To adopt a dog is an enormous commitment. Many people purchase puppies and then they realize that they need to be potty trained, they can be destructive, and they need to be walked several times a day. Puppies can be horrible holiday gifts for new dog owners because many people are unaware of the responsibility and work they require.
Many puppies go off to the pound because the puppy had an accident and the owners had no time to take the dog out and to provide the attention puppies need. Puppies are not well-developed so it is difficult for me to see any gross abnormalities. I have always met and interacted with the dogs for at least 15 minutes. Under the circumstances of being in an adoption situation, a dog could be more nervous than he would be once established in a forever home. Getting a clear read could be difficult, but sometimes you can get a bit of a gist of how you might get along with a dog by spending a little time with him.
Dogs are frequently surrendered for shocking reasons. People think that dogs who are up for adoption are headaches that other people wanted to get rid of. That couldn’t be further than the truth. Here are my suggestions before you acquire a dog:
When you first meet a dog kneel down or squat, hold out your hand (with palm up), and call the dog using a gentle, kind voice to invite the dog to interact. How does the dog respond to you (fearful, aggressive, playful, affectionate… )? Observe the dog’s energy level. This is tricky because under the circumstances the dog might (understandably) be hyper or excited). Does everybody’s energy work well together? Does everybody get along? I would see how the dog interacts with your family members including other pets, significant others… ) and to see how those people and pets respond to the dog.
Of course, you should always ask the people who are in the adoption organization before you do this. The dog can become overwhelmed if he is bombarded with so many stimuli. Just as important as observing the adoptive dog’s reaction, it is just as critical to observe the behavior of those significant others and pets when they meet the dog. Is your child fearful of the dog and/or does the child know how to be gentle with the dog? Is the dog comfortable with being handled appropriately (as opposed to pulling at the tail which is not appropriate)? Does he react with fear or anger? Does the dog’s energy level match yours? Is the dog too high energy? A person who is very inactive or not available still needs to assure that (especially) high energy can get enough exercise. A dog who is calmer or older will probably need less exercise. Will you, a family member or a dog walker be able to take the dog out long enough to get that energy out for exercise? It is not unusual for a high energy dog who doesn’t get enough exercise to be destructive at home. All dogs need exercise to get their energy out of their system. Is there a park nearby? Are you able to exercise the dog in the backyard (not just let him outside, but to actively play around and throw a ball for at least a couple of hours a day)?
Questions to ask the adoption agency before you adopt a dog:
Review details about the dogs with people who have some familiarity with the dogs. Ask questions like: Does the dog have any health issues? What is the dog’s background story? Was he abandoned? Abused? Neglected? Why was he/she surrendered? Does the dog have any fears or anxiety about anything in particular that you know of? Is the dog OK with children? Other pets? Are there any behavioral issues that I could address and focus on? Is the dog house trained to go outside?