There is not much as exciting as adopting a new member of the family. Just be careful not to let the excitement get the best of you. It is important to find a dog who fits your family as well as your family fits the dog. Things you’ll want to consider are size, temperament, activity level, health, training ability, lifespan, and grooming needs.

Hands down, if you are willing to adopt from a shelter it is a great move. These dogs need homes, and are less likely to get them than a box full of purebreds. Many shelter dogs also have the cutest mixed breed combinations, and great personalities. Just because they are in a shelter doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with them. They may have just been a puppy that the previous owner couldn’t keep, anxiously awaiting their new family.

Doing your Doggie Homework

Keep in mind though, a cute face isn’t everything. It is important to think about the lifestyle and activity level of your family. Dogs need a lot of attention and exercise and its important both for your family’s sanity and the dogs that your habits and energy levels mesh well. Before you go, think about the size ranges of dog, and the size that would match your environment.  Big dogs need lots of room to run around and shouldn’t be pent up in a tiny apartment, but in a medium sized home, with energetic owners they should do fine.

Tips at the Shelter

You may not find the right dog right away and that’s perfectly fine. Establish expectations with your kids, that your going to look at dogs, but may not get one. It is important to find the perfect dog for your family, and not to force it with a dog your not sure about because you can’t find a better option that day. It can also help to visit a shelter during off-peak hours. This way your more likely to get to see more of the dogs, and they will be less agitated. You can call head to find out the best time to come with the least crowd.

It can also help to research online ahead of time. Check out our article on family dogs. Many shelters also have websites where you can view pictures, and information about the dogs including breed, temperament, and previous ownership information. Once you do go to the shelter, be sure to ask the workers about the dogs, they have spent the most time with them recently and will be able to tell you about their personality.

Dogs aren’t meant to be poked at in cages all day, and they will most likely be anxious, excited, and/or nervous and not themselves while you are seeing them in the cage. Ask to take the dog on a walk around their grounds. They usually have a special area for this and are happy to oblige. Once they’ve been on a nice walk you will be able to get a much better idea of the dogs activity level and temperament with your family.

Prepare for the Homecoming

Once you’ve picked a dog, make sure your home is ready for it. You should already have a leash, a few toys, dog food, water and food bowls, and maybe a dog bed ready for your new family member. Try your best to keep the kids calm when bringing the dog home. It may even be best to go back and pick it up while the kids are at school so the dog has a chance to get used to the environment with out becoming overwhelmed.

Adoption Fees

Keep in mind there is typically an adoption fee. This is completely normal, and expected as it allows the shelter to prepare the pets for adoption. Often the cost goes towards things like spaying or neutering (recommended), vaccinations, and shots. This ensures the dog is healthy and saves you the worry of having to pay for all these things at the vet as soon as you bring your dog home.

TIP: Older Dogs

Looking for a trained, lower energy dog for companionship that doesn’t destroy your house?… check out the adult dogs. Sure puppies are cutest, but they’re also the most work. Don’t forget about the 4, 5 and 6 year old’s, and even older. Depending on breed these dogs may still have a solid 10 or more years ahead of them, and are already ‘up-to-speed’ with the training and out of their rambunctious puppy years.

Adoption Websites

Petfinder – A great resource that will let you search for a  dog (and many other pets) by breed and zip code. They have many pictures of the pets, as well a brief bios about each one and their current shelter location.