In a previous article, I have shared some tips on how to select a puppy from a breeder. But what if you want a dog from a shelter?
In this article, I am going to share with you how to choose a desirable candidate for becoming your best buddy. (Plus, a cute shelter dog video at the bottom!)
1 – If you are looking for a puppy, dog shelters have them too.
Puppies are generally the first to be adopted. There are two general differences between a shelter puppy and the one from a professional breeder:
- The puppy from a breeder is generally more predictable regarding size and behaviour compared to the shelter one. Breeders mate dogs of specific breeds which have a standard of size and behaviour common to that specific breed. On the other hand, puppies from the shelter have high chances to be mongrels (even though you can find pure breeds in a dog shelter). Mongrel dogs can have any mix and, therefore, if you don’t know who both parents are, it will be difficult to predict size and temperament.
- During the early weeks of puppyhood, there are important stages when experiences will forge the puppy’s character. Unfortunately, dog shelters are chaotic environments and consequently, not the best place for a puppy to grow up.
Puppies born in a dog shelter may turn into stressed individuals yet, this does not mean that they cannot become great companion pets.
2 – Lower your expectations.
If you pick an adult dog, do not expect a highly trained pet free from behavioural problems.
I have volunteered for a while in a dog shelter in Ukraine and I noticed that people wanting to adopt dogs have a bit too many expectations from dogs that have been born or spent years in an overly crowded shelter without a proper owner that offers them direction in life.
Some of these dogs haven’t been properly socialized and some of them may have aggression problems. Some of them have a past of stray dog and since have wild tendencies. By being confined together with other dogs, they may have learned to protect their food and, consequently in a domestic environment, these dogs may show food aggression and possessive aggression.
Some of them may have no clue on how to politely walk on the lead and because of that they may pull the lead like an ox. Even though it is possible to focus on individual dogs and work on their issues, the rehabilitation program will not be as effective as if done once the dog is in an ordinary calm domestic environment with an owner that can offer it directions and a routine.
Anyway, with the right approach, even an adult shelter dog can become a great pet to have around.
3 – Leave your feelings at home.
Let me put it straight, you cannot adopt all shelter dogs. Putting “the weight of an entire world on your shoulders” is not a good strategy for a happy life and neither it is your obligation.
While walking around, you will see fearful dogs or overly aggressive ones or you may see a crippled dog. You will see dogs that are really old or really young. If the shelter has a killing policy, some of this dogs are due to euthanasia.
You are already doing a good action by removing a dog from this environment. So, make sure you can manage the dog that you want to take home. Taking home the wrong dog (for you) will only make the life of both of you miserable.
An overly aggressive dog will bring a constant worry for the dog’s safety and for whatever is around the dog. A fearful dog can become aggressive out of fear. A crippled dog may require veterinary expenses that you may not be able to afford and dog insurance will not cover your dog for problems that he or she already has.
Elderly dogs may be calmer and maybe even trained but during their late years, their health problems can increase (together with your veterinary bills). They may become incontinent and some house “toilet” accidents may happen. Their energy level can be low and if you are an energetic person or you have young kids, the dog may struggle to keep up with you and the family. The opposite scenario can be if you are a low energy or elderly person with a young energetic dog.
So, base your choice on your needs and on what you can offer to the dog. In the article about choosing your puppy, I mentioned the “midway puppy”, a puppy that is not too shy or too overly confident and pushy but confident and, at the same time, calm.
In dog shelters, dogs that jump excessively or bark aggressively can be a good challenge for you. The same can be said about the ones that hide in corners. The best are generally the ones that pay attention to you by approaching the fence but not too overly excited.
However, ask information about the dog’s character and spend some time with the dog to evaluate if the dog’s temperament is compatible with yours.
In conclusion, inside a dog shelter, you can find a great dog that can become your best friend. Just make sure to chose a dog that is better for you, not the one that “feels” better for you.
Consider the fact that there may be some behavioural issues that you will need to address.
While doing volunteer work at the dog shelter in Ukraine, I had the chance to work with a dog called Red (an AmStaff mix with a history of hard life as a guard dog). If I haven’t had a dog already, I would have probably adopted him because of his mellow and human-oriented character and always cheerful spirit.
Nevertheless, Red has found an owner and he is happily living with him. That’s a happy ending story!
With so many dogs out there, you will definitely meet the best match for you.
I hope you have enjoyed this article and if you like to learn more, please, feel free to subscribe to this blog.
Also, if you like the topic of dogs, please check my book ‘Before You Get A Dog’ by Simone Burani. You will find the essential knowledge written in simple language to have a great time with your pet.