October is “Adopt a Shelter Dog” month! To help you prepare for bringing home a shelter dog, Stefani Fortney has some professional tips to remember:
Take your time and choose the shelter dog who’s right for you.
This is a decision that will affect your life for years to come. Don’t rush it. Animal shelters can be loud, smelly, sad places. Mentally and emotionally prepare yourself before you go, so you don’t get overwhelmed and adopt a shelter dog who isn’t the right fit for you and your lifestyle. Take time to talk to the staff about any dog who interests you. Spend time one-on-one with a few dogs. Don’t get distracted by the noise and stress.
Look past the book’s cover.
Many shelters across the country are beginning to remove breed identification labels from the dogs in their care. This makes sense—it takes away our instinct to choose a dog based on its supposed breed or mix of breeds and asks us to make decisions based on the actual, individual dog in front of us. Mixed-breed dogs can have any of the physical, mental, and personality traits it’s received from either or both of its parents—as well as those characteristics developed through its environment and experiences. Dogs who have reached the adoption floor of a shelter have, most likely, received some sort of behavioral and medical evaluation. Ask the shelter staff and volunteers to tell you about the dog’s details… and forget your preconceived ideas.
Be patient with your newly adopted shelter dog.
When you’ve made your decision, filled out the paperwork, and paid the adoption fee, don’t expect your new dog to immediately fit into your home. He or she has been through a lot. Living in a shelter environment is extremely stressful for most dogs. Their heightened sense of smell and hearing has been bombarded for their stay there. When they come home with you, it may take weeks or months before they recover. Be patient, make them feel safe, and work with a local, positive-reinforcement trainer to come up with a program to help your adopted shelter dog acclimate to your home and life as quickly and easily as possible.
Get a wellness check.
Dogs coming from shelters have usually had bare-bones veterinary treatment to be made available for adoption. They’ve probably been spayed/neutered, had vaccines, and (hopefully) been tested for heartworm disease. Even so, you should take them to your regular veterinarian as soon as possible for a wellness check. This will give your vet a chance to establish a relationship with your newly-adopted dog, as well as give you peace of mind. It’s also a great opportunity to get monthly heartworm prevention (recommended year-round in Oklahoma), flea and tick prevention (trust me—you want this), and a good intestinal dewormer (which should be repeated annually).
With all that said… head out to your local shelter and adopt a shelter dog this month! You won’t regret saving a life! To help you celebrate, Guthrie Pet Hospital is offering a free exam to dogs adopted from a shelter or rescue group during the month of October.