I’ve spent several years volunteering at two animal shelters. As some of my previous blogs indicate, I am a huge proponent of pet adoption over private breeders. However, it is important that you select the right pet for your family. As you won’t always know the history of the animal before you take him home, here are some helpful tips, taught to me throughout my years of volunteering.
Select the right aged pet for your family.
While everyone loves the cute puppy liters that come in to the shelters, sometimes the puppy stage isn’t right for every family. Puppies are like babies; they require around-the-clock care and usually take six months to a year to potty train. Yes, they are cute and cuddly and you have the benefit of training them from a young age, but you also have to deal with the trials that come with a young dog.
My family has adopted two dogs that have been in the 1-3 year range and both were extremely successful adoptions. Traditionally, dogs in this age range will need approximately one month of training to become accustomed to their new family’s rules, but often they will not have the household accidents and chewing problems that young puppies have.
Helpful tip: Most shelters do not know the exact age of the dog as they often are strays or abandoned by owners that do not have proper paper work. Therefore, the shelter vet will guess the age based on the dog’s teeth. They usually give age brackets – under one year, 1-3 years, 3-5 years, 7-9 years and 10+ years.
Take time to get to know the animal.
When we adopted our current dog, Paisley, we adopted him from a shelter that didn’t allow visitors to go back to the kennels to see the dogs. They had a computer screen so you could view a picture of the dog you wanted to see, and then they brought the dog out to you to avoid undue stress on the other dogs still in the kennels. When Paisley first got into the visiting room with me, he was crazy. He was so excited to get out of his kennel, most likely for the first time all day, that he jumped all over me and wiggled his butt so much that he knocked over a chair in the waiting room. However, I knew this was common behavior for a dog that has been crated all day, so I gave him 10-15 minutes to calm down and return to his normal personality. Before long, he was the cuddly, docile dog we currently know and love; he even sat down next to me and put his head in my lap.
Conduct a child test.
If you have children at home, it’s very important to ensure that your dog will interact well with them. While we didn’t have children yet, we knew we would in the future, so it was important that Paisley played well with child-like play. I took him for a walk outside to ensure he was social. We played ball, and I called him to see if he was interested in coming to me. Next, I sat him down and pulled his tail a little and gave his ears a slight tug. These are both activities children will do; Paisley didn’t flinch. Lastly, I gave Paisley a treat, and quickly grabbed it out of his mouth to ensure he wouldn’t bite. Not only did he not bite, but he also sat down and waited for me to give it back to him.
Check the medical records.
It’s important that you obtain a full list of all medical procedures the shelter has conducted on your dog. Most shelters will include spay or neutering and basic legally-required immunizations such as rabies. However, be sure to ask what additional tests have been run. Was the dog checked for heartworm? Has the dog been inspected for flees. Often times if the animal currently is undergoing treatment for an existing condition, the shelter will continue to cover the bill until the treatment is complete, even if you choose to take the pet home before treatment is done. At nearly $1,000 for heartworm remediation, this simple question can save you a lot of money.