Picking The Pefect Shelter Dog For You

Are you thinking of adding a new dog to your family? If so, please consider adopting from a shelter rather than purchasing from a breeder. If you’ve never adopted a shelter dog, here are some quick tips to help you find your new best friend.

First Things First

Take a look at the dogs in the shelter and pay close attention to your surroundings. There will always be smells so don’t worry if the dog area isn’t sweet and fresh. As long as the floors and general surroundings are clean and neat, that’s fine.

Look at all of the dogs, not just the ones who come to the kennel door for attention. Shelters are very stressful for dogs especially those who have been in loving homes but suddenly find they are crammed into a 20 cage room full of other canines.

Once you have found a couple of dogs you would like to see up close and personal, ask questions of the shelter staff. And don’t stop at just one question, probe deeper:

  • Why is she here? Is she a stray, caught in a life circumstance like death or divorce, or is there a medical or behavioral problem? If there is a medical issue, find out what it is so you can assess what kind of vet bills you may face.
  • Has he been tested for temperament and behavior and are there are warning signs? This answer will only give you a brief overview, of course, but hopefully you will be able to talk to the person who did the testing.
  • Best and worst: Find out what the shelter workers love about this dog and what they dislike.

Spend Some Time

Watch how the dog reacts as you approach the kennel. If she growls, backs away or has the hair stand up on her back, this may not be the best choice for you.

If the dog retreats to the back of the kennel, ask more questions. While he may be frightened it could be simply the environment and missing his former owner.

If the shelter has an area where the dogs play, see if you can take the ones you are interested in out to play one at a time. Have a shelter aide come with you.

If she wants to play and engages with you, keep her on your short list. One of the things you want to assess is whether there is aggression or extreme shyness issues. These aren’t deal breakers but it’s good to know up front what you may have ahead of you.

Watch how she is around other people and dogs. Ideally, you want a well-socialized dog who is calm and interested in others.

But don’t shut out the dog who is quiet and withdrawn. These are the dogs who get adopted last and may have been at the shelter a long time.


Don’t discount what your gut is telling you. If you keep going back to one particular dog, he may be the right one for you and your family.

Adopting from a shelter saves a life and enriches yours. It’s a win-win.

Photo Credit:  istockphoto.com

Are you thinking of adopting a shelter dog?


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