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Shelter Dogs: Is a Shelter Dog Right for Your Family?

Lauren B. Stevens
Oct. 15, 2015

Adding a pet to your family is a big decision. Here's everything you need to know to decide if adopting a shelter dog is right for you!

Are you thinking about adopting a shelter dog? While this can be an incredibly rewarding experience, it's important to make sure that you are ready to take on the commitment. Here's everything you need to know about adopting shelter dogs.

What Should You Consider Before Adopting a Shelter Dog?
Are you unsure about whether or not adopting a shelter dog is right for you and your family?
Here are three things you should keep in mind when making this decision:

  1. Your Lifestyle
    Adopting a dog is a big decision and it's important for you to consider whether or not you have the time to nurture and train a new pet, says Pamela Barlow, a senior behavior counselor at the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Against Animals (ASPCA) Adoption Center in the Greater New York City area. If and when you do decide that you are ready to add a new furry friend to your family, you must consider what your home is like and what kind of dog would fit best, adds Barlow. For instance, you "may want to adopt an older, house-trained dog that's previously lived with children."
  2. Your Resources
    According to Barlow, it's also important for you to consider the resources you'll need to care for a dog, especially the costs associated. For instance, if you are planning to leave your dog home alone throughout the day, you should ask yourself if you "have the funds to afford doggie daycare or a dog walker," says Carol Siegrist, a dog trainer and behavioral consultant in Philadelphia. Once again, it's important to think about what kind of dog would work best for you. "There are dogs that can fit into different budgets and time commitments," says Barlow.
  3. Shelter and Rescue Regulations
    Before starting an adoption journey, you should also research any rules and regulations that may stand in your way. According to Shannon Tedeschi of Bel Air, Maryland, adopting her second dog was difficult because she had a two-year-old child, and "many rescues and shelters will not allow a family with young children to adopt."

What Are Some of the Benefits of Adopting a Shelter Dog?
According to the ASPCA, 3.9 million dogs enter animal shelters in the United States each year. As such, it's clear that there are many animals who are desperately in need of a loving home. By adopting a dog, you might even save his life. In addition, adopting a dog is a great way to teach your kids about responsibility and empathy from an early age.

What Are Some of the Potential Issues That Come With Adopting a Shelter Dog?
The main cause for concern when adopting a shelter dog is that you have no way of knowing what the dog has been through before coming to the shelter. As such, it's difficult to determine whether or not you are equipped to handle any potential problems that may arise. If you're worried about finding the right shelter dog for you, Barlow advises that the best thing you can do is to listen to the shelter's recommendations, because "they know their dogs very well and can help make a great match."

What Else Should You Be Aware Of?
According to Siegrist, it's a common misconception that shelter dogs have often been abused or suffered trauma. However, "dogs often become very stressed when they arrive at the shelter, so you need to understand that and have patience slowly acclimating the new dog to your home." If behavioral issues arise, you should seek help sooner rather than later.

For more on adoption, read Want to Adopt a Dog?

Lauren B. Stevens is a freelance writer who's based in Philadelphia with her family. While she's never owned a dog, she's been a dog sitter on many occasions. When she's not writing for work, Lauren talks about all things parenthood on her blog, lo-wren.
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