Dear Julie,

I really want to adopt a dog rather than get a puppy, because there are so many dogs that need a home. However, I’ve heard that dogs don’t always act the same in the shelter and can often show bad behaviours once they come home.  Is there anything that I can do to avoid that?  Should I be looking for anything specific? How do I know that the dog isn’t secretly aggressive and just hiding it from the staff?

Anticipating Doggy Mom

Dear Anticipating Doggy Mom,

The most important thing to keep in mind when considering adoption is to be aware of; your family needs, level of activity, level of stimulation in your living environment and handling ability.  Evaluate a dog on their personality and how they respond to stimuli when you are interreacting with them and not their looks or back story.  Making an impulsive decision to adopt a dog with a sad story often leads to new adopters brining home an animal that is simply too much dog for their family and subsequently, the dog being displaced yet again.  Take your time to get to know one another, make several visits to the shelter over the period of a week and walk the dog during heavier traffic times to observe their reaction to stimuli.  Unfortunately, assessing a dog is not an exact science, however, here are some basic tips to keep in mind when choosing your future friend;

Dogs who tend to be sound, motion, and touch sensitive also tend to do poorly in busy urban environments, attached homes, and apartments due to the increase of external noise.  These dogs tend to alert bark when they hear sounds outside of their home which can often lead to conflict with neighbours.  Moreover, stimulant sensitive dogs often find young children, under the age of 13, to be frightening due to their unpredictable motion, sound and behaviours.  This can result in potential bite situations leaving both the child and dog at risk.

Dogs who demonstrate low frustration, stress, and arousal thresholds, in addition to dogs with low social drives and strong predatory behaviours, can also be problematic in homes with children under the age of 13.  Dogs that are less tolerant in these areas tend to be very reactive to young children, easily excitable, and unaccepting towards visiting children.

Dogs who exhibit a low social drive (or appear shy) often find socially active homes very challenging and overwhelming.  These dogs usually do very well in a home that has either few visitors or repeat company as the repetition allows the dog to build familiarity and acceptance with the guests who frequent the home.

High energy dogs thrive in environments where they will be provided with physically and mentally demanding games and jobs.  If left unstimulated, these dogs often demonstrate separation frustration which can lead to hyperactivity and destructive behaviours.

Dogs with a more assertive personality types are best placed in an experienced home with owners who plan to provide structure and healthy boundaries.  These dogs can be very overwhelming for new owners and families with young children.

Of course, in the end, if you ever have doubts, call in a professional and have them evaluate the dog on your behalf.