Adopting a shelter dog isn’t as easy as filling out the paperwork and bringing the pup home. Future pet parents must be absolutely certain they’re adopting the right pup at the right time.
They have to reflect on whether they’re ready to handle the time and financial commitment of welcoming a new furry companion into the family. Future owners should also think about additional factors like age, breed, energy requirements and special health conditions.
The following considerations will help you decide when it’s time to adopt a shelter dog.
#1: Many pups have a traumatic past
One common stereotype is that dogs end up in a shelter because they have behavioral issues. The truth is that a very small percentage of owners return dogs to a shelter due to unruly behavior. Shelter dogs are often labeled as “out of control” simply because of their pasts. Many dogs start off life as a stray who struggled to survive on the streets. Others came from abusive homes or were abandoned altogether. If a shelter dog appears aggressive, it’s for a good reason!
When you look for a new furry friend, ask staff members about the pups that interest you the most. They can provide helpful information about where the dog came from, previous owners, traumatic incidents and potential triggers. Understanding why a dog is shy, anxious or aggressive offers valuable insight on how to help them overcome their “bad” behavior.
#2: You can ask for a behavioral assessment
One of the many benefits of adopting from a shelter is that staff members usually complete a behavioral assessment for every dog. They should be able to tell you the dog’s energy levels, personality traits and how well they get along with humans and other pets. This will help you decide whether a dog is the right fit for your lifestyle, household members and time commitment.
#3: Every shelter dog has different needs
Future pet parents need to be honest with themselves about how much time and money they can commit to a shelter dog. For instance, younger pups are often bouncing off the walls with energy and need tons of play time to wear them out. Senior dogs often come with health concerns that require medication and frequent vet appointments.
Every dog deserves a forever home, but it has to be the right one! Carefully consider the pup’s needs and what you can commit to.
#4: You won’t see their true colors at first
At some point in the adoption process, you’ll get to have a meet-and-greet with your new pup at the shelter. This is a wonderful opportunity for the dog’s personality to shine through. But when the dog comes home, pet parents are shocked to see that their smiling, tail-wagging friend is now huddled in the far corner of the living room. It’s like they’ve become an entirely different dog!
Future pet parents should expect their dog to feel anxious during the first few weeks of living in a new home. Rest assured, the pup you fell in love with is still there—a change in environment and routine is just stressful! Be patient and let the pup know they are loved. With your help, a newly adopted dog can break out of their shell.
#5: You’ll want to avoid triggers during the adjustment period
A shelter dog can adjust to their new home a lot faster when pet parents take care to provide a calming environment. Ask the shelter staff about your new dog’s triggers, and be sure to avoid them as much as possible during the adjustment period. Every dog is different, but the most common triggers are long car rides, crowds, strangers, loud noises and dog parks.
Aside from daily walks, newly adopted dogs should stay home for the first few weeks because you’ll have the most control over that environment. Refrain from inviting guests over, as this can set off the dog’s aggression or anxiety. Play soft music and keep the television at a low volume. Family members should also do their best to keep the peace and speak to the dog in a soothing tone of voice.
#6: Shelter dogs want their forever home
Adoption is a huge decision. Before you commit to a shelter dog, you have to make sure they’re the perfect fit for your lifestyle, household, finances and time. Chances are, the dog was shuttled from one owner to the next before they found you. The last thing anyone wants is for the dog to end up back at the shelter! Don’t rush into an adoption—the perfect pup is well worth the wait.
There are millions of shelter dogs that need a home. It’s no exaggeration to say that adopting a shelter dog means you’re saving their life! Anyone can benefit from the love of a shelter dog—so much so that owners are left wondering, “Who rescued who?” The best thing you can do for a shelter dog is wait until you’re ready to adopt. That way, you can provide the life they deserve.