Their little furry faces stare up at you, as if begging: “Take me home!” But anyone who decides to get a new dog from an animal shelter needs to be well prepared, because things do not always go according to plan. And how do you choose the right dog for you?
Lea Schmitz from the German Animal Protection Association advises people to think about what kind of dog would suit them and their living circumstances before visiting a shelter for the first time.
Are you at home a lot, or often on the road? How much space do you have, and where do you live? Should the dog be quiet and relaxed, or a lively character? Do they need to get along with other pets? “All of these factors are important when it comes to the dog and owner getting along well,” says Schmitz.
Training is also important when it comes to a harmonious co-existence. If you are inexperienced with pets, Schmitz says it’s preferable to have a dog that already knows basic commands such as “sit” and “stay”.
If you do have experience with dogs, you could choose a pet that others might consider to be a problem dog. Since the animal shelter employees have known the animals and their previous history for a while, it’s always best to ask questions.
Many animal shelters ask for a fee, which covers a veterinary examination and the necessary vaccinations. Male dogs are usually neutered.
To make the journey home as comfortable as possible, the owner and animal should already know each other, recommends veterinarian and behavioural therapist Xenia Katzurke. Particularly for nervous animals, the future owner should visit their new pet and together go for walks a few times before taking it home.
Some animal shelters also allow potential owners to take an animal home with them for a few days before officially adopting them. This way, they can see how the pet behaves in their home and whether it can cope being alone without any problems.
It also allows future owners to see how the animal interacts with other family members, and also with other pets, if any.
The day of the move should be as quiet as possible. “It is important, however, that the entire family is present,” says Katzurke. The dog will recognise these humans as his future pack.
If possible, do not make too much noise around the dog, but continue with your normal routine so that the dog can quickly get used to its place in the family.
Dogs usually get some food from the animal shelter to take with them. The owner can then decide whether or not they want to change the food slowly or switch to something else right from the start.
A lead is essential. In addition, from the beginning, the dog needs a regular place to sleep, advises Ariane Ullrich from the Professional Association of Dog Trainers and Behavioral Consultants. The owner should also know in advance which veterinarian they would like to take the dog to.
A dog’s previous history from before landing in the animal shelter is not always known. Although the employees can assess the animal’s character, they do not always know how it will react in unforeseen situations or under stress.
If the dog suddenly becomes aggressive, the owners must react quickly. “In no circumstance should the dog be physically oppressed or the owner themselves get aggressive,” says Ullrich. It is better to give the animal space and try to calm the situation.
Ullrich advises looking for a dog trainer who can work with the pet. Employees at the animal shelter can also help with problems, says Katzurke: “As a rule, we work together to fix things. Removing a dog from its owner is, fortunately, extremely rare.” – dpa/Maria Berentzen