Tips before You Go to the Shelter.
Identify your needs, are you a single adult looking for a pet who can go everywhere with you? Do you have other dogs or cats at home? Are you a parent looking for a pet who loves children? Do you enjoy grooming or do you want a pet with an easy-care coat? Do you have a quiet, mostly sedentary lifestyle or are you active and looking for an exercise partner? What size and breeds of pets does your landlord or condominium allow? Do you want a dog that will love going to the dog park? What age? Puppies and Kittens can be irresistible, but raising them properly takes a lot of time and hard work. Most adult pets only require a bit of basic obedience training and a house-training refresher.
Prepare a list of questions to ask Shelter staff members sometimes have access to information about a pet’s past, and they can often provide insight into a pet’s personality. Before you head to the shelter, make a list of questions to ask about the dogs you’re interested in:
If his former guardian surrendered him, may I see the intake information? Most shelters ask people surrendering an animal to provide detailed information about the pet, including his medical history, likes and dislikes, and behavioural characteristics.
Did you conduct a behaviour evaluation on this pet? If so, what were the results?
What have you noticed about him since he’s been at the shelter?
How would you describe his personality and behaviour?
Does he like other dogs or cats? Does he like children?
Is he easy to walk on a leash?
What do the volunteers think of him? Is he affectionate, aloof, calm, energetic, fearful, shy, outgoing…?
Ask any and all questions that are relevant to your particular needs.
During Your Shelter Visit
Walk through the kennels Walk through the entire kennel area at least once to find some pets that appeal to you. Stand a few feet away from the ones you like and watch how they react to other people. Then spend a few minutes greeting the pets you’ve chosen through their kennel doors.
Look for signs of friendliness, like pawing, wagging, wiggling, an eager approach and pressing against the front of the kennel.
If you have a family with young children or an active lifestyle, you may want to steer clear of dogs who hang back in their kennels, too afraid to greet you or others. Some fearful dogs take a lot of work, may not adapt well to your home and may snap or bite if they feel threatened.
If you don’t have children, don’t rule out a dog you’re interested in just because he’s shy. Keep in mind that you’re seeing him in a very stressful environment and that most dogs behave better in a home than they do in a shelter. Perhaps the shy dog just arrived at the shelter and is upset by all the commotion. Ask to visit with him outside of the kennel area so you can get a better idea of who he really is.
Like dogs who retreat to the back of their kennel, a dog who’s jumping, barking or spinning like a maniac in his kennel may just be reacting to the stress of shelter life. It’s a good idea to visit with such a dog in a calmer area. While you’re interacting with him, note whether the dog seems calmer and friendlier once out of the kennel area.
If a dog freezes, stares at you stiffly, growls or raises his hackles, move on. These are all signs of an unfriendly and possibly aggressive dog.
Talk to the staff in well-run shelters, particularly those with regular volunteers, staff members usually become familiar with the personality of each resident pet through daily interactions and volunteer reports. Ask all of the questions you brought with you, and ask for the staff’s personal impressions of the pet you’re considering.
Spend quality time with your top choices Some shelters let you walk the pet around the grounds, while others let you meet pets in their kennels or in a visiting room. As you visit with each pet, think about your list of expectations and needs. A very social pet that persistently seeks out your affection, enjoys lots of attention and seems to adore petting might be a good choice for a family with children. This kind of pet would also be great for someone who wants to do animal-assisted therapy and take their pet to visit schools, hospitals or nursing homes. An older pet that’s a little more independent might be a better choice for someone who needs to be away from home for long hours. An energetic dog would be wonderful for someone who does a lot of jogging, hiking or biking.