dog training, dog behavior, dog health

Shelter Adoptions: How to Choose a Second Hand Dog

If you think the only way to get a dog is to buy one from a pet store or breeder, think again.

There is an astounding variety of great animals available at your local pet shelter.  Contrary to what some think, these aren't bad dogs.

Dogs may be taken to shelters due to the death of beloved owner or a military family's requirement to move to another country.  They may be separated from their owner and picked up as strays.  Without a microchip to identify them, these lost pets become shelter dogs.

Perhaps the greatest reason for shelter inhabitants is bad owners.  When the cute puppy doesn't train himself, he is labeled a "bad dog" and dropped at the shelter.  When the lab puppy chews on shoes or the boxer slobbers over everything, they are labeled as problems and abandoned.  This is owner idiocy - not bad dog behavior.

If you goal is to have a pet that adores you, adopt a shelter dog.  An animal that has had no attention or irregular feeding or bad treatment will respond drastically when provided with those basic necessities.  Nothing can match the loyalty of an animal who finds himself owned by someone who treats him as a valued companion.

Evaluating pets in an animal shelter can be difficult.  A shy animal will appear even more reserved in such surroundings while a friendly, outgoing one may bark incessantly to get your attention.  It is important to evaluate the dog away from the kennel enclosure and most shelters are happy to allow you to put him on a leash and spend some time getting to know him.  Some even have an enclosed outdoor area or an interior room where you can evaluate your potential pets in a quiet atmosphere.

You will be pleasantly surprised to find that some already know basic obedience commands and love being around people.  A good shelter will post any known information about the animal or have that information available to you.  Thus, you may learn that a specific canine loves cats (or hates cats) is best as an only dog or tolerant of others of his species.

Increasingly, shelters are conducting their own personality tests of dogs offered for adoption and hopefully this practice will continue to increase.  This type of testing reduces the chances of an animal being returned to the shelter after adoption as it identifies specific problems that will need to be addressed by the new owner.

For people with busy schedules, acquiring an older dog may be preferable than having to deal with all the stages of puppyhood.  It is not at all unusual to find purebred dogs in such locations and many of the designer mixed breeds now sold for high prices have been available in shelters for years.  The first order of business after adoption is a visit to your veterinarian for a full checkup and to eliminate any parasites the animal may have acquired. 

Give the adoptee a few days to adjust to his new surroundings and gain his trust and then begin some training for behavior and manners.  Chances are, you'll find you have a willing student who is anxious to please you.