by Indi Edelburg, Certified Dog Trainer
When it comes time to add a new furry member to the family, more people than ever are looking at shelters and rescues. Approximately 1.6 million dogs are adopted every year in the US. The image of shelter dogs as sickly, ill-behaved animals is fading away as more and more people realize that shelter animals are simply pets who are in need of a new home! And while shelter dogs can be just as healthy, friendly, and out going as those from breeders, it can be more difficult to assess what kind of temperament a dog has when they live in a shelter environment.
Several factors play a role in why dogs can behave differently in shelters than in a home setting, the biggest of which is simply the environment itself. Despite many improvements in housing conditions since the early days of “dog pounds”, shelters can still be stressful places to be when you’re a confused dog. Imagine being abandoned by your family, dropped off in the middle of a strange place, and put next to a neighbor that barks your ear off all night. No wonder some dogs tend to cower in the back of the kennel or jump up and down like a maniac to get your attention!
So how are you to tell what kind of personality a dog really has while in a shelter? The good news is, there are several things you can do to help determine which dog would be a good fit for your family.
How you meet a shelter dog is an important part of assessing their personality. Many dogs take a while to warm up (or sometimes calm down!) when meeting new people. Don’t write a dog off because he didn’t immediately jump onto your lap when he saw you. The room you meet the dog in is likely full of smells of other people and dogs, which can be very distracting! Allow the dog to get comfortable in the area first before trying to make physical contact. Don’t reach over the dog’s head or hug it around the neck, this can be intimidating even for the most well adjusted pet! Sometimes it’s better to meet outside where a dog feels less confined.
The more information you can learn about your new friend the better. Ask for the results of their temperament test and what staff has learned about their personality. Volunteers are also usually more than happy to share what they know about their furry friends. Some shelters even have owners of surrendered animals fill out a history form with information about the pet’s likes, dislikes, and personality. This is a great tool in determining how a pet might behave in a home setting as opposed to the shelter environment.
Meet and Greets
If you own a dog, ask to bring him or her to the shelter to do a meet and greet with the dog you want to adopt. (In fact, some shelters require this). While it may not be a perfect indicator of how they would react in a home, this will at least give you an idea if the two dogs would be safe in a home together. This goes for humans, too! Bring all members of the family including children to be sure everyone gets along safely.
If you own a dog, ask to bring him or her to the shelter to do a meet and greet with the dog you want to adopt.
Make sure to visit with a dog you are interested in multiple times, and at different times of day. Even in a shelter dogs usually have a loose schedule of when they get potty breaks, exercise, down time, etc. If the dog has an accident in the room when you visited, it might have been right before potty time. Did he seem extra hyper when you met for the first time? Try visiting again at a different time of day. The more time you spend together the better you’ll get to know his or her personality!
Not sure how to assess a dog’s temperament? Many dog trainers are happy to help you pick your new family member by going along and meeting potential pups with you. A trainer may be able to spot subtle personality traits that can help you determine if a dog would be a good match for your family and lifestyle.
By taking the time to really get to know a dog, asking the right questions, and evaluating if your lifestyle would match their personality, you’ll be much more likely to make the right decision when it comes time to find your new best friend. It will mean an easier transition, and, in the long run, a happier life for everyone!
Indi Edelburg is a Certified Dog Trainer who teaches basic obedience and behavior modification to dogs of all breeds and ages and their owners. Indi has worked with numerous dogs including volunteering in a local animal shelter for the past 6 years. She loves helping dogs and people learn to speak each other’s language and live in harmony!
By Kathy Pobloskie, Co-founder Lost Dogs of America
At Lost Dogs of America, we try to prevent dogs from getting lost by educating the public about the dangers of fireworks and other stressful situations for pets surrounding the July 4th holiday. But we also recognize that over the holiday, we will receive dozens of reports for missing dogs from owners who were caught unaware. We are a first response agency and our mission is not to judge owners for not heeding the warnings, but to give sound, logical advice that will give them the best opportunity to recover their missing dog safely.
We help owners “profile” their situation so that they can concentrate their efforts on what probably happened to their dog. Dogs lost from the noise of fireworks fall into our category of “dogs lost from stressful situations”. Although we never say never, dogs lost from stressful situations do not usually go far unless they are chased. They bolt in fear and then hide. They often will return home on their own when everything goes quiet (maybe a few hours or a few days later) or they will be recovered nearby when they finally come out of hiding.
We find that if owners follow our “Five Things to Do When You Have Lost Your Dog” action plan (see below) , the chance that they will be successfully reunited with their dog is greatly increased. It is also extremely important that owners ask everyone who is helping them to not call or chase their dog if they see him. Dogs who aren’t being called or chased will make wise decisions and may survive indefinitely – allowing the owner a chance to implement a strategic plan to catch them. Dogs who are being chased will make poor decisions and run the risk of bolting into traffic and being injured or killed.
We also discourage owners from posting rewards for their missing dogs. Rewards encourage people to chase the dog which can endanger his life. Lost dogs who are allowed to settle and relax can usually be successfully and safely caught.
Enjoy your July 4th holiday but please be aware of the dangers of fireworks and keep your pets safe! If your dog does go missing please file a report immediately with our software partner, Helping Lost Pets, who will create a free flyer and social media links for you to use. We are an entirely free service run by volunteers and we want to help you get your dog back home safely. Happy July 4th!
About the author:
Kathy Pobloskie is the director and co-founder of Lost Dogs of Wisconsin, an all-volunteer 501c.3 organization committed to reuniting owners with their lost dogs. Lost Dogs of Wisconsin currently has sixty plus volunteers and over 70,000 Facebook fans who share postings and help find lost dogs in Wisconsin. Kathy is also a co-founder of Lost Dogs of America, an umbrella organization that is helping other Lost Dogs State Facebook pages get off the ground. Currently 35 states are participating. In 2016 alone, Lost Dogs of America helped reunite over 27,000 dogs with their families. All of the services provided by Lost Dogs of Wisconsin and Lost Dogs of America are free to the public.