by Cesar Millan
Choosing a dog is a decision that should be made with care and deliberation. A dog is not a toy or a clothing accessory; it’s a living creature. The decision to adopt a dog should be treated with the same careful attention that you would use if you were deciding where to live, to have children, or whether or not to get married. Too often, a dog is adopted because it is “cute” or “fashionable,” rather than based on the merits of its behavior and energy levels. In these situations, the dog may be returned to the rescue shelter, kennel, or pet store, and each return is a black mark on that dog’s record. It suggests that the dog is un-adoptable, and the more often a dog is returned, the more likely it is to eventually be euthanized.
When selecting a dog, it is vitally important to take into account how that dog’s energy will harmonize with your own. The most important step is to take some time for self-reflection and to identify what your own energy levels are. Do you wake up early every morning, pound a power bar and a health shake, and go for a run in the mountains? Or do you take life at a more leisurely pace? When energy levels conflict, resulting frustrations on the part of both human and dog can create tensions and issues with dramatic repercussions, so take into account how your energy will affect your decision.
Once you’ve identified your own energy levels, begin your research on dogs and their energy levels. Remember, a dog’s breed doesn’t necessarily dictate its personality, but some breeds are known for having a certain energy or disposition. Once you’ve done your breed research, you can begin your search for a dog with a few ideas in mind. It never hurts to be prepared.
If you decide to begin looking at shelters and rescues, keep in mind that a dog in a cage at a shelter will be difficult to appraise in terms of its level of energy. Dogs in cages for any significant length of time can be frustrated and edgy. It may help to have a professional or someone with some expertise assist you in gauging your potential dog’s energy levels.
Don’t be afraid to ask the rescue staff about the dog. They aren’t concerned with getting dogs out the door at any cost – most are dedicated to finding good homes for the dogs in their care – so you can be pretty confident that they’ll give you the straight story. Find out what the dog is really like and how he gets along with the staff and the other dogs. How does he act at mealtimes? What is he like when people come by to view the other dogs? The answers to questions like these will give you a better idea of what he will be like with you and your family at home.
The walk is an excellent litmus test for a new dog. Find out from the shelter if you can “test drive” the dog that you’re interested in. Take him out for a spin around the block and see how the two of you get along. Not only will you get an early idea of how you work together in a pack-oriented activity, but you’ll get a better understanding of his underlying temperament once you’ve drained away the frustration and pent-up energy he has from being in his cage.
Most importantly, do your best to leave your emotions at the door. You will have plenty of time to bond with your dog once you’ve brought him home and incorporated him into your family. For his sake and yours, try not to let the environment of the shelter and the weight of the decision influence you. Adoption centers can be heart-breaking places if your thoughts are focused on the fate of every single dog present. It’s crucial for you to choose the right dog, and not just one that you feel sorry for. Feeling pity for a homeless dog won’t benefit him or you in the long run.
Keep an open mind, do your research, and have patience! In the end, you’ll both be better off for it.
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