Have you been thinking about adopting a dog? October is the ideal time because it’s Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog month.
Shelters nationwide are hosting events to support Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog month. The ASPCA’s website lists adoption events taking place at local shelters
More than 2.7 million healthy, adoptable dogs and cats are euthanized every year in shelters across the U.S., according to the Humane Society. This is one animal every 11 seconds. Saving a dog from death creates a lifelong bond between the pet and owner. The benefits to both are tremendous. However, it takes careful consideration to know which dog to adopt, and if you are meant to be a pet owner. It’s not a decision to make lightly.
“One of the biggest benefits to adopting a shelter dog is to help reduce the unwanted pet population and prevent more dogs from being euthanized. Of course there are other advantages, but it is really heartwarming to know you have saved life and taken a dog from a probably poor shelter environment and given it a life in a home,” said Jonathan P. Klein, dog trainer and behavior consultant who is designing a training program for Pets for Vets, a national charity pairing rescue dogs with returning veterans for aid with re-entry and recovery from PTSD and other emotional issues.
Lori Morton-Feazell, director of animal care, education and compliance at Petco Animal Supplies, Inc., said, “When an animal is adopted from a shelter, that opens a space for another animal and helps to reduce euthanasia in your community. Shelter dogs need you to begin their second chance.”
It’s important to know that shelter dogs are not flawed or second-hand choices. “Not all animals are turned into shelters for behavior issues. Sometimes people move, or can no longer care for their pet and must give it up for adoption,” Morton-Feazell said.
Figuring out which dog to adopt is a big step. There are evaluations procedures to figure out which dog is best for an individual or a family. These test the dog’s temperament, such as whether they get along well with other pets and children, Klein said.
Older dogs in particular make excellent pets because they often have fewer emotional issues than younger dogs and it’s easier to integrate the pet into a new home. Whether a dog is considered older or younger depends on the breed. Smaller dogs mature faster than larger dogs, so a toy breed is often considered mature at 20 months, while a giant breed such as a Great Dane isn’t considered mature until it is 2-1/2 years old, Klein said.
“Many people don't want to deal with all the young puppy issues so the big benefits of an older dog is that it doesn’t usually need to be housebroken, and typically doesn’t chew, and is less rambunctious than a puppy. So for a family or person that wants a typically less active dog, an older dog might be just the fit they are looking for,” Klein said.
Morton-Feazell said, “I would suggest researching the breeds that you are interested in adopting. Some of the best dogs are mixed breed dogs as they often have benefits of both breeds. Make sure to ask yourself certain questions like: Is your family active, do you have a large backyard, and do you want an active dog or a lap dog? Each breed has certain traits. For example, an Australian Shepherd is a herding dog, a Jack Russell Terrier has high energy and needs to take long walks, etc. Make sure to research specific breeds by searching for articles on the Internet or reading books.”
Before someone adopts a dog, there are several things to consider, according to Morton-Feazell:
• Make sure you have the time to spend with a dog and to provide walks.
• Determine what type of household you have, active, quiet, with or without kids.
• Find out as much as possible about a dog, including medical records and, if the dog was owned, what the last owner said about the dog.
• Does the dog walk on a leash and is it housebroken. If not, are you prepared to train it.
• Make sure you can afford to care for a dog including food, veterinarian care, toys, bed, etc. Choose a dog that is right for you and your family.
• If you go on vacation will you have a plan in place for your dog.
• Take your time to find the dog that is right for you and your family.
It’s important to pick a good shelter when adopting a dog. Talking to local vets and trainers and rescue groups is a good place to start. There are also many websites, such as Petfinder, that offer directories of adoptable shelter dogs.
Morton-Feazell said, “Adopting is the greatest gift that you can give to a shelter animal. As communities we need to support our shelters and adoption animals so they can have forever homes.”