By Annelie Becher
Adopting a dog is a great idea. Giving a pooch a second (or maybe third chance) means doing some good for a fellow being in need.
It may even save a life…but there are some facts you need to consider beforehand.
Meaning well does not always mean doing well – especially when you enter a new relationship with a dog in need blue-eyed and naive.
A dog in need of a new home usually is a dog who has lost a home. A dog who has been placed in a shelter has been abandoned and usually feels that way.
Many years ago I went to the local animal shelter to donate some dog food. When I asked the lady there if it would be OK to bring any brand she told me this: “The brand of food does not really matter. All dogs that come to us suffer from diarrhea for at least 14 days – no matter what kind of food we give them.”
This sentence stuck with me ever since because it highlights the despair, heartache and stress dogs endure when they are sent to a shelter.
Ideally no dog should ever need the help a shelter offers but this is not an ideal world.
To make sure that this does not happen to the one you rescue, you should take into account that your dog-to-be has already got habits of his own which may or may not match your own habits. He may have been taught things you would never want a dog to learn and his personality might not be what you would like it to be.
Adopting a dog means making compromises between your own wishes and the reality of a dog who has a history.
He may have learned to fear certain things or to react in an aggressive way towards other things and he may have learned that human beings cannot be trusted. He may also have learned that human beings can easily be intimidated by a dog who means business.
It is very important to find out as much as possible about his personality before you take him home. Don’t hesitate to ask the team at the shelter about the place he came from and the circumstances of his life before he came to the shelter.
Ask them about his behavior towards other dogs. Do they know what he likes and dislikes? What he is afraid of? Has he got a history of abuse? Does he like children?
Since people who work at animal shelters want “their” dogs to find a new and happy home they will be glad to answer all your questions.
Taking time to reach the right decision is in the best interest of yourself and the dog you mean to adopt. After all, you don’t want to have to give him up again and you don’t want to create a difficult situation for both of you.
Annelie Becher is a registered psychologist, trainer and author who specializes in helping dogs and their owners get along better.