While you're at the shelter
This is the time to evaluate which dog will be the best fit for your family and lifestyle. You might want to plan on making at least a couple trips to the shelter. On your initial trip, observe the pets before picking one to take home. Look for a dog with a good temperament who is friendly. Once you have narrowed your choices of dogs down to a small group, you'll want to bring your children with you to the shelter to observe how each dog reacts to them. Look for the dog who is gentle around children and who responds immediately to signal words, like "Easy" or "Gentle," or commands that force the dog to calm down, like "Sit."
Once you have decided on a particular dog and tested how he reacts to your family, find out why the dog is up for adoption. Older dogs might have habits that are undesirable and will throw off the harmony in your household. Ask the shelter specific questions like:
Is the dog healthy now?
Any known or suspected health problems?
Has he been checked for worms?
What parasite treatment/prevention program is the dog on?
Has he been exposed to diseases?
Any limping or other indications of bone or joint problems?
Never settle on a dog that you do not feel 100% sure of or that is not a right match for your family and lifestyle. There are hundreds of dogs at your local shelter who need homes. Sometimes, you just have to be patient for the right dog to enter the shelter, and eventually your life.
For more information and instructions on assessing a shelter dog, visit www.shelterdogs.org/pdf/assessing_a_shelter_dog.pdf.
For information on and ways to evaluate temperament in a shelter dog, visit www.shibaweb.com/rtemp.htm.