Deciding to adopt a dog is a big, life-altering decision and one that requires a great amount of thought and consideration. Adopting a dog from a shelter is a rewarding experience that provides a home for an animal that needs it and ultimately saves that animal’s life.
There are more than 10 million homeless animals in shelters across the country and the wretched reality is that approximately half of them will not find homes and will have to be euthanized. Here is a handy guide to assist you in adopting a dog from a shelter.
Now that you have made the decision to adopt a dog, think about your family, home, yard, activity level and commitment. Some breeds require a great amount of grooming, attention and activity while other breeds are less demanding. If there are small children in the home, consider a dog that is not fragile and has an even temperament. On the other hand, if you would prefer a walking or running friend, consider a dog that is physically capable of your activity level.
Before you go to the shelter, have a “family meeting” and discuss what characteristics you would like in your dog. Narrow down characteristics such as size, breed, age, color and temperament. Once you have these basics down, the staff at the shelter will be able to direct you to the dogs that fit your needs so you will not be overwhelmed by too many choices.
Once you are at the shelter, take your time to observe each of the dogs that fit into the characteristics your family pre-decided on. It is OK if the animals seem excited or scared, this should not be held against them as they are in a stressful environment.
Ask many questions about the dog you are interested in. The staff at the shelter sees and interacts with these dogs every day and is very accustomed to the dog’s personalities and temperaments. Ask questions about the dog’s background, what kind of home it previously lived in, if it is good around children or other pets. If the dog has a compatible previous experience to your lifestyle, this will create a harmonious homecoming. Also, look for health clues: clear eyes, no coughing or sneezing, firm stools. Do not forget to ask if the dog has been spayed or neutered, de-wormed, and vaccinated.
Some shelters require an “interview” where they will ask questions to sync your current lifestyle with that of the dog’s characteristics. Once you and your new pet are home, understand that your new dog is going to need a little time to adjust to its new surroundings. Try to ease him into his new situation as gently as possible.
Congratulations on your pet and your commitment to giving that pet the “forever home” it deserves — you will be rewarded with a lifetime of genuine companionship.
LA Animal Services
LA Animal Services has 6 shelter locations within the greater Los Angeles area.
Rescuers.com is a great online resource that lists all of the animal shelters in California.
Petfinder is an online, searchable database of animals who need homes. It is also includes a directory of more than 13,000 animal shelters and adoption organizations across the U.S., Canada and Mexico.