How to Find the Perfect Shelter Dog for Your Family

Rescuing a pet is the best way to get an addition to your family and save a life. Read this article to learn how to find the perfect shelter dog.

How to find the perfect shelter dog for your family.
Learn how to find the perfect shelter dog for your family. By: Dave Parker

Before adding a dog to your family, you must ask yourself a few very important questions if you plan on being a serious and responsible pet owner.

Also keep in mind that when you choose a dog (or a cat), you not only have the family’s safety and overall happiness to consider, but also that of the pet.

You have to be honest about the amount of time you and your family members can afford to give to the pet. A dog is a living, breathing being that depends on you for all its needs.

If one or more family members have allergies or reservations about a four-legged addition to the household, you may want to reconsider getting a pet. Children, in particular, may abuse a pet if they don’t like it.

Daily schedules of each family member are a factor as well. It would be ideal if there is someone at home with the dog most of the time. If that is impossible, you have to consider what kind of dog could be happy being alone for three or four hours at a time.

Here are a few items to decide before getting a dog:

  • Size
  • Age
  • Temperament
  • Long hair or short hair
  • Breed

Size of the Dog

By: Robert Nunnally

Once you know you will get a rescue dog, decide what size dog fits into your life. If you have young children or frail, older family members living with you, you don’t want a hyperactive dog. A large dog can still fit the family dynamics if it is well trained, quiet and sedate.

Just because a dog is small does not mean it presents less danger about knocking people over. Small dogs can run between legs and before you know it, someone has a fractured hip or leg.

Whatever dog you choose, well-behaved and sedate are the key criteria for very young and elderly family members.

Age of the Dog

Whether you get a puppy or an older dog is an important item up for discussion. Puppies are extremely lovable. They need lots of time and even more patience. Teaching the puppy how to behave is not as easy as it looks on TV if you have never done it before.

A puppy also requires several visits to the vet’s office to get all his puppy shots and worm medicine.

While a puppy is less than a year old, he should not be left alone for more than an hour or two at most. An older rescue dog is most likely already well trained, including being housebroken. She needs only her regular immunizations.

On the other hand, with age comes other problems, like arthritis, obesity and ailments often more geared to specific breeds. You may need to consider your finances for any pet, young or old. Caring for them properly can be costly.

Long Hair or Short Hair

Longer-haired breeds should get regular brushings. By: Richard Taylor

The way a dog looks should be the subject of discussion too. Some people cannot abide hairy dogs; others don’t like short-haired dogs. Perhaps a compromise can be reached.

Keep in mind the climate you live in as well as the grooming demands for different breeds. Some dogs, like poodles, need grooming every four to six weeks. Long-haired breeds need a daily brushing. Dogs with floppy ears are prone to ear infections.

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Breed and Temperament

Opinions run the gamut from which breed is the best. Everyone has a certain preference. Some like cute, (or even funny-looking); others want protection; others again just look for companionship.

To accommodate everyone, ask the shelter person which dog would make a great family dog that is cute, protective and keeps good company. Staff members of animal shelters generally have a good idea what kind of dog would be a wonderful addition to your family. They will match the temperament of the dog to your family. A laid-back dog is better for children in the house than a natural watchdog.

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Observe and Interact

Watch how the dog reacts when you see him in the cage in the shelter.

Friendly dogs usually cannot wait for someone to come near them. They wiggle their tail and lick your hand. Spend some time with that dog in an enclosed area to see how he would fit into your life. Let all your family members meet him.

By the end of your visit, you will be sure to have found a loving pet that fills a very important niche in your home and heart.

For more tips on finding the perfect shelter dog for your family, check out this quick video segment from Good Morning America, featuring David Henon from the New Haven Animal Shelter and University of Pets Dog Training:

Adopt, Don’t Buy

Remember to check adoption resources (shelters and rescues) first when you’re searching for a pet. Try Petful’s pet adoption page. (You can filter your results by breed and ZIP code.)

Jet Perreault

View posts by Jet Perreault
Jet Perreault, a professional dog groomer of 18 years, graduated from Michigan State University, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in English. She has spent time on the dog show circuit, working groomer trade shows, and managing grooming salons and pet shops.

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