I poke fun at my mother in my blog post from yesterday. If you haven't read it, you should check it out. My mother's adopted dog Buddy, has some really crazy antics (we love him but he’s CRAZY). The serious side of this comes when I think that the shelter didn't give my mother any information on the dog. Also, the dog wasn't tested for behavioral or aggression issues. While my mother is making her pet adoption work (GO MOM), it makes me wonder how risky adopting a pet really is for a family.
There's a big push for more people to adopt shelter animals. This is something that's good for the most part. Puppy mills will lose business, leaving behind the reputable breeders and homeless animals will have a second chance. Although it sounds like a simple solution, adopting from a shelter isn't right for everyone and might do more harm than good. Here are some tips to reduce the chance you might end up with a dog that puts your family at risk.
1. Consider how your household members will impact the dog.
The first thing most people think about is how the dog will affect THEM. It's also important to think about how each family member will affect the dog. Before adopting, each member of the household must interact with the dog individually under supervision to ensure that the dog responds positively to each member. Some dogs are afraid of small children, big men, or even someone with a deep voice. You don't know what the dog has encountered so the safest approach is a one on one "getting to know you" session.
2. Infants and shelter dogs do not mix.
If you already adopted a shelter dog and are having a baby, that's one thing. It's another when you bring an adopted dog into your home with a small baby. While it seems outrageous that anyone would want a dog when they've just had a baby, some people see it as a playmate situation. This is especially true if there's only one child planned in that family. The best bet? Don't adopt a dog, get a puppy from a highly reputable breeder who has a health and behavior guarantee. Your baby's safety is the most important factor. The dog also will have special needs transitioning, being distracted with a baby could allow you to miss key signs the dog isn't transitioning well.
3. Have a trial weekend, if possible.
Request that you test the dog in your household for a weekend. Observe how the dog interacts with your family, your home, and your guests. It's an excellent opportunity to see if there are potty training issues. While the dog is at the home, change up the kennel/bed location to see how the dog responds to change. Watch how the dog plays with toys. Is that dog territorial?
4. Adopt only from shelters that have done their homework.
The more the shelter personnel know about the dog, the better. Look for shelters that have assessed dog aggression, people aggression, and food aggression (how the dog responds when you try and take his bowl). Ask the shelter questions as well. Has this dog exhibited aggressive behavioral traits or anxiety? Does this dog require a special diet? Have you tested the dog with other animals? The more detailed you are, the better. Never adopt from a shelter that cannot answer basic questions about the dog's behaviors.
5. Make sure that shelter provided health care for the dog.
The most basic but still something that can get missed. Like if the shelter hasn't updated the dog on all vaccinations and spayed/neutered the pet. Don't take the risk. Ask for vaccination records, surgery records, and de-worming schedule. If the shelter hasn't addressed any one of those three things or hasn't been thorough, do not adopt.
Taking steps to ensure you can adopt is best for you and the homeless animal you want to rescue. This ensures that you select the right fit while providing the dog with the best possible opportunity for a forever home.
If you want to contact me more about animal adoption, please feel free to email me or contact me on twitter (RachMace). I love dogs and want to promote responsible rescuing!
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