From 100 pounds of love to the tiniest of pocket poodles, it’s no secret we love our pets. Last month we celebrated National Adopt a Shelter Dog Month, and we were reminded of all the different reasons why we love working with shelter pups and bringing them into our homes. Adopting a shelter dog can be a rewarding lifetime experience if you ask the right questions when you begin the adoption process. According to the Humane Society, 4.5 million pets are euthanized every year, which means adopting pets from shelters is not only rewarding and beneficial for your family, but saves lives as well!
The first step to any major decision is doing your research and asking the right questions. If you’re interested in adopting a dog from your nearby shelter, we reached out to Nicki Smith of the Edmond Police Animal Services Unit and Edmond Animal Shelter to find out the most common questions asked by potential pet-owners about adopting a rescue dog.
Questions to ask the shelter:
How much does it cost to adopt a dog from a shelter?
In addition to saving a dog from a less than desirable fate – adopting from a shelter is almost always more affordable than purchasing a dog from a breeder or pet shop. Prices may vary depending on where you adopt, but the Edmond Animal Welfare Center charges a $25 adoption fee. Before adopting a dog you should also budget for yearly vet visits and food, as well as create a small emergency fund in case your pup runs into trouble.
What is the dog’s history?
While adopting is a fun and rewarding process, you should also inquire about the known background of your preferred dog before bringing him or her home as well as any routines the dog is accustomed to following. When potential dog owners are looking into adoption at the Edmond Animal Shelter, the most commonly asked questions are centered on a dog’s history and past medical care.
According to Nikki, it is often difficult to have a full understanding of a dog’s history. “Many of the dogs available for adoption at our shelter were originally found as “strays”, so we have limited information about the dog’s history. If the dog was surrendered to us by a former owner, we may have some more detailed information such as if it is housebroken, its energy level, how it does with kids, etc.
We conduct a basic behavioral evaluation on all dogs before we offer them to the public for adoption. In this evaluation, we see how it will tolerate things like its feet being picked up and other hands-on contact. We observe if there is any food guarding or aggression and how it gets along with other dogs. If we note any behavior that we feel will be a threat to the public, we won’t place the dog into the adoption program. We are happy to share anything we know about a dog with potential adopters. We have areas of the shelter both inside and out where people can interact with a dog before deciding if it is a good fit.”
Questions to ask yourself:
Are you ready for the long-term commitment of a dog?
Before adopting a new pet, you should always consider the long-term commitments required when you bring an animal into your home. If you adopt a young dog, they might live for an additional 10-15 years. Be sure to evaluate your situation completely as you prepare to adopt a new pet.
How do I choose a breed or size for my family?
Many pet-owners have fond memories of certain breeds from their childhood; however, it is not always practical to have your favorite breed in your current situation. If you do not have a large yard, a smaller breed of dog might be better suited to join your family. In addition to your location, the age variances in your family are also important to consider. Puppies and small dogs might be too delicate for small children, while excitable large breeds may not be a wise option in a home shared with elderly family members. Consider the characteristics of the breeds you love, but be honest in your evaluation of how they will fit in with your current life.
Are you ready to invest in additional training?
Animals with diverse backgrounds in training often filter through animal shelters. While you may find the perfect pooch that is trained in every way, you may also fall in love with a sweet dog that needs a refresher on “Dog Training 101”. Are you prepared to invest additional time in training your new pet to be the best possible version of itself it can be? If you’re planning on adopting a young dog, you must also be prepared to house-train your new family member.
The Edmond Animal Shelter strongly encourages newly adopted dogs to go through at least basic obedience training. Nicki emphasized the need for proper training in adopted dogs due to their varying levels of previous training and past circumstances, “It [training] will greatly enhance your relationship with your new pet. Dogs, like people, need to know their limits and boundaries. A good dog trainer can help you learn skills and give you tools that will make your dog-owning experience much more positive.”
During the adoption process, the shelter should answer many of these questions for you. If you recognize certain issues that would be problematic in your home, consider asking the shelter if they have another animal they would recommend in your situation. You should always feel comfortable asking a lot of questions and adopting the pet you have found to be best suited to your family and your home.
Bonus: Adoption Tips and Advice
After both her current role as Animal Services Supervisor and previous role as an Edmond Police Captain, Nicki Smith has had supervisory responsibilities over the Animal Services Unit for 15+ years. In this time, she has developed keen insight into the process of adopting a shelter dog. Here are a few of her key tips and pieces of advice for potential dog-adopters.
Have realistic expectations
“Some people who adopt a dog from a shelter have very unrealistic expectations about how the dog will fit in when it gets to its new home. It is very important to understand that all dogs are imperfect and the vast majority of dogs that are in shelters have no training of any kind. Shelter dogs come from very diverse backgrounds – some may have not been treated very well by people in the past, some may have anxiety about certain things like storms and noises, and some may be experienced escape artists; while other have characteristics which may not be evident or known until they are exposed to things away from the shelter.”
Give the dog time to acclimatize
“When people adopt dogs from the shelter, they need to give the dog time to acclimate to their new home. Adopters need to be patient and understanding of this time of adjustment and don’t rush things or expect the dog to fit in immediately. Dogs will need time to adjust to the change in their lifestyle. If they have been at the shelter for a long time living in a kennel, the new-found freedom of a house and yard may be overwhelming to them and they may love it and immediately relax, or they could respond with anxiety or with overwhelming energy.”
Keep your dog at home initially
“People may be very excited about their new dog and want to take it out to the dog park, to pet-friendly stores, or to other public events, but this is not always the best idea. It would be best to hold off on those activities until the new family has had a chance to discover the dog’s overall disposition and response to certain stimuli. Immediately forcing the dog to deal with crowds of people or other dogs may illicit negative behavior simply because the dog is overwhelmed by the stress.”
Watch your impulses
“Never adopt a dog on impulse! Always research the responsibilities of owning a dog before bringing one into your home. Responsible pet ownership takes a lot of time and money. A dog needs regular interaction with its people and dogs need adequate exercise for their innate energy level. Doing some research on a dog’s primary breed can give a person an idea of what kind of exercise will be necessary to help keep the dog from becoming bored and potentially destructive or escaping/running away.”
Enjoy the adoption process
“Adopting a shelter dog is very rewarding. It’s often said that shelter and rescue dogs “know” they have been given a second chance and there are countless stories of successful adoption which support this theory. While a shelter dog may come with some quirks and challenges, if a person is patient and willing to put forth the time and effort into helping the dog overcome those issues, the result will be a life-long, loyal relationship that words can simply not describe.”
If you are interested in adopting a dog, visit your local shelter or the Edmond Animal Shelter to meet your future pup. Shelters typically give tours and are filled with valuable information for potential pet owners. At Sunset Vet, we love meeting newly rescued dogs and have many resources available for new pet owners. If you adopt from the Edmond Animal Shelter, we will provide your pet’s first check-up for FREE. Call us today at 405-844-2888 for more information.