If you’re considering bringing a new dog or cat into your home, there’s no doubt that saving a life at your local animal shelter is a wonderful way to go. I am a big advocate for adopting pets, with my two dogs coming from a shelter. However, when choosing a shelter pet, there are a few things to keep in mind to make sure they are a good fit for your family, and they get the best chance at a new forever home.
Before you head out to the shelter and get carried away with the cute, sad eyes looking at you, make sure you assess your lifestyle, needs and physical abilities to make sure your new pet is a good fit.
Think about the qualities you would like in a pet. Is your house busy, with children and plenty of visitors? If so you will need to make sure you get a social pet, who gets along with different people and can tolerate noise. If you are a single person with a quiet lifestyle, you may be happy with a less social dog, which is quiet and happy to sit on the couch all day.
It is also important to assess your ability to meet a dog’s physical and mental needs. Some dogs require fairly vigorous daily exercise (think border collie) whilst others are pretty happy to sleep most of the day.
Use the information available
Once you have a good idea of what you are looking for, its time to start looking. Join pages of local shelters and visit their websites to see what is available. It is easy to rush in, but it is best to make sure you do some looking around to make sure the pet is the best fit.
Once you see a pet you think will be a good fit, see if you can get a more detailed history such as any behavior evaluations, and any reasons the pet may have ended up at the shelter.
Talk to anyone available at the shelter to see how the pet acts, but keep in mind animals can act very differently in a shelter environment, and this may only provide a small glimpse into the dog’s personality. Ask any questions that are important to joining your family such as how the dog is around children, or what size fences are needed.
Spend as much time with the pet as possible before making a decision
When you find a pet you are interested in learning more about, spend some time interacting with the pet. Most shelters will allow you to visit the animal or take them for a walk
It is important to be able to interact with the pet in the way you might at home. Although a pet may look perfect online, they may be different in person; they might be more shy, or more energetic than you expected. Keep in mind what things are important to you, and whether you can accept certain personality traits. If you have a family or other pets, it is important that they also socialize with the new pet as much as possible. Some pets may not enjoy being around children or other pets, and this is very important to know before you take the pet home.
Have an open mind
Don’t be too concerned about minor training issues such as jumping up or pulling on the lead. These are things that are easily fixed with some time and effort on your behalf. However, make sure you will be able to control the new pet. It is important to see how they react to seeing other people, animals and unfamiliar sights and sounds. Other behavioral issues may be more of a concern such as nipping, baring teeth or hissing.
Sleep on it
Some shelters will let you put a pet on a 24-hour hold so you can have a good think about whether the pet is the right fit, or bring back other family members to meet the pet.
Some shelters will let you foster the pet for a short period of time. This is the ideal way to see exactly how the pet will act in your house and interact with your family members.
In the end sometimes the ‘perfect fit’ for you and your family is a pet that you love and care for, despite some shortcomings. No pet is perfect, I have one dog who is a hole digger and one who is an escape artist, but I have come to terms with these behaviors, and house made adjustments in my yard as needed. Just make sure you give shelter animals a good chance by making sure you have done your homework, and pick a pet that is appropriate for your needs too!
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