How to Choose Your Best Friend

* Try a shelter or rescue first. I know everyone says to go to an animal shelter to look for a dog first, but it’s true. Most of the dogs there are perfectly normal, loving animals, simply looking for a family to love. Some may need some lessons in manners or potty training, but they are otherwise healthy and will be much happier if you take them home!

A dog at a shelter could be there for many reasons, some good, some bad, but most all of the reasons will be of no fault to the dog. Perhaps the owner was elderly and died, or was moved to a care facility where pets weren’t allowed. Perhaps the dog was a birthday present for a young child who ended up being allergic to it. And yes, a growing number of dogs are in shelters because their owners lost their home or apartment and had to move in with a non-pet friendly relative, neighbor, or homeless shelter.

Some dogs are in a shelter because they bit someone or have bad temperaments, but most dogs are well-behaved and maybe a little bit scared to be in such a loud, unfamiliar place without the people they once loved.

Adopting a dog from a shelter is MUCH cheaper than a pet store, usually between $50-$150, depending on the age & breed of the dog. You can ask all the questions you want about any dog that interests you, and you should be able to spend some quality time alone with the animal, indoors and outdoors. This time spent with the dog is good for learning about each other.

* A good idea is, after you & the dog have had a friendly meeting, gently roll the dog over onto his back and gently but firmly hold him there. Expect him to struggle a little bit or be confused, but he should NOT bite you or struggle too hard, or whimper. A whimper might mean that he’s injured somewhere on the inside and you’re hurting him. A struggling dog means that it may be difficult to teach him that YOU are the boss; not him. He may be used to being the pack leader. A biting dog means that you do not want to adopt him. He is scared and lashed out by biting you. He could bite your children, your wife, your neighbor, your other pets…..He simply may not have a docile, sweet temperament. Pick another dog.

* Another thing to consider when choosing your new best friend, whether from a shelter or a pet store, is how big will your friend get when he’s an adult? Will he be small enough to fit in your tiny efficiency apartment, or will he require a backyard to run in? It is not fair to buy a dog that you cannot sufficiently support, feed, and exercise.

* One more thing: make sure you buy your dog at a reputable establishment, whether a private breeder, a pet store, or a shelter. Make sure you obtain paperwork detailing the history of his shots & vaccinations. Most pet stores even have a 3-day return policy, where you can return the animal for a full refund within 3 days if you bring him home and for whatever reason, he’s not the right fit for you or your family. Ask about this option with shelters & breeders.