April 30 is National Adopt A Shelter Pet Day, celebrating the special bond between a human and animal who have been through their own hardships and have crossed paths through adoption. Although many continue to write off shelter pets as “damaged” or “problematic”, the ASPCA reports that shelter adoption rates have risen steadily since 2011– and that in itself is something to celebrate! Those who have rescued a shelter pet know that they are loving and forgiving animals who are just looking for a place to settle down after a rough start. If you are thinking of adopting your first shelter dog, or maybe thinking of adding a member to the furry family, here are some helpful tips!
- Heed the breed. With shelter dogs, sometimes it is tricky to determine the breed. Most of the time, it is based off the breed that appears most dominant in the dog’s appearance. If a breed has been determined, educating yourself on the breed will allow you to decide if you’re a good match for the pup. For example, some breeds require an active lifestyle while other breeds do well with lazy living.
- Make it a party. When visiting the dog pre-adoption, be sure that all members of the household are present and interact with the pup. On the other hand, don’t expect the pup to take to everyone right away; some shelter dogs may have had unfortunate experiences in the past, causing them to fear certain people. Gently conditioning the pup over time to the friendliness of this person may ease their fear.
- Take a trip. The environment also plays a factor in a shelter pup’s behavior. A dog that is normally friendly and loving might act nervous and skittish in a scary place like the shelter. Take your prospective pup on a trip before adopting, and observe how they react to the different environments.
- Patience is key. Shelter dogs have been through a lot. Whether they got lost and never found their way back home, or were dumped by an owner they loved, it might be awhile before they trust you. To ease your new pup into your home, create a routine for him like feeding him in the same spot or using the same route on walks.
Adopting a shelter dog, or any shelter pet, might require more care and patience. However, once the pet realizes they no longer have to be worried about where their next meal comes from or if they’ll end up on the street again, they’ll truly love you like no other pet can. If you’re looking for this special bond, check out your local shelter or rescue; there are always plenty of furbabies looking for a forever home.