I love dogs. Big dogs, little dogs, purebreds, mixed breeds, short-haired dogs, balls of fluff, I love them all! Volunteering at my local shelter, I’ve seen so many cuties come and go. People would always comment, “I couldn’t work here, because I would want to take them all home!” While I totally understand their sentiment, there are actually very few dogs I would want to take home. I’m not saying all of those cute shelter dogs aren’t worthy of a home -– they’re just not right for mine.
Sound a little snobby? That’s okay –- I’ll own it! While some love-at-first-sight adoptions work out fabulously, I fully believe in taking my time before making the decision to bring someone new home. I learned this lesson the hard way! I think we can all agree that dogs have individual personalities, needs, and feelings. Considering that, it’s no surprise that not all dogs get along!
My dog Axle has never been an only dog, at least not for very long. When he was alone, his separation anxiety was horrible. You’ve probably already read about how we found his perfect match with Remi. I literally wanted a dumb dog –- meaning a dog that wasn’t too adventurous and was just happy to be alive. I also specifically wanted a dog with an easy-going personality and small enough that, if she did happen to get mad, she couldn’t hurt Axle if she wanted to. Although it looked perfect at first, we gave them a couple of weeks to adjust to one another, all while keeping a close eye on their interactions. But I digress.
One of the biggest reasons I think it’s okay to be picky about who you bring home is that returns suck -– for you, the dog, and the shelter/rescue. While it’s not possible to totally avoid returns, they’re less likely to occur when adopters take their time in discovering what dog best fits their personality and lifestyle.
If you’re a first-time adopter, what you should be most concerned with is finding a dog that fits with your current lifestyle. That’s part of the purpose of the applications that shelters and rescues –- to get to know you and your needs better. If you don’t have the time to put a lot of effort into grooming, you probably wouldn’t want a long-haired dog. If you can’t stand the thought of a dog wanting to follow your every move, you probably wouldn’t want to adopt a dog with a clingy personality. If you really wanted a great jogging partner, you probably wouldn’t want to adopt a dog who preferred to be on the couch. I think you get the point! If you already have some furballs at home, you have more than your wants and needs to contend with. You need to consider the individual personality of the animals you already have, as well as that of the potential new member of your family.
So, what’s the best way to find the right fit for you and your current pets? Shelter staff, volunteers, and rescue workers aren’t just there to keep the dogs clean, fed, and happy; they are your No. 1 resource for finding your next pet. They spend every day with the animals, so they have firsthand knowledge of all of the individual personalities and quirks each dog has. Don’t be afraid to be specific in what you’re looking for –- even if they don’t have dog that meets a particular look you’re after, they may have a few that fit the personality and other qualities you’re looking for.
Many shelters and rescues will also let you foster first, which can give you a better idea of how your potential new family member adjusts to changes, other animals, and how well they fit into your lifestyle. It takes about two weeks for a dog to adjust to new surroundings, letting her individual personality fully shine through.
You don’t want to rush into a decision and then feel trapped with a dog that you don’t particularly like; it isn’t fair to you or the dog. You know the saying, “Any ol’ dog will do?” Well, it’s not true! Not just any human will do, either. The best matches between dogs and humans have chemistry. I don’t mean flowers and hearts on Valentine’s Day chemistry, I mean the chemistry that’s in unconditional love between best pals. That connection will keep you from calling that shelter or rescue up the first time your new dog has an accident on your great-grandma’s best rug or chews up all of your library books. That connection makes all the annoying things your dog does worth it.
Are you like me? Or do you go for a love-at-first-sight approach? Let’s talk in the comments!
About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it’s in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of two dogs (one being very dumb) and two cats (one perpetually plotting my demise). I’m a former quiet nerd who’s turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.
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