How to Choose the Right Shelter Dog for You

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So, you’re thinking of getting a dog from the shelter? That’s awesome! There are so many shelter dogs looking for a loving family.

By Guest Blogger, Tiffany Harper

Instead of going to a breeder, you’ve decided to save an abandoned soul. Still, there are a few points to consider ahead of adopting a dog. Before going into the actual article, ask yourself if you’re ready to commit to a pet fully. And if so, is a dog the best choice for you? Don’t get us wrong, having a dog in your life may be one of the best decisions you have ever made in your life. But it’s best to make sure that’s what you want.

A dog is a small monetary investment

There are some responsibilities involved on your part. For starters, there’s an adoption fee that ranges between $50 and $250. The cost depends on the area of adoption, administered vaccinations, and whether the dog was spayed or neutered. Compared to a breed dog, similar fees are pretty small. Adoption fees are usually on the lower end due to government subsidies. In any case, you’ll have to add the cost of food, toys, leashes, and veterinary visits.

Taking care of a dog requires resources

The second idea to consider is how much time and energy you can give your dog? Remember, dogs are pack animals and need exercise, socialization, and training. For instance, if you’re traveling for extended periods, you should look for a dog sitter or a family member that can spot you from time to time. Try to imagine how does your future look with a dog in it:

  • Will you spend time with it, or are you going to pass him from one dog sitter to another?
  • Can you walk him from time to time? How about cleaning after it?

Answer truthfully and make a decision based on your availability. More so, if it’s your first pet, you’ll have to set some time aside to learn how to take care of your small friend.

The dog’s age and breed are significant 


As a rule of thumb, the dog’s age determines his energy levels. The dog’s age makes a huge difference in how he acts and the level of care it needs. For instance, puppies may be adorable, but you’ll become a parent for the little one. Puppies then grow into juveniles that are eager to explore and run around.

On the other hand, older dogs usually have lower energy levels and might be housetrained. Adult dogs no longer grow, and their personalities are already developed. They might need some acclimatization to your home, but other than that, you shouldn’t have unpleasant surprises.


Selecting the dog’s genetic makeup depends on your lifestyle. An old saying goes, “like an owner, like a dog,” meaning that the dog resembles its owner. A helpful piece of advice would be to follow this old saying and select a dog that matches your personality. Also, assess your home space. Do you have lots of room and maybe a fenced yard? Or do you live in a small apartment?

If you’re an active person, then select an athletic dog such as a:

  • Terrier
  • Pitbull
  • Retriever

Contrarily, seniors or mellower individuals should look for a calmer dog such as a:

  • Greyhound
  • Whippet
  • Chihuahua
  • Mastiff
  • Toy spaniel or poodle
  • Maltese

Keep in mind that breed is more important than age from an energy point of view.

Searching for a shelter

You don’t have to travel miles on end to find a shelter. Google “local shelters,” and you’re bound to find at least one near you. Now, if you have a specific dog breed in mind, you’ll have to conduct a little bit of research. You can also contact rescue organizations that deal with specific breeds. The simplest way is to call and ask.

Try to visit more than one shelter before making a decision. If you have kids, consider leaving them at home, at least for the first visit. It’s crucial to conduct an emotionless and rational search. “Love at first sight” can negatively influence a choice.

Essential tips and tricks to get to know a dog 

There are some key practices you should do to evaluate a dog’s behavior:

1. Read and interpret their kennel cards

Shelters have brief descriptions of each dog. However, the first piece of advice is to read between the lines. There’s usually no intention to mislead, but always investigate what the description tells us about a dog’s behavior. For example:

  • “A one-person companion,” “guard dog,” or “needs time to befriend people” may indicate a dog with potential shyness or fear-aggressiveness.
  • “Vigorous,” “Puppy energy,” or “Energetic” may point to a hyperactive dog, fit for athletic people.
  • “Loves constant companionship” may imply a dog with separation anxiety.

2. Is the dog in the window drugged or sedated?

Sedating animals is commonplace for a variety of reasons. Asking if a dog is drugged up is a vital question to ask the staff. If so, ask to reschedule your visit the next day when it’s awake.

3. Put a leash on the dog and take a few steps  

You can’t expect perfect manners from a dog in a shelter, but putting on a leash can indicate aggression, fear, or anxiety. If the dog cowers or is growling when passing by other people or dogs, it might suggest reactivity issues.

Also, make sure he’s OK with children and seniors.

4. Make the dog excited, then settle it down

Grab a toy and play with the dog or pet him vigorously. After getting him riled up, try to calm it down and observe his behavior.

5. Ignore the dog for a couple of minutes

After some playing around, stand up, and ignore the dog completely. A healthy dog will follow you for a bit, and that’s it. Be cautious of strange or pushy behavior as it may indicate future issues.

6. Offer some food and see how it behaves

Give the dog some food and watch him eat. Its “table manners” are valuable in judging its stress levels. Ideally, the dog will come up to you, sniff the food, and gently take it out of your hand. Ask the staff to assist you as some animals have food allergies.

Next, drop some food on the floor, wait for the dog to arrive, then try to get some of it while it eats. Observe its reaction, but more importantly, watch your fingers.

Taking home a shelter dog is a beautiful gesture, but it’s also a long-term commitment. Adopting a dog means investing time, energy, and some money. It’s essential to choose the dog’s age and breed according to your lifestyle. Try to visit more than one shelter and don’t rush a decision. Also, make sure you interpret their kennel cards and ask if they’re drugged up. Finally, evaluate the dog’s behavior by walking it on a leash, playing with it, feeding it, and ignoring it for a few minutes.

about the author

Tiffany Harper is an expert essay writer for pro essay writers. She’s a youth counselor for college students and a regular contributor to a local assignment writing service. Also, Tiffany is a part-time volunteer at a nearby animal shelter. Tiffany enjoys long walks with her two dogs when she’s not writing for the best term paper help.

Let’s talk dogs, or even better, let’s learn about dogs. Gain more canine knowledge through Acme Canine’s social media:  websiteFacebookYouTubeInstagram


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Welcome to Spike’s Dog Blog by Acme Canine. Throughout the site, you will find a variety of helpful dog training articles, insightful dog behavior tips, and truthful product reviews from nationally-recognized canine trainers and professionals.