Puppies tend to be the first animals adopted from animal shelters, but unfortunately too many are returned when the new owners get more than they bargain for. Rescuing a dog from a shelter can be a great choice, provided you understand a few concepts before you bring the animal home.
Breed is Important
Some dog breeds are more conducive to living with people than other breeds. Since the shelter may not know the exact breed or mix the dog is — do your own research before bringing the animal home. One of the easiest ways to accomplish this is take a photograph of the dog and then do an Internet search — or leaf through a book of popular dog breeds — to find an image that most closely matches the animal.
Size and Age Matters
Know what size dog you want before you walk into a shelter so you won’t ‘impulse buy’ a cute, lovable pup that will not work in your situation. One quick and fairly reliable way to determine if a pup will be a large dog is to look at its paws. Large paws in a pup are a strong indicator of a large dog breed. Also, the older a dog is — and the longer they have been in a shelter — the more potential behavioral problems they will have. Generally speaking, a correctly-sized dog with a short shelter stay will be the best choice.
Quality of Shelter
What is your first impression of the facility? Is it clean and do the animals appear well-cared for? Do the animals have ample room in their kennels and do they have a place to get daily exercise? A poorly run and poorly cared for facility can indicate the animals are not being treated properly — which again could lead to behavioral issues in the future.
Length of Stay
A general rule of thumb is: the shorter the stay the better. This is because most dog breeds need proper socialization as pups if they are to mature into socially healthy adults. However, this does not mean that all dogs with a short stay will be well-behaved and all animals with long stays will behave poorly as adults. But it is something to consider before bringing the pet home because if there is a potential for an issue– you must be ready and able to deal with the problem appropriately.
Shelters and rescue centers can be a great place to find a pet and they provide a valuable service, but if the animals are returned or ever worse mistreated, then the cycle of misuse and abuse continues. If you have any doubt — or if you have never previously owned a pet — you may want to consider becoming a foster home for pets first so you can ease into pet ownership.