Lisa Mason: Adopting a shelter dog

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Lisa Mason

OK, you’ve made the decision to adopt your next dog from the shelter. Bravo!

Way too many wonderful dogs end up there for various reasons. You’ve thought long and hard about it and done your emotional homework. But what about the basics?

Do you have a list of questions for the shelter staff that will help you decide if this lovely dog really will be the right fit for you and your family’s lifestyle? Some questions to consider: How active is the dog? What has the staff noticed about her interactions with other dogs? Does she approach you willingly? Does she freely release toys or food to you and/or other dogs? Unfortunately, these questions are rarely asked of shelter staff.

Help your rational side decide before you let your heart take over. Also, remember that despite its age, this new dog will need to be taught all of your household rules and manners, much like teaching a new puppy that you’ve taken into your home and life.

Who will be responsible for teaching her where and when to potty, how to greet visitors and how to walk nicely on a leash?

Who will make sure that her meals are healthy and varied and not just a can dumped into her bowl? Where will she sleep that is safe and comfortable? How will you make sure she is OK when you have to go to work? And who will provide her with her daily doses of physical and mental exercises?

If these tasks seem overwhelming, have you considered enlisting the help of a certified professional trainer or enrolling in a training class? Look for instructors who promote positive reinforcement techniques, thus ensuring that your relationship with your new addition will be built on mutual respect and understanding. A quality class instructor always will invite you to see how they teach and manage a training class.

Above all, once you have committed to a shelter dog, plan to change your lifestyle to help your new dog transition into your world. Follow through with all the patience and love possible for this new furry being because she’ll probably have some issues from her past. If you don’t plan ahead and help your new dog learn the rules and limitations of living in your household, she undoubtedly will bring those issues to your home within a few weeks.

Lisa Mason is an experienced dog training instructor with the Total Teamwork Training group. Her specialties include new puppy owner education and management.

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