Excerpt from Dog Training: A Lifelong Guide Training Your Dog
Shelter Dogs: Finding a Perfect Match for You
You decide to adopt a dog—not a puppy—from your local animal shelter. As you walk past the cages of barking, prancing, tail-wagging candidates, you realize looks can be deceiving: That cutie may turn into a Cujo when you get home. How can you find a personality-plus pooch who is perfect for you? Look for the circular wag, ignore the dog for two minutes, and test the dog with cat food—these are some of the foolproof personality tests devised by Sternberg. Her mission: Help shelter workers and potential pet adopters recognize the true temperaments of homeless dogs.
Leading veterinarians such as Leslie Sinclair, D.V.M., former director of veterinary issues for companion animals for the Humane Society of the United States, now in private practice in Montgomery Village, Maryland, has attended Sternberg’s shelter training lectures since 1992. “Sue is one of the best trainers I’ve seen at correctly observing and interpreting a dog’s body posture and facial expressions. She is amazing,” says Dr. Sinclair.
By identifying a dog’s true intentions from his body and vocal cues, potential dog owners can ensure a perfect—and safe—match, says Sternberg, who also operates Rondout Valley Kennels, a boarding kennel and separate animal shelter in Accord, New York. “Don’t kid yourself—some dogs at shelters are downright dangerous,” she warns.
In fact, Sternberg says that the ability to know which shelter dogs are wonderful and which ones are problem-filled could easily be the eighth true wonder of the universe. Sternberg often spends full days at shelters, observing the behaviors of the dogs. “I realize that the only time shelter dogs see people is for an excitable activity: cleaning time, feeding time, leash walks, and public viewing,” she notes. “The longer a dog stays in a shelter, in general, the more he learns that the presence of people means time for hyperactivity and arousal.”
To help avert incompatible unions between owners and dogs, Sternberg offers a practical, step-by-step guide to adopting a shelter dog. The first step begins with you, the soon-to-be dog owner.
Click on the following links to learn more about:
- Phase 1: Do a Self-Assessment
- Phase 2: Visit a Shelter
- Phase 3: Meet the Canine Candidates and Twelve-Step Sociability Test
- Phase 4: Introducing the Shelter Dog to Your Family Dog
- Profiled Trainer: Sue Sternberg