By: Katie Allison
It’s October, a month when we enjoy changing leaves, cooler temperatures and the fun of dressing up for Halloween. But October is also the month when we celebrate all the joy that adopting a shelter dog can bring to our lives.
To mark Adopt-A-Shelter Dog month, many animal welfare groups, shelters and rescue organizations across the country are sponsoring special educational programs and “adoptathons,” making this month a great time to bring a shelter dog home to join your family. If you’re thinking of adopting a new canine family member this month – or any month of the year – here are some things to consider as you get ready for this big decision.
Select The Right Shelter
Selecting the right shelter is the first step in selecting the right shelter dog. While some communities have only one animal shelter, others may have two or even three shelters from which you can adopt. According to Jim Tedford, the Petsafe Director of Animal Welfare Initiatives, it’s important to look beyond the surface.
“There are certainly shelter facilities that are more well-funded and highly resourced than others.” Jim explains “But, the important thing is for the staff and volunteers to make the most of whatever they have. You don’t have to have tons of money to keep a facility clean and the animals well cared for.”
Before you select your new dog, take some time to visit each of the shelters in your area. Talk with shelter staff about their adoption policies, and assess each shelter facility for cleanliness. By carefully choosing your dog’s temporary home, you’re more likely to bring home a healthy, happy new family member.
Let Shelter Staff Help Guide You
One of the joys of adopting from a shelter is the wide variety of dogs of all ages, sizes and breeds that are available to choose from. Jim Tedford suggests letting shelter staff, with their training an experience, help find the best match for you.
“Most people have pretty strong ideas as to what type of pet they want to adopt. Sometimes their decisions are based on good, solid logic and other times on pure emotions,” notes Jim “.Let the shelter staff help guide you in choosing a pet that best matches your lifestyle. For example, if you are a couch potato, you may not want a Border Collie with loads of energy. Making the best adoption decision is step one in a long-term relationship!”
Gone are the days when the only way an adopter could get to know the dogs at a shelter was through the bars of a kennel. Today’s shelters offer play rooms and yards that allow adopters to familiarize themselves with dogs they are considering bringing home before making that commitment. And be sure that everyone in your family comes along for at least one of these shelter “meet and greets” before deciding on a particular puppy or dog.
“It’s important to spend plenty of time, preferably outside the confines of a kennel, to get to know a dog. Presumably this pet will join your family for 10-15 years or longer, so the decision shouldn’t be made lightly or hurriedly,” explains Jim Tedford.
Manage Your Expectations
Because shelters can be stressful for dogs, the first weeks and months after you bring your new puppy or dog home may present some challenges. Remember that you don’t know what your new dog might have been through before coming into your home, and it can take time for some adopted shelter dogs to learn to trust and feel comfortable. This is to be expected.
“My best advice is to set realistic expectations,” explains Jim Tedford. “A new pet will not automatically know what you expect so be prepared to teach him. Supervision is critical. An unsupervised pet is more likely to damage property or find other sources of trouble. When you bring your new pet home, be prepared to work through whatever behavior issues and training necessary.”
Visit TrainMyPet.net for lots of great advice on working with your new family member to help him or her become settled in and adjusted to life beyond the animal shelter.
If you talk to friends who have already adopted from a shelter, they will tell you that your decision to bring home four legged family member is one of the best you’ll ever make.
As Jim Tedford says, “A shelter is one of the few places where you can find a friend who will love you unconditionally. All you have to do is love him back!”