Adopting a Dog From the Animal Shelter or Humane Society

By Michele Welton

animal shelter dog for adoption

The right dog from the animal shelter can make a wonderful pet.

Every night you pass the animal shelter on your way home from work. Their sign pleads, "Save a life. Adopt one of our dogs!"

Should you consider adopting a dog from the animal shelter?

An important consideration for many prospective owners is money. Shelter dogs cost much less than a dog from a good breeder.

But what kind of dog will you be getting for so little money?

Maybe the best dog in the world.

Maybe the worst dog in the world.

The biggest disadvantage, you see, of animal shelters and humane societies is the unpredictability of what you'll find inside on any given day.

Why dogs are dropped off at the animal shelter

Some dogs are at the shelter because they had behavior problems.

  • "He's not housebroken."
  • "He barks too much."
  • "He digs holes in our garden."
  • "He chews things up when we leave him alone."
  • "He keeps climbing over the fence."
  • "He's not good with our cat."
  • "He's not good with our other dog."
  • "He's not good with our kids."
  • "He bit me."

But many dog behavior problems are caused by owners. The owner left the dog alone too much. Or left him outside too much. Or didn't provide enough exercise. Or simply didn't teach their dog how to be well-behaved.

If a new owner offers more companionship, an indoor lifestyle, more exercise, and consistent training, the majority of so-called "problem dogs" change their tune quickly and make fabulous companions.

Some dogs are at the shelter because they got lost and were never claimed.

Some dogs are at the shelter because they developed a health problem that their owner couldn't (or didn't want to) deal with. The dog might need a special diet, or daily pills, or insulin shots, or surgery, or he might have vision or hearing problems.

Some dogs are at the shelter for some other reason that has nothing to do with the dog's ability to make a fine pet:

  • "He's too big for our apartment."
  • "He sheds too much."
  • "My child is allergic to him."
  • "Our other dog doesn't like him."
  • "Our landlord says no dogs."
  • "I'm getting a full time job."
  • "We have a new baby. I don't have time for a dog."
  • "I'm getting married and my new spouse doesn't like dogs."

And some dogs are at the shelter simply because they committed the cardinal sin of growing old. They can't get around so well anymore. They can't see or hear so well. They're just "no fun" anymore.

It's hard to believe that people can be so cruel. Especially when senior dogs can be so calm and well-behaved, which may be exactly the kind of dog you're looking for.

But you must be careful

Dog who needs a homeThe dog of your dreams could be sitting in your local animal shelter right now, hoping someone will give him a chance to prove what a wonderful companion he can be.

But you need to go in with your eyes open – not just your heart.

Most dogs at the animal shelter can make great pets for someone who is well-matched to them, but that someone may not be YOU.

Before going to look at shelter dogs, you need to determine the general kind of dog you're best suited to – how much grooming you're willing to do, how much shedding you can handle, how much exercise you can provide, and so on.

And you need to know how to evaluate the temperament of a shelter dog, so you can judge whether he or she is likely to make a good pet.

book coverI'll show you how to do that in my book, Dog Quest: Find The Dog Of Your Dreams.

We'll talk about how to match you up with the right kind of dog, based on 17 key characteristics.

We'll talk about whether you should get a male or a female, a puppy or an adult dog.

And I'll tell you how to use simple personality tests to evaluate a shelter dog's suitability as a pet.... how to test for possessiveness and aggression in a seemingly friendly dog.... and how to quickly evaluate a shelter dog's health

Learn more about Dog Quest

Michele Welton with BuffyMichele Welton has over 40 years of experience as a Dog Trainer, Dog Breed Consultant, and founder of three Dog Training Centers. An expert researcher and author of 15 books about dogs, she loves helping people choose, train, and care for their dogs.