I clearly am biased in this issue, however I will say that not everybody should adopt a dog. Or buy a dog. Or own a dog. There are people out there that just do not have the right temperament to share their lives.
I do think that a person who is asking the question and searching Google for the answer is more likely to be a good Dog Mom or Dad.
Like having actual children, adopting a dog means being responsible for their life. Putting their needs first. And loving them as they do you, without conditions and without reserve.
You can find just about any sort of dog at the shelter. Big or little, young or old, purebred or mutt.
I will say that you need to be flexible person to adopt or even own any dog. Schedules can go right out the window wen you have a dog.
And just determining if you should adopt requires a question of your flexibility.
Is a shelter dog for me?
It depends. What is your goal? Companionship? Status?
Now is the time to really analyze what your needs or wishes are.
I’m going to assume that your purpose in getting a dog is companionship, because if it is status, boy have you come to the wrong website.
Like people, there are lots of different types of dogs. Some dogs want nothing more than to sit by your feet, or on your legs or curled up by your head. They just want to be near you. And for many of these dogs, they’d like it even more if you were pretty still.
However there are other dogs who also want to be right next to you as you run 12 miles. Or climb a mountain. Or bring in the sheep.
You need to take a little time and honestly assess your energy levels. Not the energy level you had 10 years ago or what you are promising to do this year, like start running.
Once you have an honest self-assessment… ask somebody else who knows you well. Somebody who has heard you make the same New Yeas resolution. And witnessed you doing absolutely nothing with that resolution outside of buying a planner and writing down your exercise routine you plan to achieve for every single day…
If you are not honest with yourself, you are asking for trouble.
Now that you know who you really are and the life you live, you are asking…
What sort of dog should I look for?
There are breeds that are known for certain physical and mental characteristics. A great and, might I say, fun use of your time is to do some research on dog breeds.
While shelters have a large selection of mutts, they also often have purebreds and often even the mutts can be categorized as a mix of a particular couple of breeds or ‘from the herding family.” The more you know about the common temperaments of particular breeds, the better prepared you are to make an educated decision.
If you are already an active person and want a dog to join you on the 10-mile hikes you are already doing every weekend, keep in mind that Rusty wants exercise during the week, as well. Dogs don’t just save up their energy. They need to release it regularly. So, perhaps a large fenced yard. Or hire somebody to come take Rusty for a run each day while you are at work? Or go for a run each morning and evening before and after work.
Of course, my opinion is to find a way to be a full-time Dog Mom or Dad. That’s certainly my goal.
Something else to consider and be flexible on is that either you or Rusty could be involved in an accident or just reach an age where going for those daily runs and weekend hikes is just not in the cards.
As a dog parent, you need to find the solution. If it is you that cannot go out as much as Rusty needs, then find a way for somebody else to take him.
This is really not that far fetched as it used to be. Yes, Rusty would rather be with you. Yes, Rusty will not be keen on leaving you the first few times. But if you pick the right person, Rusty will start to enjoy these jaunts and still come home to tell you everything he did and saw that day.
Now if it is Rusty who just cannot keep up with you, accept that and find the best solution.
The best solution is always keeping Rusty. If you need another dog to go run with, that can be arranged.
There is always a solution where Rusty lives with you till an old age.
How do I choose the right dog?
There are so many possibilities.
Become a foster for your local shelter. Let them know that you are thinking of adopting and what you are thinking of adopting and that you’d like to try it out.
If you live in a large enough city, something more populated, there are likely breed rescues around. If you have done your homework, you likely already know of a couple breeds that you think would suit you and your lifestyle well.
Do a Google or Facebook search for a breed rescue in your area. You may find a breed rescue a couple hundred miles away and that’s when you spend some time talking with the people there.
One of the many great things about bred rescues is they work with several fosters. So those people are already sharing their home with a particular dog. They can tell you who he is. What he likes. Is he active or not.
Just because most Aussies are pretty active, doesn’t mean THIS one is. They can tell you what he is eating and any issues he has. Is he good with kids, other dogs or small animals.
And each piece of information you get, you need to give some thought to. You may decide after talking with someone about that particular foster that he sounds right for you. You could just go ahead and adopt him or make arrangements to take him on a trial basis.
Please give him a real chance. It takes longer than a weekend for him to start being himself again. It’s a bit of a shock when a dog leaves a shelter or foster. They are insecure. They lack confidence. They are uncertain of you and your family and your home.
Know that going in.
Be flexible. Be comfortable to be with. Keep your expectations reasonable. Give them an honest chance.
Read my story about Trey, here.
You might not have the option of going through a foster or breed rescue. While they are becoming more common, they are not yet everywhere.
In that case, you need to go to the shelter and ask questions of the people who work there.
Keep I mind that often they are just well-meaning volunteers. Also understand that they are doing the best they can with what they’ve got.
They may not know really anything about the dog. They are making guesses as to age and breed. You may have no idea if he has allergies or has a prey drive.
If you have a friend who has experience with dogs, maybe drag them along. We are often bribable by bakery products or pizza.
Take the dog to an outside area and just sit down while he has freedom to do as he wishes. And just watch him.
Does he want to be near you? Is he interested at a difference, just watching you back? Does he have zero interest in you and he watches the other dogs? Does he lunge at other dogs through the fence? This can be fixed, but know that going in. It may take more training than you are confident giving. Or more competence than you have. It’s ok. Just be honest.
You are about to make a lifelong commitment.
Talk with the volunteer about experiences thieve had personally with him.
Learn the policy of returns, in case that is something you must do. Let’s hope it isn’t.
Again, if you have take honest assessment of yourself and given this process the attention it deserves, you are far less likely to have to return your new family member.
Don’t rush in.
I can tell you from a great deal of experience that being in a shelter is very emotionally hard. It can really tug at your heartstrings and you can make a decision based on emotion rather than emotion plus logic.
And that’s likely how the majority of dogs end up in shelters in the first place.
Don’t add to the problem. Be logical and loving in your decision. You are making a commitment. Don’t have unrealistic expectations that as soon as Rusty meets you, you’ll be best buds and he’ll never do anything to upset you.
Of course he will. He doesn’t know you. He doesn’t know your rules. For the first few weeks if not months, you both are just jockeying for position. Feeling each other out. Getting to know each other.
Ok, you’ve spent some quality time with Rusty and you feel pretty good about taking him home. Now what?
How can I adopt a dog?
Some shelters or rescues have very basic applications and prerequisites. Others are a real Pain in the butt. I can say this honestly. They may think they are creating all these rules to secure the dogs future, rules like having a fenced yard, or that you must own your own home.
I’m going to trust that you did your due diligence on several topics.
If you rent, are you allowed to have a dog and is there a size limit or a ban on particular breeds?
If you live in a suburb, what are the local ordinances involving dogs and is there an HOA (Home Owners Association) that has rules on dogs?
If you do not have a fenced yard, what is your plan for securing Rusty a few times a day to do his business? And do you want to fence your yard and what will it take? Again your local HOA might have rules regarding this.
Does this shelter allow you to adopt without a home visit? Sometimes they need to go to your home, or send a volunteer to your home to be sure you really are who you say you are and not adopting for nefarious purposes. They may want to now your vets name or a couple references.
You should know all this information and be aware of all the requirements before you head to the shelter and lose your heart to Rusty.
If the shelter does have a bunch of requirements but you already meet them, great. Before you go back and look at all the Rusty’s, get an application and ask all your questions about it.
I’m telling you that once you’ve fallen for Rusty, you won’t be thinking about the application and follow-up visits, and vet appointments, you’ll just nod and look longingly into Rusty’s eyes.
There will be a fee involved in adopting dog. There should be. And that fee can run the gamut of anywhere from $25 to a couple hundred, all depending on your area and what that shelter has to handle in its own vet expenses and other overhead.
Again, you should know the fee before you go there. Or at least before you head back to see all the dogs.
Now, I’m not one of those people who makes casts judgment on financial ability. I’m not going to say that if cannot afire a $300 adoption fee, then you can’t afford a dog.
I’ve been there myself.
You may find a ‘free to good home” or for a nominal re-homing fee on Craigslist or some other online marketplace and it might be just what you are looking for. I urge you to be careful when doing anything with strangers. I’ll write another post about this later and link here.
But let’s get back on track. How do you adopt a dog?
Shelters have processes with applications. And all of them can be slightly or very different from each other. You just need to do a little foot work and find the ones in your area and then contact them to see what their process is.
You’ll find out the fee for adoption and make arrangements for home visits and give references where asked.
I’m sorry I can’t give you a clear step by step, but all shelters have different processes and having worked with and in dozens of them, I can only give you an arty of possibilities.
And then, I can tell you that whatever process you must go through, it is worth it if you have done the honest self-assessment and determined that you want to add a Rusty to your family.
There’s nothing like it. Check out a personal story.
And I invite you to share your own story here. Email me with any questions about sharing your story or the process of adopting. I’ll do what I can to help you and your Rusty.
I’m always ready to share a happy and inspiring adoption story.