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Choosing an Adult Dog From a Pet Shelter: Behavior to Look for When Considering Adopting a Dog

November 16, 2019

If you’re looking to adopt a dog from a pet shelter, use these tips to choose a dog that will fit with your family, and respond well to dog obedience training.

Mixed Breed Dog or Pure Breed Dog?

Both types of dogs are available at adoption shelters. The benefits of choosing a pure breed are that, to a degree, you know in general what to expect in terms of size (in the case of a not quite fully grown dog), temperament, and potential health issues. It is important to remember, though, that dog obedience is as much a function of training (or lack of it) as breed. While the characteristics of a pure breed dog might be more predictable, shelter pure breeds may have uncertain histories which could include inbreeding.

Mixed breed dogs tend to be healthier due to a lack of inbreeding. Sometimes, the breed of the dog’s parentage is obvious, in which case, the dog will probably have characteristics of that breed.

How to Choose an Adult Dog for Adoption

Julie Fudge-Smith, professional dog obedience trainer with A Positive Connection says, “The most important thing you can look for in your dog is the social drive towards people." Having a strong social drive in your dog insures that your new companion fits with your family and can protect against potentially serious future problems.

Dog Behavior Indicates Socialization

According to Fudge Smith, when you arrive at the pet shelter and choose a dog to look at, you should first take a few minutes and watch the dog. See if he comes up to you without being asked to. If he does approach you, how does he interact with you? Does he touch you? If so, does he do it softly and gently? Is he interested in talking to you, or does he simply sniff you and move on? Think of each three second interval of interaction that the dog initiates as one point. The more point the dog scores, the more socialized he is.

Be aware of the manner in which the dog carries himself. Is he loose and wiggly? Does he seem relaxed in his environment? Or, is he tense; constantly looking around, and not focused on you? Does he settle down and enjoy your attention? Attention is something he gets little of living in a shelter, so he should be happy that you are there with him. If he’s not interested in being with you, then his social drive is not very high.

The way a dog wags his tail can tell you a lot about him. His tail should be held at middle height (not tucked in, and not looking like it’s sticking out of the top of his head). The wag should be gentle, easy and circular. A frantically wagging tail indicates arousal rather than socialization. Aroused dogs are more interested in the environment than in you. They will sniff around, look for ways out, and pay attention to things rather than people.

Dog Behavior of a Well-socialized Pet

Once you have watched how the dog moves around you, pet him once down the back from the top of his head to his tail. Then, watch how he responds to your touch. Does he move towards or away from you? Does he seek out your touch or does he merely tolerate it? Repeat the pet a few more times and look for a positive response; the dog should move closer for more petting, turn to look at you, or stay where he is for more touching.

Plan multiple visits to your new dog, and bring family members to meet him. Use these tips to help choose a dog that will engage with you, respond well to obedience training, and be a comfortable and loving member of your family.

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