We all know the mantra: "Adopt, don't shop." While many shelter dogs are amazing, loving, happy pets, you might end up picking a dog that doesn't fit what you're looking for — and you may not realise it until you've already signed the adoption papers. Here's what to do if you end up in this situation.
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If you haven't yet adopted a dog, many shelters and adoption organisations conduct behaviour tests, which can help point you towards dogs that match what you're looking for. Ask the staff or volunteers at the shelter if their organisation performs behaviour analysis or categorises their dogs into those that don't need much training and those who may need to be worked with on their behaviour. Inga Fricke, Director of Pet Retention Programs for the Humane Society of the United States, explains why the staff and volunteers are worth talking to:
These are the individuals who are not just invested in helping you find the best pet for your household, they have spent considerable time with each individual dog and have a good sense of their personalities, needs and behaviour. Let them guide you to a dog that you may initially overlook based solely on appearance, size, age or other factors, but that may wind up being the perfect addition to your home.
By finding an organisation that does this sorting for you, you'll likely have an easier time adopting a dog that fits your lifestyle and training abilities.
Work with the Shelter
Some shelters offer short-term foster programs where you can take the dog home without officially adopting it to see if you mesh well with the dog and if the dog meshes well with you.
If you've already adopted the dog, Fricke recommends using the shelter or adoption organisation where you got your dog as a resource. They may help you think of all your options to address issues you're having with the dog and provide training classes. At the very least, they can work with you to make sure you find a pet that better suits your lifestyle and that the dog you adopted finds a more suitable home.
Avoid Re-Homing on Your Own
If you've tried training, visiting a vet (sometimes behavioural problems can be caused by medical issues), and working with your shelter, but your dog still isn't working out, don't try to find them a new home on your own. Fricke mentions that many organisations require you to return the dog to them. If you know of someone you think would be a good owner for the dog, you can let the shelter know and they may assess whether the match is solid.
If the dog isn't a good fit for you, you should do your best to work with the adoption organisation to make sure they find a loving home. Returning a pet can be a red flag and, if you do it multiple times, can result in you not being permitted to adopt more animals from that organisation. This means it is important that you take the time and effort ahead of adopting a pet to figure out what (if any) animal is right for you and what pet personality matches your lifestyle.
Prepare Properly Next Time
If you just didn't do your research properly before adopting a dog and it turned out not to be a good fit, do your due diligence ahead of considering another pet. Fricke recommends you ask yourself these questions:
- Is a dog even the right pet for you? As much as you might want one, a dog may not be the best pet for you. Being honest with yourself will lead you towards finding a pet that enriches your life.
- Is a puppy or older dog a better fit? Puppies are adorable, but they take a lot of work and attention. Older dogs are often past their destructive chewing phase and are likely already house broken. They're also more predictable in terms of size and temperament.
- What level of activity are you looking for? Matching activity level between dog and owner(s) is one of the key markers of a successful adoption. If you like to relax after a long day, ask for a couch potato pup to cuddle up with. If you like to run, hike or cycle, a more active dog can keep up with you.
- How much time can you reasonably devote to exercise, grooming and so on? You might like the way long haired breeds look, but if you're not willing to spend time on grooming, you should open your mind to other options.
- How much pet ownership experience do you have? If this is your first pet, or you weren't very engaged in the care of past pets, the staff can find a dog that fits your level of comfort and experience.
Sharing the above info with the shelter staff will also make it easier for them to serve as a matchmaker between you and a potential pooch.