When it's time to add a dog to your family, there are options other than buying a pup from a breeder or a pet store. What about adopting a shelter dog? These animals are often strays who have lost their way, or much loved pets who can't stay with their owners any more. Shelter staff are experienced in making sure dogs have a good temperament, and in many cases these dogs are neutered, vaccinated and microchipped before they're adopted. This can save you time and money.
When you're choosing a shelter dog, it's important that you don't fall for the first pair of soft brown eyes you notice. To avoid this trap, write a list of all the features you'd like in a dog. Do you like long hair, and do you have the time to keep it tidy? What about exercise? If you're a runner, you'll enjoy a working breed who will gladly pound the footpath with you, but this would be a very bad choice for an elderly person who doesn't walk much. Do you want a small dog that fits in your lap, or do you like bigger dogs? If you have a family, make sure they all have an input into making the list.
Armed with your list, go to your shelter and have a chat to the staff. They'll introduce you to the dogs that meet your criteria, and tell you what they know about their background. They may be able to give you an idea about how they get along with children, or whether or not they enjoy the company of other dogs. That sort of information may allow you to cross some dogs off your list.
Spend a little time with each of the dogs they recommend, and see how you get on with them. Obviously you won't get a great deal of information from that short period of time, but you'll notice if they're interested in being with you, or if they are reluctant to come too close. Don't forget that a shelter isn't always a relaxing place for a dog, and they may be more nervous and anxious than they'd otherwise be.
You don't need to make a decision right then. Go home, and chat with your family. Ideally, you'll all agree on one particular dog, but if not, work towards a consensus.
The big day has arrived - you're going to collect your new family member. When you take him home, allow him time to settle in, and become familiar with his new home. Expect some teething problems, for example you may need to teach him where he can go to the toilet. It's a good idea to feed him the same food he was eating in the shelter, to avoid any upset tummies. You can gradually change him over to your preferred diet over the course of a week or two.
Shelter dogs are wonderful companions, and you can take pride in the fact that you've given a dog a new home, and a family who love him.
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