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Ask Dr. Diane: How Do I Pick the Right Dog?

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I want to go to our local shelter to get a dog; I’m looking for an older adolescent that’s active but not too active. What suggestions do you have for picking the right dog? I’m afraid I’m going to be overwhelmed at the shelter!

Before actually going to a shelter to pick out a dog, give careful thought and consideration as to the breed that is most compatible with your personality and lifestyle. Read up on the various breeds that are of greatest interest to you and their characteristics and personalities. Familiarize yourself with their characteristics.

Once you have a good idea as to what you are looking for (and it sounds as though you do!) contact a shelter staff member or volunteer and make arrangements to visit the facility explaining what kind of pet you are looking for. Shelter staff members and volunteers often have great insight into the physical condition, personalities and behaviors of the animals. At the SPCA of Texas, where I volunteer, many of the adoption counselors and volunteers can provide a lot of invaluable information about an animal companion that may be the right one for you.

Visit a local shelter or welfare organization once or twice before you actually make a decision to adopt a particular pet. Visiting an animal shelter can truly be an overwhelming and sad experience as there are so many animals who have suffered and are in need of a loving home. Any time I visit a shelter, I wish that I could save and adopt every dog or cat that is in there. Take your time to interact with the animal or animals you are considering for adoption – to determine if his/her personality is compatible with yours and your lifestyle. Generally, you will be able to walk the dog at the shelter, play with him, and visit with him in a special room so that you can find out as much as you can about your new friend’s personality.

Do not adopt on impulse simply because he is cute, cuddly and friendly. The dog you adopt can live anywhere from 10-20 years. You will be his caregiver, friend and family member and will be responsible for his health, diet, exercise and overall wellbeing. You will know him through sickness and in health, in youth, adolescence, middle age and old age. You must also be prepared for the inevitable – which is, that we generally outlive our pets. Upon making the decision to adopt a dog, you are making a lifetime commitment to best serve his needs and best interests always. Just remember that the joy, gratification, fulfillment and rewards of adopting a pet in need far supersede any challenges involved.

Dr. Pomerance is an animal behavior specialist and an expert on topics such as deciding which puppy is best for your family, how to pick out a rescue, and on healing from the loss of a pet.

For More Information on Dr. Pomerance:

Paris Permenter
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