Dog adoption, 5 things to do when visiting the shelter

There are 5 things that will help you find the perfect dog to adopt at your local shelter.

1. One of the most important things to do long before heading to the shelter is deciding what kind of dog you really want. Spend time researching through articles on the internet, looking through breed books, and talking to friends about their dogs.

If you don’t have a clear picture of the kind of dog you want to live with, you could come home with the first dog whose big brown eyes and drooping ears made you feel sorry for him. Later on, you’ll be feeling a lot sorrier for yourself.

There are so many different personalities and temperaments, and such huge variations in size and coat length (and propensity for shedding and barking) that going to the shelter before doing your homework is just asking for trouble.

Once you know exactly what sort of dog you need, and what kind of activities you’ll be sharing with him, you’re ready to head to the shelter for the first time.

2. Be sure to take a piece of paper and a pen with you. Since those brown eyes and droopy ears can be such heartbreakers, you will probably want to look at all the dogs in the shelter, look at the notes and comments left by the shelter staff, and make your own notes about the dog’s personality and appearance.

Then take your notes home with you and calmly decide which dog will be the best fit for your household.

If you see a gorgeous mutt that you just can’t stand to leave behind, even for a few hours, at least go out to the car and talk it over with your family before filling out the adoption papers.

3. Wear old clothes. The Humane Society shelter near you is kept as clean and sanitary as possible, but lots of dogs living in close quarters do tend to smell. When you take your potential pooch out to the exercise yard to get to know him, he may forget his manners and jump up on you in his excitement. A wool suit is probably not the best choice.

4. Take everyone who will be living with the dog, if possible. Everyone should have a chance to help make the final choice, as far as their age and experience will allow. Since it’s even harder for kids to resist those sad eyes when they’re attached to the wrong dog, it’s even more important to do your research ahead of time.

By the time you make your trip to the shelter, everyone in the family should know you’re looking for a small dog (or a big one), a short-haired dog (or a long-haired dog), a shepherd (or a lab). If you know what you’re shopping for, it will be easier to pass by the dogs that just wouldn’t fit into your household, in spite of their desperation to go home with you.

If you children (or your in-laws) are afraid of dogs, there may be specific breeds that trigger their fear. If your child was bitten by the neighbor’s cocker spaniel, that would not be a good breed choice for your family. Even if you don’t let your kids make the final decision, take them with you and watch them closely for any signs of fear around certain dogs, and for any signs from the dogs that they may not be kid-friendly. You should also ask the shelter staff if the dogs have been temperament tested, and which ones they recommend as safe around children.

5. Expect to go home without a dog. If you go to the shelter with the firm intention of taking home a dog, it will be more difficult if none of the available dogs really fit your criteria. You may find yourself fudging a bit, deciding that maybe that Rottweiler will be okay, even though you had your heart set on a Golden Retriever.

Remember – there are hundreds of dogs that need homes, and your perfect pooch may be in the animal control van right now, on his way to the shelter. If you don’t see exactly what you’re looking for today, there’s a very good chance that you’ll find your dog the next time you visit, or the time after that.

If you don’t see what you need, talk to the shelter staff and put in a request. Give them the criteria you’ve listed, and ask them to call you when the perfect pooch comes through the door.

So remember – the secrets of finding the best dog to adopt are preparation, research, and patience. You should be practicing patience anyway, since your future adopted dog is going to need lots of love and patience while he earns a place in his new home.