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Things to consider when you adopt a new dog

By HELEN PALMER

K9 Corner

October is “Adopt a Shelter Dog” month. However, before you jump into your car and drive to a shelter, you should consider a few things regarding your lifestyle, family, and environment.

First, look at your lifestyle. Are you and your family on the go all the time? Who is going to be the primary caregiver for the animal? Since both partners usually work these days, is there enough time to housebreak a puppy or teach an older dog what it needs to know in order to be a member of the family?

How many members in the family are old enough to help with the responsibility of having a pet? How old are the children? It is estimated that the youngest child should be at least four or five years old before a puppy is introduced, because children under four do not have the mental understanding to be consistently gentle.

It is also recommended that if your family is expecting a new baby, the mother’s well-being should be considered and the acquiring of an animal be postponed until the baby is born and the mother has adjusted to her new schedule.

As far as the environment or place where you live, the size of the yard and house should affect the options of the breeds you are looking for. A small apartment does not lend itself to a large or active breed; neither does a shaggy-coated dog fit into a home with an individual that is allergic to dogs. It is better for those living in small quarters to consider smaller, less active breeds and blot out any previous desire for the “big, macho” dog. Likewise, the person with allergies should look for a single layer (no undercoat), short-coated dog like a greyhound, whippet or miniature pinscher.

Temperament also plays a strong role in selecting a shelter dog. Most families do not want to adopt an aggressive animal, and will shy away from those dogs that back away into the farthest corner of their pens and growl. In fact, most shelters will confine these individuals separately so the public will not be encouraged to adopt them until they have been rehabilitated. However, a shy dog that cowers shivering in the corner is not the best choice either. Look for an outgoing animal that tries to greet you through the fencing.

Most shelters have a wide selection of mixed breeds which would make wonderful family pets. (I adopted a mixed breed last October that fits my lifestyle perfectly.) Another one of my adopted pets was a border collie-Doberman mixed breed. She had the intelligence of both breeds, the short-coat of the Doberman and the undercoat of the border collie. She would work tirelessly in the dog training classes no matter what the weather and was the only dog I have ever owned that would be ready to go on an outing after four hours of work.

In order to take advantage of the selection of mixed breeds, plan ahead what you are going to look for and look only at the dogs that meet your criteria.