To adopt a dog from a shelter is an admirable thing to do and, in many ways, brave. For it is sometimes the case that your adoptee turns out not to be the one you thought she was: she may show signs of aggression, disobedience or have no understanding of toilet training. Then again she may be the perfect addition to the family.
To know the signs of the ‘right’ dog are useful, but before you even visit your local shelter you must ask yourself not just whether your dog is right for you but also whether you are right for your dog, or any dog. The American College of Veterinary Behavorists has published a useful guide on this matter.
Are you ready?
If you think you are ready to proceed then do so, but with caution. When you have found a dog that you think is right, check her behaviour against these 10 signs of adopting the right dog:
1 Fearful or easy going?
The right dog for you will not hesitate to come over to see you; if you have made the right choice you will find her friendly and interested in you.
2 Happy to be handled?
If your adopted dog backs away or her hair begins to prickle you may need to go back to the drawing board.
3 Willing to be taught?
If she is willing to learn and happy to be taught you have made the right choice.
4 What about play?
Dogs love to play, but some dogs with behavioural problems will see play as either a forerunner to mating or a time of rough and tumble.
5 Green lit body language?
If your adopted dog exhibits the language of a calm and relaxed dog, and she obviously enjoys your company you have made the right choice.
6 Welcoming and friendly?
Stand side on to the kennel of the dog you are interested in adopting. Do not make eye contact. Does she race at the door bearing her teeth and barking? If so, you will need to think again.
7 Threatened and defensive?
Now turn to face the chosen dog in her kennel and look directly into her eyes. What is her reaction to your doing so?
8 Good little walker?
Does she walk well on the lead or does she pull excessively?
9 One on one?
How readily does your adopted dog come to you to be stroked and cuddled?
10 Outdoor pursuits?
Observe her interaction with the outside world. How does your dog react when she encounters a person or another animal? Does she show aggression toward unfamiliar animals?
Most unsociable behaviours seen of dogs can be ironed out in time. However, some are harder to iron out than others and her distrust of new people is one of the hardest. If you have met a dog that ticks some of the boxes but not all of them you will need to decide if you are able to devote time to their training and re-adjustment. If she ticks all of the boxes you should take that as a sign of her being the ‘right’ one.