Every time I walk into an animal shelter, I’m overwhelmed by the desire to love and care for every single dog there. Yeah, I have my favorite breeds just like anybody (fluffy littles and herding mutts) but really, if it has a wet nose and is in need of a home, big or small, fuzzy or sleek, snaggle-toothed or three-legged, I just can’t resist.
Meet adoptable Rocket! He's a 22 lb, 1 y/o Chihuahua mix and he's amazing! Rocket is a family boy, great with kids (he loves them!). This handsome boy is good in the car, 90% housebroken, good on the leash, well behaved in the house, loves other dogs and is great with cats! He's also playful and very affectionate. Lil Rocket will be neutered, is UTD on preventatives/vaccines, dewormed, nearly housebroken and is microchipped. Meet him in person at Save the Tails' weekly adoption events Sundays at DogGone Natural Leesburg VA 1-4pm, and the second and last Saturday of each month at DogGone Natural's Ashburn location 12-3pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for questions/enquiries. #adoptabledog #chihuahuasofinstagram #chimix #blackdogsrock #littledogs #littledogsofinstagram #happydog #dogrescue #loudouncountyva #leesburgva #northernva #ashburnva #dogsofig #dogs
As a dog trainer, though, I know that letting your emotions take over at the shelter is the absolute wrong way to go about adopting a dog. I’ve been in the unfortunate position more times than I can count of telling people that the dog they’ve just brought home might need a lot of support. For example, maybe it’s a dog that will never overcome their deep fear of children, or will need daily work for months to be able to feel comfortable home alone.
In my experience, these dogs sometimes end up returned to the shelter, breaking the hearts of both animal and family.
It’s better to make the right choice from the beginning
You have the best of intentions, and dog adoption is a wonderful thing. No dog is “right” or “wrong.” However, there is probably a “right” or “wrong” dog for you and your lifestyle.
For example, a hyperactive, reactive adolescent dog might not be a good fit when you don’t have the time or money to provide proper exercise and training. A fearful, traumatized dog probably won’t do well in a busy household with young children.
Keep these tips in mind when adopting a dog
If I could sum it up, I’d say: use your brain, not just your heart. From there, here are some considerations to keep in mind:
Dogs don’t reach adulthood until 2.5 or 3 years of age
I’ve noticed that many people adopt a dog between the ages of 1 – 2 years because they want a young adult. However, dogs don’t actually hit adulthood until around age 3. During dog adolescence the personality and intellect of a dog are still forming. The period between ten months and 1.5 years of age is particularly notorious for the development of anxiety-based behaviors.
It takes a while for a rescue dog’s personality to emerge
Due to the stress and irregularity of life behind bars, dogs adopted from a shelter may not come out of their shell completely until at least three weeks after adoption.
However, you can learn more about them by talking to their caretakers. Many dog rescue organizations house their adoptable pups with foster families rather than a shelter. If you want to know what a dog is really going to be like in the home, visiting them with their foster family is a great place to start.
Sweet Foster pup can always be found sleeping at my feet. He did not find a home at his first adoption event this weekend. We'll keep looking. Listed as Cooby at www.Ruffco.org. Denver, CO. #pomeranian #adoptdogs #adoptme #fosterdog #dogsofinsta #adoptabledog #adoptdontshop #rescuedog #rescuedogsofinstagram #colorado
It’s virtually impossible to tell exactly which breeds combined to create many rescue dogs. However, we can typically, at the very least, identify the breed group from which a dog hails. For example, herding dogs like the border collie, sporting dogs like the Labrador retriever, or terriers like the Jack Russell have pretty distinct characteristics.
Breed knowledge won’t give you specifics, but it can tell you something about the amount of exercise and stimulation you should expect to provide in order to keep a dog happy and healthy.
Every dog is an individual
Breed has some influence. In large part, though, a dog’s personality comes down to experiences in puppyhood and adolescence. Any dog can be hyperactive, hyper-intelligent or hyper-lazy! Spend time with the dog you’re considering so you can get to know their unique qualities.
What an amazing view! Scarborough bluffs is nice too.. Check out Nanuk! 🐕 @Regrann from @black_dog_rescue – Nanuk is enjoying a day out with his fosters. Here he is at the Scarborough bluffs, enjoying the view! Don't forget to drop by our @heelboy event on Sunday for your chance to meet Nanuk. #scarboroughbluffs #adoptdontshop #adoptabledog #dogsoftoronto #dogsofig #rescuedismyfavoritebreed #ilovemydog #torontodogs #dogsoftoronto #instadog #blackdogrescue #adoptdontshop #dogsofinsta #instadog #rescuedismyfavoritebreed #rescuedogsofinstagram #mytoronto #torontoevents #torontodogs #blackdogrescue #heelboy #dogsofinstagram #adoptabledogs #adoptadog #ontariodogs #canadian #rescuedog #adoptdontshop #rescuedontshop #torontomutt #animallover #adoptionevent #pooches #thesix #gta #toronto
Don’t adopt a dog just for looks
Do you have a friend who has a dog you adore? Do you miss your childhood pup? Even though you may love those doggy faces, similar looks at the shelter don’t mean much. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but often, Murphy’s Law applies, and the dog ends up being the exact opposite of what you wanted.
The bottom line
In the end, choosing the right dog comes down to your life and home. If you work full time and live alone, it’s going to be a major challenge to keep a high-energy adolescent happy. If you have difficulty walking, a large reactive dog is a bad fit. If you love to camp and hike, a couch potato may not be your ideal companion.
Closely consider your lifestyle before adopting. And remember that shelters always need volunteers, so you can get your dog fix before you make a decision—and make a difference at the same time.
Featured image: Union College