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What do I need to know?

I commend you for deciding to adopt a shelter animal.  Many of these pets do indeed deserve a second chance.  Some of the  animals in shelters are abused and/or neglected strays, but there are many pets that simply outgrew their families or were deemed too much of a hassle to be loved, fed and enjoyed as a member of the family. 

Although there are animals of all ages living in shelters, those that are adult animals can sometimes be just what the doctor ordered.  More mature animals may already be house trained.  Everyone has at least one horror story from trying to house train a puppy.  Many adult dogs are already trained in basic obedience-sit, stay, come, fetch, lay down.  Adult animals are also less likely to ravage the house with their teeth as puppies may do in their teething stage.  Already knowing size, color, personality and temperament of a new pet is a huge advantage.  

A new pet should become a part of the family.  The pet must fin in well and possess the proper temperament, personality and size for your family.  These factors must be taken into account to avoid a disastrous situation.  
Here are a few tips:

  1. Speak with your family and make sure they know the dog will be everyone’s responsibility. Feeding, walking, training and loving your new pet should be shared between family members. If everyone is in agreement it’s time to search for your new family member. Bring the entire family. You’ll want to know how well everyone will get along. It’s important that everyone in your family sees, pets and interacts with the dog if it is possible.
  2. If you have other pets, bring them with you to the shelter and have them meet the dog you may adopt if you’re seriously considering a specific dog. It would be a good idea to call the shelter first so that they’re prepared. They’ll usually be happy to work with you and help you find a pet that will be a great match for your family.  You don't need to arrive at home with your new pet and find out there’s a big problem. Do that at the shelter. It's best done outside the shelter with shelter staff present. In busy shelters this may be a problem, which is why you should always speak with them in advance. All of the pets should be on leashes so they can be controlled easily if there is a problem.
  3. Speak to anyone that has had contact with the new animal. You can learn a lot from the staff members that feed and interact with him or her on a daily basis.  After all, they are the people that probably know the animal best. A good shelter will appreciate someone that makes a careful decision before adopting. The shelter staff wants the animal to find a new home. They certainly don't want to see an animal returned. It can be depressing for the shelter staff to see an animal return after being adopted
  4. When you first visit your local shelter get as much information as you can on an animal you may be interested in adopting. Don't rush; take your time. Take a few days if you have to. It is an important decision and shouldn't be taken lightly. Use your best judgment when making your decision, not just your emotions.
  5. Ask about the animal's history, medical records and temperament. The more you know about the animal the more informed your final decision will be. Find out as much as you can about the animal's shelter history. Ask if he or she has been spayed or neutered. You'll also want to know what shots and flea and tick treatments the animal was given. Ask if the animal has been adopted and then returned to the shelter. If the animal has been returned, find out why. The staff will almost always know.
  6. Ask about the animal's appetite and either check or ask if the animal's stool looks normal. This can be valuable information especially if the animal has no medical records. There is a lot you can do to make a good, informed decision when adopting from a rescue shelter.
  7. If the dog is a mixed breed, ask the shelter staff what mix the dog is. This will give you a reasonably good idea how large the dog will get if it is not already full-grown.  The shelter staff may know from the previous owners or they may at least have an idea just by looking at the dog. Either way you'll get some facts or at the very least, an educated guess.
  8. Ask the shelter staff to allow you to meet the animal out of it’s run or cage and get to know the animal a bit. It's very important and you can learn a lot in a short amount of time. If you feel comfortable with the animal it is also a very good idea to take it for a walk if the shelter will allow it. Just remember, any animal can be trained. If the dog isn't perfect, that's ok. You'll work together to improve. 

These 8 tips are good to keep in mind when adopting an animal from a shelter. Just remember, even an older animal can be trained with a little patience, love and understanding.