Adopting a dog from an animal shelter

The RSPCA and animal shelters always have lots of  dogs that need to be adopted out.  As such, there is a great chance to find an pet that suits yours and your family’s lifestyle.  Generally, about 25% of animal shelter dogs are purebred.  The rest make up a selection  of unique, one-of-a-kind mixed breeds; many of these dogs have previously lived with families and have the social skills needed to be a wonderful part of the household.

Shelters have lovable dogs of all shapes, sizes and ages. Your chances of finding a wonderful companion who matches your lifestyle and family are excellent! About 25% of shelter dogs are purebred. The rest make up the best selection anywhere of unique, one-of-a-kind mixed breeds, many of whom have already lived with families and have the basic social skills they need to become an enjoyable part of your household.

Why Adopt a Dog from the RSPCA or an animal shelter?

You Can Help Save Lives

One of the most heartwarming things about adopting a dog from the RSPCA or an animal shelter is that you’re saving their life and giving them a wonderful new home.  Dogs that are adopted out from animal shelters are especially  appreciative of the new lease of life that you’re giving them, which creates a wonderful bond with you and the dog.  Of course, your adoption fees benefit many other animals and assist the shelter to stay open.

Shelter Dogs Make Wonderful Pets

Unfortunately, many dogs end up in animal shelters for lots of different reasons.  Some are victims of a death in the family, illness, or a move to a move to a new location that doesn’t include them.  Some other dogs are at the animal shelter because older people have gone into retirement homes and can’t take them with them.  As such, many shelter dogs are healthy, affectionate animals.  However, any dog will most likely need some training or retraining to learn how to fit into the new household.  Most shelters evaluate a dog’s behaviour when they arrive, and this information can help you assess what type of training your new dog needs.  Thanks to the efforts of the volunteers and staff at many animal shelters, many of the dogs are given housetraining and basic obedience training before they’re adopted out.

Another advantage of adopting a shelter dog is that the fees are relatively low.   The adoption fee is generally much lower than buying a pet from the pet store, and even more so if buying off a breeder.  Usually the adoption fee includes a physical examination and vaccinations, and some animal shelters also microchip the dog aswell, so if they get lost they can find their way back to their new home.

What to consider before adopting:

Adopting a dog is a responsibility, and as such there are a few factors to consider:

A stable home.  Factors such as whether you own your own home or whether you are renting are important.  If you own your own home, it means that you can provide your dog with a stable environment.  If you are renting, you maybe lucky to be in a situation where you have been renting the same property for a long time; this would provide a great environment for your new dog.  If you rent but tend to move a lot, this may not be as ideal for an animal as it may be hard to find the next rental property which will allow them to be there.

Time.  Do you have enough time to look after your new pet?  Some people are wonderful at adopting a dog into their lifestyle and making time for them to take them on walks, groom them, etc.  For other people, they have a busy social life and as such don’t have as much time for their pets.

Finances.  Do you have enough money to look after your pet?   Overall, pet food is not an overly expensive thing to buy.  Vet bills can cost a  bit more though.

Type of dog.  Before adopting a dog, it is good to identify your needs.  Do you want a dog that goes everywhere with you – or are you looking for a dog that is at home more?  If you have children it maybe important to identify the breeds that are particularly good with children. How big is your backyard – if it is small then it may not be suited to a large dog.  Are you after an active dog or do you have a quieter lifestyle and want a quieter dog? Do you want a dog that loves to go for lots of walks?  Puppies are gorgeous, but housetraining them can be a lot of hard work. Most adult dogs only need basic obedience training and a house-training refresher.  It can also be a good idea to prepare a list of questions for the shelter – such as: What is the dog’s medical history?  What is their behaviour like?

Going to the shelter.

During your shelter visit:

Initially, walk through the entire kennel area at least once to see which dogs appeal to you.  Stand about a metre away from the dogs that you like to see how they respond to you, and how they interact with people. Then spend a few minutes with the dogs that you’ve picked through their kennel doors.  It is  good to look for signs of friendliness such as tail wagging and wiggling. At this stage it is good to just spend some quiet time with the dog. If you have a young family or an active lifestyle, friendlier dogs that approach you are preferable to a dog that stays back in the kennel.  If you like a dog but it stays towards the back of the kennel, it could be important to ascertain if it is just shy or if it is  a more fearful dog that may bite or snap.  A friendlier but shy dog maybe ideal for children, but some fearful dogs may require a lot of work to adapt to their new home, and would not be ideal around children.   These type of dogs may be  more suited to a single person or couple that are aware of the extra conditions and work involved.  To ascertain this, it could be a good idea for the adults to coax the dog first, and then see how they relate to the children later on during the shelter visit.   As mentioned before, also ask the staff  questions from your list;  information on the dog’s background which will give you more of an indication, and also about the dog’s personality.

Next, for the dogs that you think may be right for you and your family- take them for a walk.  Don’t worry if they are running or straining on the leash,  they have probably been cooped up for a long time so this is to be expected.  As long as you are able to control the dog is the most important thing. This is a good opportunity to see they are outside and what their demeanour is like. Are they friendly or aggressive?  Is the dog eager to meet people or are they more shy? If they constantly bark they may not have been socialized with other dogs when they were young – this could mean quite a bit of training, and they may never properly adapt at all.

Next, play with the dog and see how they respond. Games like fetch and chase are good. Once you stop playing it can be a good idea to see how long it takes them to wind down.  If it takes more than a couple of minutes you may have a dog that is very active and needs constant stimulation.

If you have children, ensure that the dog plays well with the children. If the dog ignores, flinches or is aggressive towards children then  this is definitely not the dog for your family.  Sometimes children will spend more time with the dog than you will – and it’s important that the dog loves your children just as much as they will love the dog!  The dog should be especially child friendly and enjoy lots of attention, especially lots of heavy patting and touching that children are inclined to do.   Also, a dog that is possessive when eating or playing with toys is not a good choice for a family with children.

Making a choice.

If you are not sure which dog you want, it may be helpful to come back again and see the dog again.  If the shelter allows a 24 hour hold, take advantage of it.  If you go back, taking somebody else with you that can help you with your decision or offer a second opinion.

It is a good idea to use your head aswell as your heart; looking at the different aspects and issues  that have been covered in this article.

Good luck with your hunt for a wonderful new companion!

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