is part of your family.

Before You Adopt: 
  • First and foremost-- decide how many dogs you want, because you will want them all when you walk into that shelter. Stick to that number. 
  • Decide what kind of dog you want. Do you want a small dog or a big dog? And active dog or a laid back dog? An adult dog or puppy? You will want to try to find a dog that fits your lifestyle. Stick to the plan. If you are planning on getting a small dog, don't come home with a Great Dane. 
  • Research, research, research-- Do you know what you will be feeding your dog? How much exercise your dog will need? What things are essentials for getting a dog (bed, bowls, leash, crate, ect...)? What vet are you going to use? What do you need to do to get a dog license in your city? What kind of paperwork do you need to adopt a dog? Buy those things.
  • Lay down ground rules for your humans before the dog comes home. There should also be rules for your new four-legged family member and all humans should stick to these rules. Will your new dog be allowed on the furniture? Where will he eat? Who will feed him? Bathroom schedule? ect.... The more consistency and less stress in the household, the better.
  •  Do you have other animals in the house and how are you going to transition them?  
At The Shelter: ** First and foremost: Remember that a shelter is a stressful place for animals. Any animal you are considering will be under some amount of stress.
  • Ask Questions: Don't be afraid to ask questions about animals you are interested in adopting-- Why is this dog at the shelter? Are there any medical issues? If so, consider whether you have the financial means to take care of the vet bills. Has it had a temperament test?
  • Watch and assess the dog you are considering from a distance: Is it sitting calm and watching? Is it engaging with people in friendly manner? Is it exhibiting signs of stress (pacing and whining)? Do you have a super-excited dog on your hands (jumping, barking, ect)? Is there aggressive traits, such as lunging, growling and charging? Is this dog fearful (won't approach you, hunching and hiding)? 
  • Walk up to the kennel and watch the dog's language. 
  • Take the dog to a quiet room. Does the dog pay attention to you? Or is he trying to hide and ignore you? Try to gently pat the dog, how does the dog react? Offer the dog a toy or treat and see what happens. Do they take it gently? Growl? Ignore? 
  • Take the dog for a short walk (if the shelter will allow): How does the dog react to surroundings? Are they barking at everything and pulling at the leash? Are they hiding behind you and fearful?
 All of the above will help you assess the dog's personality and temperament, but will not give you a perfect guarantee. Remember, to keep your two-legged family lifestyle in mind as well. If you choose a dog that is scared and fearful, you will need to give them a little bit more patience and a longer time to transition at their new home and to new surroundings. A fearful, scared dog will not do well in a home of people who like to throw parties. If you have small children, you may not want to get a big, adult dog that likes to jump up on people. 

Once Home:
  • At first, limit your dog to one area of the house and slowly open up new areas as they get used to things. 
  • Keep you dog on a leash while in the house for the first few weeks while he learns house rules. BUT, never leave your dog on a leash unsupervised.  
  • Do not leave your rescue dog unsupervised with current household pets. 
  • Limit the amount of guests you bombard your new dog with for the first few weeks. Remember that your rescue dog is coming from a stressful situation (the shelter) to a new stressful situation (a new home) and learning new rules.
  • Establish the rules and keep consistent with the rules. Consistency is key with all dogs. 
  • Remember that accidents will happen and that training is lifelong---Consistency and patience!
  • Dog's are den dwellers-- provide a crate for your dog, but do not use it as a punishment box. A crate should be their private den that allows them to retreat from stress.   
 Last but not least, remember that whether you are getting a purebred puppy or rescuing a shelter dog, ENVIRONMENT PLAYS A HUGE ROLE in a dog's behavior. A shelter dog can come from deplorable conditions and through love and patience become the best family dog ever. You can also have a dog that comes from a perfect breeder and become a nightmare if left with humans that have no idea how to communicate and train a dog. Pets are an unwavering commitment of time, love, money, patience and responsibility. 

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