Adult Dog Adoption: Tips for Choosing the Best Dog for You
So you've decided to adopt an adult dog - good for you!
Unfortunately for adult dogs, most people prefer to adopt a puppy and with the limited resources a rescue has to give, millions are put to sleep ever year.
When you adopt an adult dog, or any dog for that matter, it's a truly rewarding feeling knowing you've saved a life and your new dog will thank you every day. :)
Of course, it's important that the decision to adopt an adult dog not be taken lightly.
You need to make sure the dog you adopt is a good fit for you. Too often people will adopt a dog based on looks alone only to find the temperament or training needs of their beautiful new dog are too much for them to handle.
Some dogs will require more training and patience then others. If you don't have the time or resources to work with a dog that is not socialized (with kids or other dogs), suffers from separation anxiety or is nervous and excitable, I urge you to continue looking. It's not fair to you or the dog.
How can you make sure that doesn't happen? Consider these four important factors!
It's important to chose a dog that will get along with all members of your household. Some dogs have had bad experiences with children, men or women and therefore, may be inappropriate in your home. Some dogs are afraid or aggressive with other dogs or with cats. It will be important to check them with other dogs and children (the rescue organization should be able to assist you with this) to see how they interact with them.
Don't be afraid to ask about the socialization of the dog you are considering! ALSO - take note of their interaction with you:
- What's their first reaction when you approach? A curious personality immediately towards you is a great sign of a dog that enjoys being around people. Are they shy at first? This could mean a couple of things. Sometimes dogs, like some people, just take some time to warm up to new people. This could be okay if your household is pretty quiet, but may prove too much if you live in a busy household with new people coming and going.
- What is their tail doing? A wagging tail doesn't always mean a dog is happy to see you, but if their whole body is wiggling with their tail and their eyes and ears are relaxed, that is a great sign that they are friendly and happy to say "hello!" Tail between their legs on the other hand, means the dog is very nervous.
- Are they comfortable being touched? Are they licking and nudging you? They are seeking attention, that is a positive sign! Are the fine with lots of petting or do they retreat before long? This is a pretty good indicator of how they will behave at home.
There are different levels of excitability. While some dogs are outgoing, others may be overzealous or even nervous in that regard. How can you determine theirs? Try making noises! Whistle, clap your hand or drop a clipboard on the floor. Increase the level of the noise. How does the dog respond?
- Are they jumping at you? They are seeking attention or guidance from you. That is ok, however some training will be needed to keep them from jumping on guests and if they are a large or medium sized dog and you have small children at home, you may want to reconsider adoption altogether.
Does he/she coward and try to hide? A dog that hided or cowers away from noise, suffers with low self-confidence will require training to help rebuild that. You may want to reconsider if you live in a noisy, active household.
- How long did it take them to calm down? This is a good indication of how they will react to activity and noise at home.
#3. Separation Anxiety
Understandably, as most adult dogs at an adoption center have been abandoned at some point in their lives, their are many with separation anxiety issues. This is not an insurmountable problem, but it is important to consider. (Check out my blog on the subject!). The workers should be able to tell you if the dog you are considering has this issues, but you may be able to gain some idea of this yourself.
After visiting with the dog one-on-one, leave the dog in the room alone and listen, look and observe their behavior.
- Are they pacing the room? If they are just walking about sniffing and curious that is ok, however if they are pacing back and forth and looking to the door constantly, that could be a sign of SA.
- Are they barking insistently? Normally, while a dog may bark for a few moments after you leave, barking that lasts much longer than that may be a sign of SA.
- Are they jumping at the door or the walls? They are upset that you have left and are seeking a way to find you.
- Is he/she panting or salivating when you return? This is another sign the dog may have SA.
#4. Environmental Adaptability
It's important to consider what a dog may act like outside of the shelter in a different environment. Ask to take the dog for a short walk and watch how they respond to noises and traffic on their walk.
- Is he/she curious? Are they trying to chase the object or move away from the object? A herding breed typically may try to chase a vehicle, bicycle or even a cat and will require extra training, as well as a secure fenced in-yard and a properly fitted collar (with tags) and leash.
- Is he/she frightened? If the dog refuses to walk with you, is trembling, barking excessively or lunging, they will require extra training and you'll need to be aware of that.
I hope these tips will help you through the process of ensuring the adult dog you adopt will do well in their new forever home!
Dog Fancy Magazine, 2012
Dog Bible, Edited by Kristin Mehus-Roe, 2005