When deciding on a dog, consider your local animal shelter. “Pound” puppies make some of the most loving and loyal pets, said Michael Kaufmann of the American Humane Association in Englewood, Colo. The average shelter dog is 1 year old, but puppies and young adolescents – many of them housebroken – can also be found. At a shelter, you’re likely to have a good selection and get solid information from employees. You probably won’t see the puppies’ parents, but the staff often knows their dogs’ backgrounds and biographies.
“You’ll get good advice at a shelter, just like you would at a breeder,” Kaufmann said. “The staff will ask you to look in the mirror and find out if you are right for a puppy. And they’ll be honest. Most of them are volunteers who care for these animals. They are not trying to sell you something.”
Most shelter dogs are friendly and willing to please. The idea that these are “bad” or aggressive dogs isn’t true, Kaufmann said. “Yes, they are bad in a sense that they are doing normal ‘bad’ things, like running or barking – things that, if the animal were cared for and wasn’t bored, it wouldn’t be doing.”
If you hesitate to go to a shelter because you want a purebred, think again. Usually one-sixth of a shelter’s stock is AKC-registered dogs. They might not have registration papers, but if you are looking for a pet and won’t be breeding it, papers really aren’t that important.
Shelters are also excellent sources for older dogs, a group that shouldn’t be dismissed in the pet selection process. These dogs are ideal for people who, because they work long hours, live alone or are elderly, may not be up to a puppy’s house training requirements.
A reputable shelter will help you choose a veterinarian, find training classes and refer you to behaviorists if necessary, Kaufmann said.
And by getting a dog at a shelter, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you saved a life and contributed to curbing the nation’s dog overpopulation problem.
“There’s nothing better than knowing you’ve made a difference in that dog’s life,” Kaufmann said.