“Adopt, don’t shop,” is the phrase circling around potential new pet owners these days. The reason one might choose to buy a puppy from a breeder or pet store is the ability to “customize” the dog, everything from choosing the breed to shaping the puppy’s temperament as it grows. The idea of adoption can be intimidating; it seems as daunting as closing one’s eyes and picking from a grab bag. Here are some facts that can help ease the uncertainties surrounding the adoption process.
Shelters do have options. Though pit bull breeds, mixes, and “teenage” dogs do make up the majority of most shelter populations, animal shelters receive a variety of intakes on an ongoing basis. Puppies and purebreds do come in, but they usually go out just as quickly. It may be wise to call ahead, check what’s available, and have the staff hold a dog for you to visit.
Pit bulls make great family pets. If you are able to adopt a pit bull breed (includes American Pit Bull Terriers, American Staffordshire Terriers, Staffordshire Bull Terriers, and all related mixes), they often come with lower adoption fees and their own set of benefits. Pit bull breeds tend to be high energy and need active, responsible owners. They thrive on being near people and are argued to be one of the best family dogs. Pennsylvania does not have any laws in place prohibiting these breeds, but be sure to check on the laws if you live elsewhere.
Old dogs can learn new tricks. Senior dogs also frequent shelters. They tend to be mellow and simply need a loving place to live out their “retirement.” Don’t turn away from these dogs just because they are nearing the end of their years. Many seniors retain a youthful energy, still enjoy playtime, and may be able to transition into a new job, such as therapy work. Generally, if you have an easy-going lifestyle and don’t have the time to raise up a puppy, a senior dog will be ideal.
How about a retired greyhound? Racing greyhounds are retired at young ages and placed into homes. Despite what you may have heard, these are not high-energy dogs. Like all dogs, they need a certain amount of exercise, but they are perfectly content to sleep at your feet while you watch TV. They are adaptable, clean, and gentle, and they make great pets for people with a quiet lifestyle. If you’re in the Pittsburgh area, check into Steel City Greyhounds.
Consider breed rescues. If your heart is set on a specific breed that rarely appears in shelters, search for breed-specific rescues. This may mean traveling long distances, however, depending on the breed. You may also have to fill out an application to be on a waiting list, as many rescues have only a limited number of dogs at a time. There are several breed rescues in or near Pittsburgh. For a full list, visit Pittsburgh Dogs.
What you see is not always what you get. It’s important not to decide on a dog based on what you see on PetFinder. Meet the dog first, bringing with you any family or pets who will be sharing the dog’s new home. If you have any doubts or hesitations about adopting the dog, ask for time to consider. Do not rush into any adoption. Many unfortunate dogs are mismatched with families and end up being returned to shelter life, which reduces their chances of being adopted next time around.
Volunteer. One of the best ways to assess what dog might be your best match is to volunteer with the dogs at your local shelter. Dog walking in particular is excellent for unveiling a dog’s true colors, which are often opposite of what they display in the kennel. You may also be interested in becoming a foster parent. Fostering will give you the chance to see how the dog will fit into your life without actually committing to anything. If you decide not to adopt the dog, you will at least be able to provide details of how the dog behaves in a home environment.
Adoption comes with resources. Unlike pet shops, many shelters offer free obedience classes and advice to rehabilitate your new friend. Some also offer free or low-cost vet care, insurance, and micro-chipping. Adoption frequently comes with a full package to keep your new friend happy, healthy, and safe.
Adoption should not be an intimidating process, and it can be more rewarding and easier on your pocketbook than buying. Take your time deciding, prepare your home and family, and finally, invite your new forever friend into your life.