How to adopt the best dog for you

Adopt

So you are thinking about adopting a dog? Congratulations for choosing adoption over breeders. There are 3.3 million dogs entering shelters every year in USA alone. Less than half of those get adopted, and many of those remaining get euthanized. If you adopt, you are helping an area in need.
It's estimated that 20% of adopted dogs get returned to shelters. So it is even more important to find a dog for life. Nobody wants to see a dog returned back to a shelter, especially the dog.
To help save a life...
That will change your life...
You must be ready.
Shelter dogs for adoption
To aid a difficult decision, here are a few tips:
 

Lifestyle

A dog is for life. This means daily walks come rain or shine. Chores such as rubbing down a wet dog, cleaning up pee/poop. Also no-one warns you about dog farts… they should. There is a lot of responsibility. So what your lifestyle is, and how much you are willing to adapt to meet your new dogs needs, is critical.

If you do not have the time, space or inclination to walk a dog, every single day, then forget it. I’m sorry but a dog is not for you. There are plenty of cats available for adoption that don't need as much effort. Dogs need exercise and routine.

Also check with your landlord if your home accepts pets. One of the most common reasons for returned dogs is that that landlord have disagreed.

Once you have checked you are able to adopt. Aware that you are responsible for feeding, exercising, socialising and training the dog. For the next 5-20 years (depending on the dogs age). Then it is time to make the next step;

What are you looking for in a dog?

A running companion? A sofa snuggler, guard dog or a close friend. A dog can be all these of course. But many breeds have specific requirements that need to satisfied.

Which is why when choosing a dog, start with... 

Activity/energy level

Matching, or more realisticallty, being able to cope with your new dogs energy level is key. This is the most important part of which dog is right for you.

How much time and space do you have to exercise your dog daily. Some (in fact most) breeds need regular intense exercise that a standard human walk do not meet.

High energy dog breeds, whilst very cute. Will have severe behaviour problems if they do not get enough regular exercise. Breeds such as e.g: Huskys, Labradors, Collies, etc. need off the leash running.

Or strong running on leash, e.g. skijoring or cani-cross.

3 ex-shelter dogs and a longboard

If you are not able to commit to this, for whatever reason, don't panic. There are plenty of lower energy dogs that need less intense exercise. Breeds such as: Bulldogs, Basset Hounds, Pugs and even Great Danes are low energy.

This does not mean they do not need daily walking. This is a fundamental need for any dog. It is more than the dog stretching the legs. but an opportunity for the dog to experience and smell extraordinary things outside.

You must be able to commit to a least 30 minute walk for your dog every single day of the year. No matter the weather, or the amount you drank last night!

Finding a dog with the energy level that suits your lifestyle, is crucial. It increases the chances of you both building a stronger relationship. Whether it be the agility course running pitbull or a sofa-loving Shih tzu. If you can meet the dogs needs they will love you forever.

If you are still looking for a specific breed, but cannot commit to as much exercise. There are plenty of older dogs available for adoption. Without the 'puppy energy', they can be a glorious companion. Also they would over the moon by finding a loving home.

Age

As mentioned above, a dog that matches your lifestyle is crucial. and there are many older dogs in shelters desperate for a home. Too many get euthanised due to lack of space, where so many could be the perfect partner for someone.Tiny puppies to older mature dogs inhabit shelters. Dogs needs differ depending on their age, much like a human.A puppy needs more time and attention, they cannot be alone for long periods.
Adolescent dogs can be rambunctious and downright naughty, much like a human teenager!
Older dogs need more time to adapt to new surroundings and to remove old habits. Again this sounds familiar doesn't it!
Making sure you are ready for the right challenge makes the transition smoother for you both.

Body Language

Dogs are very expressive, and tell us so much with their body language. When you go to choose your dog watch their behaviour. Are they nervous, attentive or relaxed? Observing early behaviour and how the dog warms to you and other humans is important.
Some dogs can be very afraid and go to the 'fight or flight' response to certain stimuli.The anxiety level of the dog and the triggers for this can cause aggression in dogs. Whilst this can improved with the help of a 'positive training' dog trainer. You will need to put in the time and training to help  calm the dogs anxiety and fear.

Health

Once you have chosen a four legged furry friend it is time to get them checked by a veterinarian. Make sure your new companion is in good condition or able to healed. For example Kennel cough is quite common in shelter dogs, very horrible, but treatable. You should also spay/neuter your dog. Although it is tempting to want to breed your beautiful dog. History tell us you will only be contributing to the growing animal shelters .

Ask the shelter 

After all they know these dogs for longer than you. Tell them your circumstances and what you are looking for. Remember the energy and temperament of the dog is more important than how they look. 

The shelter can tell you what the dogs are like around food, walking on the leash, around other dogs and humans. Some dogs may be new and traumatised by the new surroundings but a good walk can help you see who they are.

Take the dog for a walk

Nothing helps build a bond better with a dog than a good walk. Take your prospective dog out and about. See what they are like under real world circumstances as you will need to do this everyday. 

Just walking the dogs

Try more than one

Yes you may have fallen in love with the puppy with the big brown eyes. but try walking lots of the dogs, you may find another dog that is perfect for you. This is an important decision so listen to your head as much as your heart.

After walking a few dogs you will know one that is right for you. Sometimes you need a few walks, sometimes more. Also remember that you are doing a great act by walking these poor animals. Stretching their legs and helping them socialise more with humans. Shelters are in ever-need for volunteers and will be thankful.

So you've walked a few, or many, dogs. And now it is decision time...If you are anything like me you want to take them all home!

Yet it's important to stay pragmatic. Which dog do you have a real connection with? What are their energy levels? Can you give them the exercise and training they need? and more. These are vital questions that only you can answer.

There is one more area I recommend more that anything, that will truly help you adopt the right dog is...

Training/Understanding Dog Behaviour

Dogs are incredible at communicating with us. The problem is most of us don't know how to interpret what they are saying. Dogs are of course a different species.

With a very different understanding of the world around them and how to interpret it. Once you learn to think like a dog and understand their body language. Life with Dogs becomes easier and more fun and manageable.

To learn more, check out people such as Dr Ian Dunbar, Victoria Stillwell and Karen Pryor. The more you learn about behaviour and what your dog is telling you. The better your relationship will be with your newfound pet. And don't stop researching and learning. Dogs are forever curious and we should be too. Dogs have so much to teach us, we must listen to them.
With a strong understanding of dog behaviour, language and breed history. You will have the knowledge that you can make almost any shelter dog perfect for you. There is a lot to learn so don't get too over excited. Don't worry though, you can grasp the basics fast. Especially with the help of the above mentioned trainers. Knowing the basics of dog behaviour and positive training will be invaluable. 
I hope all this does not put you off adopting a dog as they are awesome! But it is necessary for both you and the dog. Too many dogs get rehoused or resheltered. They can be marvellous pets, but also nightmares if you are not careful. Follow the tips above, learn about dogs and best of luck.
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