1. Lay aside all prejudices – shelters have great dogs, of all types. They even have purebreeds if that’s what you prefer. The mixed breeds you will see are often mainly defined as a particular breed – despite the dachunds with long legs you’ll come across – so it’s possible to generalise a little about the dogs you will see. Remember also that mixed breeds often lack the genetic problems associated with pure breeds.
2. Another point about shelters: you can trust that dogs in the shelters are well treated: the dog you buy from a non-reputable breeder or even from a big pet shop may have come from a puppy mill, and the conditions in a puppy mill are often similar to those on a battery chicken farm. So that’s another good reason to choose a shelter dog.
3. Look around. There are loads of good shelters near you – or further away. Have a look at the many dogs online – is there one that sounds like it might be good for you? But don’t forget there will be lots of dogs at the shelters not online – they might be in intake, waiting for spay neuter, or foster or even sick at the moment.
Your perfect dog may not like being in a shelter: it changes their personality. Even the dog who is barking at you or running to the back of the cage may be the one who will be your perfect match once he or she gets home.
5. Have a good look at a few dogs. Ask to get to know your favorites – and don’t be hurt if one of your favorites clearly prefers the staffmember who is with you. They may have known them a lot longer and been bribed with donuts on a daily basis.
Let your dog smell your hand, don’t stare into its eyes, and if he or she responds try gently stroking him. Ask the adoption counselor if you can give them a piece of the good treats (chicken?) you brought with you.
6. Ask for their past history. Do you need a dog that will get along with children, other dogs, cats? Are they good with all types of people? Will you be home all day? Do you need a quiet dog that will sleep when you are out – a senior will be good. Aim to abandon your stereotypes again: pitbulls can be sweet dogs and greyhounds are usually couch potatoes. A fragile puppy or toy dog may not be the best bet if you have a large active family, but that large Alsatian? Perfect.
7. Take them for a little walk. Don’t worry if they pull if you have the patience to train that out of them, If you want a dog that walks well on a leash a puppy or a high energy dog like a Collie is probably a bad idea. If you don’t have a lot of time, a big strong dog is not for you – and if you don’t have a yard a smaller dog like a Chihuahua or a terrier might be a good idea.
So – what do you think? Remember for every dog someone adopts another dog is saved, as you’ve freed up a place. Somewhere, the perfect shelter dog – and your best friend – is waiting for you.