A shelter dog can be a delight or a disaster. Which it depends largely on choosing the right dog to suit your personality and that of your family. Every owner or family is different and will have different requirements.
Fortunately, shelter dogs come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and temperaments. All you have to do is put some time and thought into finding one that will be exactly right for you.
New owners will often base their choice of a dog on appearance only. They will often be persuaded by a dog that most closely resembles one they had as a child or previously owned.
It is not wise to choose a dog in this way as no consideration is given to the temperament of that particular dog.
A dog that attracts you instantly may bite your children or fight with your other dog, whereas a dog that has been chosen to have the right mixture of characteristics and temperament traits is much more likely to settle in easily and become a perfect pet.
Having said that, appearances do count and it is also important that you are able to fall in love with the dog that you choose.
How to Decide which Dog You Want?
If you decide to skip this part, be warned that you may end up with a shelter dog that is less than perfect for you.
A dog with traits that do not suit you, such as one with too much energy for your lifestyle or one which is constantly harassing your cat/rabbit/child, can be awful to live with.
Such dogs may make a perfectly Dice pet for someone else, but you will have the wrong dog for you. Careful thought at this stage can help you to avoid the common trap of falling for the first pretty face you see.
So often this results in a frustrated dog and a disappointed owner. It’s a bit like finding a husband/wife/partner really!
Before you even go near an animal shelter, you need to sit down with all the people who will be involved with the new dog on a regular basis and find out what sort of dog you are looking for.
There are some fundamental questions that will need answers before you can begin your search. These fall into two categories —
- Physical attributes
- Temperament traits
You will probably find it easier to decide which physical attributes would suit you rather than what type of temperament you are looking for. but both are equally important
The size of your home and yard will limit the size of the dog that it is practical for you to keep. A large dog in a small apartment is not sensible and a little one that can curl up in the corner of the sofa may be more suitable.
Size is often less important than how active a doe likes to be. However. be realistic about the size of a dog that may suit your home and lifestyle
Even if you have always wanted to own a Newfoundland or a Bernese Mountain Dog. you may not have the facilities to keep one properly Consider also what you want a dog for.
If your lifestyle dictates that you often need to take your dog on a train and bus, a little dog you can tuck under your arm may be more appropriate.
If you live in an area where it’s dangerous ta walk the streets, you may want a dog that at least looks as though it will protect you If you already have a dog,
it is important to get one of a similar size for when they play together or fight Boisterous play between dogs of unequal size can result in substantial injuries to the smaller dog.
Similarly. if they do fight during the settling in period. the damage to the smaller animal can be potentially fatal if there is a large difference in size,
2. Male or female?
There is more chance of finding a doe to suit you if you decide you want a male. There are slightly more males than females in animal shelters and many potential owners tend to prefer females because they assume that bitches will better behave and more trainable.
While it is true that male dogs are more likely to get into trouble and behave badly at some time in their lives, particularly during adolescence, female dogs also cause their fair share of troubles.
Approximately six males to every’ four females are seen by pet animal behaviorists, Male dogs tend to be slightly more aggressive and competitive from an early age. which can lead to difficulties if not channeled in the right direction.
However. a good-natured male dog may make a much better pet than a bad-tempered female and, as the character of an adult dog is already formed, it is wise to leave your options open rather than limit yourself because of the misconception that one sex will be better than the other
The only time when it is worth paying particular attention to whether a dog is male or female is if you already have a dog.
Dogs Of the opposite sex living together in a household are usually more likely to get along than two of the same sex and will have fewer arguments.
But again this depends on the individual’s character
3. Neutered or intact?
Many of the bigger animal shelters neuter all their animals as a matter of course. Usually, this is because they see that too many pets are forced to stay at one place due to lack of good homes,
Neutering ensures that reproduction stops with the pets that go through their hands.
Generally, neutered animals have the advantage, Neutered male does are less likely to get into trouble with other males, less likely to mount soft furnishings or people, and less likely to get out and roam or be frustrated if there is a bitch in heat nearby.
Neutered females do not have the nuisance of heat cycles every six months. And all neutered animals are less likely to develop hormone-related problems later in life.
Younger dogs, usually those between one and two years old, are given up to animal shelters than older dogs. The younger a dog is, the more active it is likely to be as, like humans, dogs tend to slow down as they get older.
A young dog is also more likely to have less than perfect behavior because people often acquire puppies that they neglect and give up to animal shelters or abandon when the cute puppy stage has worn off.
While a younger dog will be less set in its ways and will adapt itself more readily to a new lifestyle, dogs of all ages are very adaptable and most will fit in eventually.
You can teach an old dog new tricks, but it may take slightly longer than teaching the same tricks to a younger one.
Older dogs will live for fewer years, which may be an advantage if you are elderly yourself.
They will be more likely to tolerate being left at home while you go to work and they will hopefully have a track record of living successfully as a pet dog.
Difficult dogs are more likely to have to be euthanized at an early age.
5. Coat Type:
Coat types can be roughly divided into short (labrador), medium (collie or spaniel), long or thick (samoyed or bearded collie), or the type that needs to be clipped regularly (poodle).
Special care is needed for long or thick hair or hair that needs to be clipped and you need to decide if you want that level of responsibility.
Short coats shed hairs that may weave themselves into your clothes in a way that you never thought possible and medium length coats seem to bring back most of the mud you encounter on a walk.
There are advantages and disadvantages to every type; be prepared for the extra mess with whatever type of coat you choose.
A dog’s temperament is more important than how it looks.
The original dog breeds were developed for different jobs in the service of man and have different characteristics and abilities as a result. And if you want a pure breed for yourself.
Remember that every positive trait has a downside to it if it is not correctly channeled or it does not suit your household. For example, for “lively” read “can be exhausting”. For “good guard dog” read “can be aggressive”.
Ask people who already own one of your chosen breeds about the good and bad traits in their dogs. Dogs bred for working purposes, such as sheep does, gundogs, or some hounds, often have natural energy levels that enable them to keep active all day In an average home.
This amount of energy is often too much and an owner will need to be inventive in finding outlets for it.
Conversely, dogs bred for the show ring have often inherited genes that make them lazier.
But not always crossbreeds and mongrels will have inherited a combination of genes and the advantage of taking on such an adult dog is that its genes have already fulfilled their potential and you can see exactly what you are getting.
2. Good with children:
You will need to decide how important it is that your new dog will be friendly and unafraid of children. This is obviously one of the most important considerations if you have children or grandchildren. or if other children visit you on a regular basis.
Bear in mind that children vary enormously and a dog that has been brought up with older children may not be able to tolerate toddlers that fail on him. pinch him or pull his ears.
Teenagers, who are often going through difficult times, may have once been intentionally cruel to a dog, which may then be very wary of people of similar ages.
Or the dog who fits all your other requirements may have been teased by school-age children of which you have three at home Different does will have different tolerance levels to things that children are likely to do them.
If you have loud, boisterous children, you will need a dog that can tolerate this. If you have quiet. gentle children, your dog will not need to be so tolerant.
Make a family decision about what age groups your dog will need to be friendly with and tolerant of.
3. Good with other pets:
If you have a cat or a smaller pet, such as a rabbit or bird, you will need to select a dog that does not want to chase, catch, and eat it. Cats, especially, can suffer from the unwanted attentions of a new dog and may take to living outside because it is too unsafe to live inside.
Selecting a dog that will quickly settle in with a cat is not easy, but it should be a major consideration if you have one.
4. Good with strangers:
Consider how many visitors you have and how many strangers you and your family meet and interact with on a regular basis. This will tell you how important it is for your new dog to be unafraid and sociable with strangers.
If you live a quiet life in a fairly isolated area, it will not matter if your dog is unsociable.
In fact, it may be advantageous since you will probably benefit from its desire to protect you and your territory from unwanted attention.
However, if you run a business from home or you live in a busy household with plenty of visitors, if you like to stop and chat to other dog walkers and enjoy taking your dog everywhere with you, you will need one that is friendly and happy in the company of everyone.
5. Good with other dogs:
There are two issues to consider when talking about other dogs. how important is it that your new dog gets on with another dog in the family or one that you have regular contact with? And how important is it that he gets on with other dogs when out on walks?
Most dogs will get used to and tolerate another dog that they have regular dealings with. particularly if they are introduced properly,
However, being sociable with other dogs you meet outside requires your dog to have more social skills, Living with a dog that is afraid, anxious or aggressive in the company of other dogs may not be too difficult if you plan to take all your exercise in the country.
But it could be very tedious if you live in a built-up area and intend to walk a busy park.
6. Energy levels:
Living with a dog that is always raring to go and that gets up expectantly whenever you make a move is fine if you are the active sort who enjoys plenty of activity and long walks.
If you are not, however it may be simpler to find a dog whose idea of heaver is a warm bed with the occasional wander up the street and back.
Matching your new dogs’ activity level to your own will prevent your new dog from becoming frustrated and a nuisance because it is under-exercised and will save you from hiking in the country when you would rather be curled up in a chair with a good book.
Getting this right is essential to stress-free ownership,
You will also need To match your desire to play games with your new doe to his desire to play with you.
Some do are very playful and will constantly present you with a toy or other items in an attempt to encourage you to play. If this is not something you will enjoy. try to find a dog that is not so interested in games.
Dogs that have plenty of mental and physical energy can find it difficult to lie down all day and sleep while their owners are at work.
If you have to leave your dog at home for long periods, it is sensible to look for a dog that enjoys sleeping a lot rather than getting an active dog or youngster who will become bored and cause problems when left alone.
7. How strong-willed?
Pushy dogs fare much better with strong-willed owners end gentle dogs are happier with sensitive people You need to consider how insistent you will be that your dag will conform to your rules.
If you or other members of your family will be insistent and can be a bit overbearing at times, choose a dog that has a strong character as you may overpower a weaker character.
Dogs with stronger characters usually have more spirit. are more confident and independent. and often learn faster If, however. you are a gentle owner who is very tolerant and indulgent.
Find a dog that is sensitive and submissive If you choose a stronger character, he may choose to take control once he has had the opportunity to assess your abilities.
Choosing a gentle dog if you are a sensitive owner will often result in a trusting and close bond that is beneficial to both parties.
Dogs with gentle characters are often more tolerant of children and other animals and are often less confident of their ability to use aggression in a difficult situation.
8. How cuddly?
Dogs do not naturally hold and hug each other unless they are fighting or mating, whereas humans cuddle each other and other animals as an expression of love and affection.
Dogs need to learn that humans do this and learn to tolerate and enjoy it Some dogs enjoy being touched and cuddled more than others.
If you are someone who likes to stroke and hugs your dog a lot, find one that enjoys it or you may be disappointed when he Starts to avoid you when you reach out to him
9. How trainable?
All dogs can be trained once you know how, but some learn faster than others Some does will know a few commands already, but the majority know only the word “sit”.
If you want a really well-trained dog. it is best to find one that is very trainable and acquire the skills needed ta train him yourself.
10. How independent?
Many does do not enjoy being separated from their owners. All dogs will have to put up with it once in a while, but if you plan to leave your dog on a regular basis.
Such as while you are at work, look for a dog that is happy to be left alone.
Dogs that are destructive, noisy, or dirty when left alone are usually not happy and it would not be wise to take on a dog that does this if you cannot be with it for most at the time.
There will be other characteristics not listed above that will be special to you and your family.
Consider what an average day for your dog will be like and list all the characteristics that would enable your dog to cope easily with it If you plan to take your doe to work every day.
For example, it should enjoy traveling, problems relating to car travel can be overcome.
But if your dog will be traveling often, it may be easier and more sensible to choose a clog that enjoys car travel.