Tag Archives: Dr. Susan Wright

Establishing Leadership

Although we may not like rules and regulations, we often find it easier to get things done when there are guidelines to follow. The same goes for our dogs. They appreciate knowing where the boundaries are, and in fact are less stressed when they have a leader to follow.

Dogs are pack animals. Your dog’s pack consists of you and your family. Each member of the pack has their own place in the hierarchy, with the alpha at the head. It’s important that you establish yourself as the alpha member in your pack.

Dogs are happier and less stressed when they have a leader to follow. Many behavioral problems that occur in dogs are due to the lack of a strong leader. Problems also occur when a dog is taken from his litter to early and then not properly socialized during puppyhood. These dogs often don’t understand doggie communication, and have issues with leadership as adults.

Many people are hesitant to be assertive with their rescue dog because they feel that he has had a rough life, and they should be gentle with him. They are reluctant to be firm, because they don’t want to stress him. The truth is, your dog wants guidance. He wants to know that you’re his leader, it helps him feel secure.

Establishing Yourself as Pack Leader

If you don’t adopt the role of your dog’s pack leader, you’ll find that he will take over that position for himself. This can lead to behavioral problems such as aggression, and also higher levels of anxiety.

Being pack leader doesn’t mean you have to be loud and harsh to your dog. It means being fair, even tempered and consistent. It is a leader’s job to set your dog’s boundaries, protect your pack and control resources like food and toys.

When you bring home a rescue dog, you must start as you mean to go on. Although you can expect a few teething problems, don’t make allowances for the fact he’s new to your family. Start teaching him straight away what the rules are. Use positive training methods, and repeat your training sessions regularly, and he’ll quickly learn what he can and can’t do.

You can set physical boundaries, such as having certain rooms that your dog isn’t allowed in, or not permitting him into your kitchen. You can also set mental rules, such as teaching that he’s not allowed to bark for attention. Both are an important part of teaching your dog where he fits into your pack.

Alpha Exercises

There is a school of thought that suggests that bad behavior in our dogs is due to them trying to dominate us. Some dog owners believe that to be an effective leader, you have to show dominance over your dog with techniques such as the “alpha roll”. To do an alpha roll, you physically force your dog onto his back and hold there until he relaxes.

Other alpha exercises include scruffing and shaking your dog, growling at your dog, or forcing him onto his side and letting get up.

Many people believe that when your dog relaxes in an alpha roll, it indicates that he has submitted to you, and recognizes you as leader. This dominance theory is no longer accepted by many professionals. In fact, techniques such as the alpha roll may actually lead to your dog being aggressive towards you because he is frightened.

The American Veterinary Society of Animal Behavior suggests that dogs don’t behave badly because they are trying to dominate their owners. Instead they feel that dogs are naughty for two reasons. Firstly, they haven’t been consistently taught right from wrong, and secondly, they are afraid or anxious and that leads to bad behavior such as aggression. Research has shown that if you aggressive to your dog, he is more likely to be aggressive.

There’s no need to perform the alpha exercises on your dog. They are scary, they don’t teach your dog anything and they may result in you getting bitten.

Teaching Your Dog Who Is In Charge

There are many ways that you can show your dog that you are in charge, and they don’t involve getting physical with him, or causing him any fear at all. You’ll end up a better mannered dog, and a much more enjoyable relationship with him. After all, who wants to have their dog afraid of them?

– You must eat your food before your dog has his meal. Pack leaders eat first.

– You must go through a doorway before your dog does. Teach him to sit and wait, and not to follow you until he’s told to.

– If your dog is lying in the way, don’t step over him, ask him to move. After all, you are the leader.

– Teach your dog to sit and wait for his meal, and not to eat until you give him the command. Pack leaders control access to resources such as food.

– Until your dog recognizes you as leader, don’t invite him to sit on the couch with you, or to sleep on your bed. When he fully understands that you are in charge, you can then invite him to join you if you wish.

– Don’t reward your dog for jumping up, or other attention seeking behavior. Ask him to sit politely, and only then does he get a pat.

– Train your dog in basic obedience, and expect him to do as you ask him, when you ask him. Regular training will reinforce your position in the pack.

As you can imagine, these methods take more time and effort than physically scruffing your dog and rolling him on his back. However, they are more effective in showing you dog that you’re in charge, and will result in your dog respecting you instead of fearing you.

There is a training method called “Nothing in life is free”. Basically, this means that anything your dog wants, he has to earn. He wants to play? That’s fine, but he has to sit before you throw the ball. He wants to eat? No worries, but don’t give one piece of food until he’s performed a sit-stay exercise.

It’s not hard to show your dog that you’re his pack leader, and you can do it without causing him any anxiety or fear. He will feel happier and more secure, knowing he has a leader that he can respect.

Adopting a Rescue Dog – The First Seven Days
By: Dr. Susan Wright & Misty Weaver

Training Your Rescue Dog

When you adopt a new dog, you must start training him immediately so he begins to learn what is and isn’t acceptable in your home. There are several training methods you can use, but one of the most powerful methods is positive reinforcement.

Most dogs love food. Grab a particularly delicious treat, and use this to reward your dog for doing the right thing. If you own a dog who is a fussy eater, he may prefer praise or a game of ball when he does what you ask of him. The theory behind positive reinforcement training is that any behavior that is rewarded is likely to be repeated. One common example is when your dog jumps up. If you give him a hug every time he jumps on you, he is being rewarded for doing it, so he’ll continue jumping on you.

Basic Guidelines for Dog Training

Timing. Whatever your dog is doing at the time you give him the reward is the behavior that he is going to repeat. So, if you ask your dog to sit, and he obeys, give him a treat. But, if he gets excited and jumps on you to get the treat, make sure he sits again before he is rewarded. Otherwise you’re training him to jump.

You can use a clicker to mark the exact behavior you want, and this is often easier than trying to get a treat into the right position at the right time. You dog can learn that the click means a treat is coming, and you can be much accurate with your timing.

Location. Start training a new behavior in a location that is not very exciting, such as your backyard. This reduces the opportunity for your dog to get distracted. As he becomes more reliable, gradually move to a more distractable areas, so he learns to obey you even if there’s something interesting happening nearby.

Short sessions. Several five minute sessions a day are much more beneficial than a single one hour session when it comes to training your dog, and it usually is easier to fit into your lifestyle.

Be careful with commands. Use a short, easy to remember command, rather than a multi-word phrase for each behavior you would like to teach him. For example, tell your dog to “sit”, rather than “sit down right now”. Also, to a dog, “sit” is a completely different command than “sit, sit, sit!”. Choose one word for each behavior, and stick with it.

Consistency. Be clear in your mind what you are trying to teach your dog each time you train him. That way you’ll get the most out of each session, and won’t become confused. Make sure all members of the family use the same command for the same behavior. You may want to create a list of commands that your dog is learning and pin it to the wall, so everyone can become familiar and re-read them as needed.

Use shaping. Sometimes you dog won’t learn the right behavior straight away. It’s fine to reward a behavior close to what you want him to do, so he gets the general idea. From there, you can then only reward behaviors that are closer to what you want him to do.

There are dog training clubs in most regions that would only be too happy to help you train your dog. If you’re having trouble with training, do contact them before things become too bad.

Leash Training

In many areas, the law requires you to walk your dog on a leash. Leash training should start straight away when you bring your dog home. Depending on their background, older dogs may take a longer time to become used to wearing a leash, but all dogs can learn to behave nicely while they are being walked.

Dogs are like people in that some learn faster than others. Don’t be frustrated if your dog takes a little while to learn to walk on a leash, just continue your training and he will get there. Never hit or yell at your dog while he is learning, and don’t jerk on the leash, it wont help him learn any quicker.

There are many different types of leash and collar combinations available. Most dog trainers recommend a flat fabric leash which is comfortable to hold, and one that is four to six feet in length. Use a flat collar on your dog when you are training him; choke chains or prong collars can be harmful in the hands of inexperienced trainers.

If you own a particularly boisterous dog, you may want to try a head halter. These have a combined loop around your dog’s muzzle and collar around his neck, and will gently control his heat as you train him. It’s similar to a halter that is used to walk a horse.

There are five main steps to getting your dog used to being on a leash.

1. Put the leash and collar on him, and give him his meal. The leash is unlikely to bother him as he eats, and he’ll also start to associate the leash with something enjoyable.

2. Let him walk around the house with the leash attached, so he gets used to feeling a little weight on him. Take him outside into your yard as the grass will offer more resistance as he pulls the leash around.

3. As your dog walks around dragging the leash, occasionally pick it up and walk beside him, so he gets used to you being near him. Keep it positive, with praise and treats as he walks.

4. When your dog is comfortable having the leash on, use a treat to encourage him to walk with you. Most trainers teach their dog to walk on their left side. This is just convention, and there’s no reason not to walk your dog on your side if it’s more comfortable for you.

5. As your dog becomes familiar with you walking with him on leash, he may try to surge ahead. If he does this, do a quick clockwise turn, encouraging him around with you and rewarding him when he is again beside you. Again, short but frequent sessions are most productive, and your dog will soon learn that he needs to walk next to you to earn a reward.

Training your rescue dog is an investment in your future together. It means that you’ll avoid the stress of a badly behaved dog, and he’ll have the security of knowing what’s expected of him. Training is also a good opportunity to give your dog the kind of mental exercise he needs to thrive. Best of all, training is a natural bonding opportunity, where you can demonstrate leadership and your dog can learn to become comfortable following your lead.

Adopting a Rescue Dog – The First Seven Days
By: Dr. Susan Wright & Misty Weaver

Exercising Your Rescue Dog

If you take home a rescue dog, you are committed to meeting all his needs. That includes his need for exercise.

Lack of exercise can lead to obesity, heart disease and poor muscle tone. It can also lead to behavioral problems because your dog hasn’t expended its excess of energy, and is bored. A dog who gets enough exercise is more likely to be calm while at home, and tends nor to be anxious when he’s left on his own.

If you spend time exercising your dog, you’ll have a lot of fun together and improve your relationship with him.

Before you start any exercise program with your dog, have him checked by your veterinarian to make sure there’s no reason you can’t increase his activity level. He may need to lose a little weight first, or he may be too young to do too much physical activity. Keep an eye on the weather – dogs don’t sweat like we do, and can suffer from heat stress in warm conditions.

How Much Exercise Does Your Dog Need?

Don’t think for a minute that owning a big backyard will mean you dog will get enough exercise. Dogs tend not to exercise themselves, and will lie around waiting for you to be active with him.

Different breeds, and in fact different individual dogs, have different exercise needs. Some dogs are happy with a walk every day. Others, especially the working breeds, need a lot more exercise to be satisfied. Aim to give your dog at least one exercise a day, and target the type and amount of exercise to his individual needs.

Your dog is telling you he’s had enough when is panting heavily, and no longer actively participating in the activity. He may no longer bring back a ball, or he may lie down under a shady tree during your run. Be watchful for these signals because over-exercising him when he’s tired may lead to injury.

Methods of Exercising Your Dog

There are many ways of exercising your dog, and you’re sure to find one that you also enjoy.

Walking. Keep your dog on a leash as you walk, for his own safety. Walking is a healthy activity for both of you, and is a great way to unwind at the end of a busy day. You may find, depending on your dog, that you can’t walk far enough to tire him out. If that’s the case, you may need to take up running or biking with him, or play with him when you get home.

Running. You don’t need to run long distances to use up your dog’s energy. Again, keep him on a leash and when you are starting, stick to grass, sand and other soft surfaces until his pads toughen. Dogs are like people in that they need to build up to a distance, so use a walk/run program such as the Couch to 5k (www.c25k.com) with him, until he is fit enough to go further.

Cycling. You can purchase accessories for your bicycle that hold your dog’s leash as you ride. This allows you to run your dog longer distances than you may be able to go on foot. Your dog will need some time to get used to being close to your bike, so spend a few days just riding up and down your sidewalk before you venture further afield. This is an advanced skill to take your time.

Swimming. This is particularly good for dogs with sore legs, because they can exercise without putting any weight on them. Your dog can swim in the ocean or a poll, and it will also keep him cool as he works out.

Retrieving. Playing fetch is a great option if you prefer not to exercise yourself, or if your dog needs to burn up a bit more energy after a walk. Your dog can fetch a ball or other toy, for as long he wants or as long as you’re prepared to throw it for him. You can teach your dog to play Frisbee with you, and this is a great party trick for when you go to the beach. Whatever you play with, keep your throws low and don’t allow your dog to leap in the air to catch his toy, particular on hard surfaces. This is a recipe for knee injuries.

Dog Sports. Dog agility, lure coursing and flyball are fast sports that keep a dog physically and mentally in great condition. There are clubs all over the country, and both you and your dog will have a lot of fun training and competing in these sports. They are particularly good for improving your mental connection with your dog, and a great way to build your relationship.

Exercising Your Dog’s Mind

Dogs are intelligent creatures, and need mental stimulation to avoid boredom related behavioral problems. You can play fun games with him to keep him thinking; alternatively consider purchasing toys such as the Buster Cube. You can put his kibble into this cube, and he will spend hours working out how to get it out.

Other fun games include:

Find it – take one of your dog’s favorite treats, and hide it in a room. Tell your dog to “Seek” and encourage him to search for his treat. You can also hide his favorite toy, but make sure you let your dog play with the toy before you hide it again. This will keep him interested in it for next time.

Tunnel game – make a tunnel out of large cardboard boxes and encourage your dog to go through it.

Find your dinner – hide the kibble for your dog’s dinner in your backyard and help him scrounge around until he finds it. This can keep him busy for quite a while.

Pick a bowl – put a treat under one of three bowls and see if your dog can sniff it out. Watch him try and turn the bowl over to get at the treat.

It does take time and effort to exercise your dog’s body and mind, but it’s worth it. A tired dog is a happy dog, and is much less likely to into mischief.

Adopting a Rescue Dog – The First Seven Days
By: Dr. Susan Wright & Misty Weaver

Feeding and Toileting Routines for your Rescue Dog

Dogs are creatures of habit, and are happiest when they have a familiar schedule or routine to follow. This needn’t be cast in stone, but in general, they should fed and walked at a similar time each day.

There are two main areas in which you should establish routines for your dog: feeding and toileting.


Frequency of meals: How often should you feed your dog? In the early stages, you should feed him as often as the staff did in the shelter. That may be once a day, or twice a day. By doing this, you reduce the chance of diarrhea associated with a change in feeding regimen.

Most people prefer to feed their dogs twice a day. Your dog may already be on this schedule, or you may want to change from a once daily meal to feeding him twice daily. If so, for the first few days divide his meal so that he gets most of his food at the usual time, and only a small amount for his second meal. Over the course of seven to ten days, gradually even out the amount he is being fed so that eventually, he is having two meals a day.

Give your dog only ten minutes to finish his meal, and remove any leftovers. If he doesn’t want it, he has been given too much. Overfeeding him will lead to obesity and its associated health problems: arthritis, heart disease and diabetes.

Similarly, don’t leave food out for your dog to have an all you can eat doggie buffet. This too will lead to excessive weight gain.

Young puppies may need three meals a day, until they are three to four months old.

What to feed your dog: Again, feed your dog the same food he was given in the shelter, to avoid diarrhea. Gradually transition to your preferred food over the course of seven to ten days, by increasing the amount of his new food and reducing the amount of his old food each day.

When it comes to dog food, you get what you pay for. Cheap foods have a higher cereal content, whereas more expensive foods have higher quality ingredients with more meat content. The more pricey foods are also highly digestible so you need to feed them less, and they produce less feces. You don’t need to buy the most expensive food, a kibble that is middle of the range is fine. You may have to experiment a bit to find one you like.

After meals, let your dog rest for an hour or so. Don’t run around with him, or take him for a walk. Dogs, particularly those with a deep chest, are at risk of bloat if they exercise too soon after a meal, and this can be life threatening.

How much to feed your dog: The feeding guide on the bag of dog food is a good starting point when it comes to working out how much to feed your dog. However, it is only a guide. Watch your dog, and adjust how much you feed him based on his body condition.

You should be able to feel your dog’s ribs as you run your hands over his body. Also, his abdomen should be tucked up. If he’s a bit curvaceous, cut back on the amount you are feeding him.


Many people associate treats with love – they give their dogs a yummy snack to show them how much they care. This can be killing them with kindness, as many dog treats are high in fat. Instead of showing your affection with food, why not give him some extra attention or play time? He’ll appreciate that just as much.

If you want to give your dog a treat, keep them from when you want to train him. Your dog will quickly learn to sit, drop and stay if there is a delicious reward for him.


In America, over 90% of dogs live inside the home with their family. This means that if you rescue a dog, you’ll have to go through the same toilet training procedures that you would if you had a puppy. This will ensure he learns exactly where you want him to go to the toilet.

Most dogs are fully toilet trained within a matter of weeks, however it can take longer if he has developed bad habits in the past. Having a regular feeding schedule will allow you to better predict when your dog needs to go outside, and will reduce the risk of accidents.

For quickest results, follow these simple rules for toilet training your dog.

1. Never punish him if you catch him going to the toilet in the wrong place. This will only teach him that he mustn’t be caught, and he will become more secretive in his toileting habits.

2. Don’t punish him if you come home and find an accident. He won’t connect your anger with his toileting, and it won’t teach him anything. Not only that, it will teach him that you are someone to be feared.

3. Never leave your dog unattended inside. Keep him on a leash and bring with you wherever you go. If you see him sniffing and looking like he needs to go to the toilet, take him outside to his toilet area, and praise him enthusiastically when he goes.

4. If you can’t watch your dog, confine him in his crate. Dogs don’t usually soil their den, so he’s not likely to go to the toilet there. Make sure you take him outside regularly and praise him for toileting in the right place.

5. If you life in an apartment, you may prefer to use pre-treated toileting pads which encourage your dog to go to the toilet on them. If so, the training technique is the same.

6. When your dog is reliably toileting in the right spot, you can start to add a verbal command to this behavior. As he goes to the toilet, tell him to “Do your business” or “Potty”. It won’t take long for him to associate the word with going to the toilet, and you can then use the word when you need him to go in a hurry, such as before bed time.

7. Make sure you take him outside to go to the toilet even if it’s raining. He needs to know that he must go outside to the toilet, whether or not the weather is bad.

Dogs feel most secure when they can predict their daily routine. Initially, work out a schedule and be prepared to adjust it in those first few weeks with a new dog. It won’t take long until you have a routine that suits both you and your dog.

Adopting a Rescue Dog – The First Seven Days
By: Dr. Susan Wright & Misty Weaver

Settling Down Your Rescue Dog for Bed Time

You and your new dog have survived your first day together, and it’s now time for you both to go to bed. You can expect your dog to be a little unsettled during his first night in his new home.

Where should your dog sleep? It’s a good idea to allow him to sleep in your bedroom, so you are close to him should he need you during the night. You can either make him a comfortable bed in his crate, or tether him to the one spot in your room. That way he’s not allowed to wander the house at night, which can lead to toileting accidents or destruction of shes and other belongings. Don’t allow him to sleep in your bed in these early days, until he is well aware of his position in the household pack.

As an alternative, you may wish to put his crate in another part of the house, or confine him to a separate room such as the laundry room. Whatever you do, don’t leave him to his own devices in your home.

Feed your dog a few hours before it’s time to go to sleep, so he doesn’t have an uncomfortably full stomach.

Just before bedtime, take him for a walk, or play ball with him so he is quite tired. That way he’s more likely to sleep well, and will be less concerned about being in a strange place.

Make sure he has been to the toilet so he’s comfortable at bed time.

Night Time Whimpers

It’s not uncommon for dogs to cry at night if they’re a bit afraid or uncertain. This will as he becomes more comfortable in his new environment. Also, if your dog is young, he may not have a very big bladder, and he may need to go outside for the toilet.

If your dog is crying for attention, you can reach over and calm him briefly with a quick pat. However, don’t overdo it, or he will keep on whimpering. If the noise continues, you can tell him to “Be quiet” in a firm but gentle tone. You may have to ignore any further crying, so he learns that whimpering doesn’t get him the attention he wants.

Make sure you are consistent with your reaction to his whimpering. There’s no point in patting him when he cries one night, then ignoring him the next. That will only confuse him, and he’ll take longer to learn what you expect from him at night time.

The Next Morning

When you wake up in the morning, take your dog straight outside to his toilet area, and praise him when he goes to the toilet. This will help him learn where his toilet area is, and quickly teach him not to go inside the home.

Having a new dog in your home isn’t a lot different than having a new baby. They both can be noisy at night, and they both need patience and understanding. It won’t take long before your dog is settled and you can again enjoy an unbroken night’s sleep.

Adopting a Rescue Dog – The First Seven Days
By: Dr. Susan Wright & Misty Weaver

Introducing Your Rescue Dog to the Home

When you bring your new dog home from the shelter, it’s a day for celebration. However, look at things from your dog’s point of view. He has left a busy, noisy environment and is traveling in a car with people he doesn’t know to a place he doesn’t know. It’s no surprise that he may be a little scared and anxious.

Plan to bring him home on a weekend, or at a time when you can spend a day or two with him. Don’t bring him home then go off to work the next day. He’ll need you there to make him feel secure in those first few days. It’s also not a good idea to have too many people there to welcome him. It may be quite overwhelming, so ask your friends and neighbors to give him a few days to settle in before they come visiting.

Before you actually take your dog inside your home, go for a long walk with him, to relieve some of his excitement and nervous energy. This will make his introduction to his home and family a little calmer.

Introducing Your Dog To Your Home

Your dog should be treated as a member of your family, so bring him inside to live with you. Don’t leave him outside without anyone to keep an eye on him. It will take a little while for him to realize this is his home, and until then, he may try to escape.

Don’t give him the opportunity to destroy things around the home. Make sure you tidy up and pick up anything that a dog may want to chew. Stay with him as he explores his home, and don’t leave him to wander unattended.

Give him some time to get used to his new environment, and the people in it. You may find that, until he relaxes with you, he may be a bit reserved. However, once he settles in, he’ll become much more outgoing. He may actually go too far, just to test his boundaries. This is when you need to be firm, gentle and consistent, so he learns the rules of your household.

Give your new dog the opportunity to have some time out if he’s looking a little overwhelmed. Allow him to retreat to a place where he feels safe, and ask your family members to leave him alone. He might just need a little time to regroup, and he’ll be back to play again very quickly.

When you are introducing your dog to new people, make sure they have lots of delicious treats. Your dog’s first impression of your family and friends should be positive. Allow the dog to make the first approach, and give him a treat. Don’t try and pat him straight away, allow him to sniff you and explore you, all the while treating him generously.

Introducing Your New Dog to Your Old Dog

Dogs can be quite territorial, so you need to handle this introduction carefully. Your old dog may see your new dog as a threat, and feel the need to defend his home turf. Make sure you pick up any bones and toys from around your home and yard, to reduce the likelihood your existing dog will want to guard his things.

If your old dog is well socialized and has had some obedience training, there’s not likely to be a problem. However, follow these steps to make the introduction go as smoothly as possible:

1. Try to introduce the dogs on neutral territory. Go to a dog park or a neighbor’s yard, so there is no territorial behavior to get in the way, however make sure it is fenced. If possible, to gauge their reaction to each other. Make sure you have a helper to manage one of the dogs, should there be a problem.

2. Have both dogs on a secure collar (not a choke collar or a prong collar) for the introduction. A Gentle Leader or other head halter is a better idea still; you’ll have much head control than with a collar.

3. Relax. Dogs are very good at picking up on your mood, and if you’re nervous, they’ll think there is something to be nervous about. This can make them tense, and increase the risk of hostility when they meet.

4. Allow one dog at a time to walk over the other, and let them approach the other dog in his own time. You can expect them to sniff each other’s bottom when they meet; try to avoid tangling their leash so you still have control over their heads. If there is any hostility; tell the cranky dog to “Settle down” in a calm, firm voice.

5. Most dogs are quite happy to have a new friend, but some may want to squabble. If there is a fight, don’t pull the dogs apart by the leash. The leashes will probably get tangled up, and pulling them won’t have much effect, except perhaps to pull the dogs closer! Each person should grab one dog by the hind legs and pull them apart. If there is going to be hostility, you may need professional help to teach your dogs to live in harmony.

6. When your dogs begin to relax around each other, let go of the leashes, but don’t take them off yet. That way you can still grab them if you need to. At this point, take them home, but keep the leashes on. You may find that there are tension that did not arise while at the neutral territory.

7. It’s important to feed your dogs separately, at least for the first few weeks until you can ascertain that they’re not going to be protective of their food.

Dogs are pack animals, and enjoy having a canine playmate. By carefully introducing them, both dogs will happily share your home with each other.

Introducing Your Dog to Your Children

Dogs and children make the best companions. If fact, your children may have played a large part in your decision to get a dog. They can also help to take care of him, and this will encourage a close bond between them.

Education. Teach your children about how to safely interact with your dog. Show them how to stroke him gently. Teach them how to recognize when your dog is saying, “Leave me alone,” and make sure they don’t annoy him when he is in his crate, or den.

Supervision. Never ever leave any child alone with a dog, no matter how much you trust them both. The best behaved dog is quite capable of snapping at your child if he is hurt, and most dog bites to children are inflicted by their own usually loving family pet.

Involvement. Children are quite capable of helping to take care of your dog. It gives them a sense of responsibility, and it relieves you of some of the workload. Make sure you give your child a chore that’s appropriate for their age and ability. For example, a younger child is able to brush your dog, but it isn’t safe to allow them to take your dog for walk.

Possible Problems

Even a housebroken dog can make mistakes, particularly when they’re stressed. Don’t get angry at your new dog if he has an accident, and certainly don’t punish him. This will only make him afraid of you, and this is no way to start your relationship. Take him outdoors regularly, and praise him when he goes. It won’t take long for him to learn where he can go to the restroom.

Shelter dogs may crave attention, and they may jump on you or nudge you for cuddles all the time. Don’t give in, or he will learn that this is an acceptable way to behave. Ignore this behavior, and he will ultimately give up. Having said that, he does need attention so make sure you him cuddles, but on your terms.

If your dog is a little fearful or aggressive when he arrives at your home, don’t molly coddle him to make it all okay. This is inadvertently rewarding this behavior, and you’ll be making him more likely to continue to be frightened or cranky. If this behavior persists, seek professional help.

Don’t punish your dog if he misbehaves; he may not yet have learned what’s expected of him. Punishment now will also make your dog afraid of you, and is no way to build a close relationship with him. You will need to build up a little more trust before you can use a correction as part of your training. Instead try and redirect negative behavior, showing the dog what they should be doing instead of focusing on what they should not be doing.

You must be committed to spending time to help your dog settle into your family life. You’re setting the stage for your future together, so teach him your rules, give him time to adjust, and you’ll have a best friend for life.

Adopting a Rescue Dog – The First Seven Days
By: Dr. Susan Wright & Misty Weaver

Choosing Your Rescue Dog

It’s time!

After the hard work of considering whether or not you can care for a dog, and preparing for his arrival, it’s now time to go to the shelter to choose your new dog.

Before you go, remind yourself of the decisions you’ve made regarding your new dog’s breed, size and grooming needs. Animal shelters are full of dogs with soft brown eyes and wagging tails who would absolutely love to come home with you. It’s important to avoid being swayed by emotion when you see them. Remember, the lifespan of the average American dog is 12 years. That’s a long time to love with a dog that just doesn’t fit your family, and the last thing you want to do is to take him back to the shelter where he came from.

Go to the shelter when you’re not in a hurry, so you can take as long as you need to find your new family member. If possible, take your family with you. If you’re not very experienced with dogs, you may want to take a friend who is more knowledgeable, so they can offer advice.

Your first port of call on arriving at the shelter is to meet the staff. Chat with them about your lifestyle, and what you’re looking for in a dog. The staff at good shelters will be pleased you’ve taken the time to do this homework, and will gladly help you choose the right dog for you. After all, they don’t want to see dogs returned to them because they didn’t fit in with their adoptive family.

Meeting the Dogs

Walk around the shelter with the staff member, and watch how the dogs react to you. Take note of the ones that meet your criteria. Don’t consider any dog that shows sings of aggression; these dogs need a handler with experience in dog behavior and training. Similarly, very timid dogs take a lot of work, and should only be adopted by knowledgeable people with lots of time to invest in them. Ideally, look for a dog that readily approaches you and appears friendly and outgoing.

Ask the staff member for their opinion on which dogs may suit your family. They have been caring for these dogs, and will have an understanding of their personality. They can give you insights that may affect your choices. Check back through your list of desired criteria and eliminate any dog from consideration that have different needs! Narrow down your selection to two or three dogs that seem like they’d be a good match for you.

Spend some time individually with each shortlisted dog, and see how you related to each other. Ask the dog to sit, to see if he knows any basic obedience commands. If possible take the dog out of the shelter for a walk. The shelter is a very unnatural environment with all the excitement created by all those other dogs in close conditions. Once outside the shelter, pet the dog and see how he responds to your touch. Get the dog excited with a ball or another dog and see how quickly he clams down once the stimulus is removed. And see how well he gets on with other members of your family. You aren’t going to be able to tell a huge amount from these interactions, they are very artificial and will not perfectly represent how the dog will behave once they get settled at home, but they may give you some clue of future behavior.

Questions to Ask

Try to find out about the backgrounds of the dogs you are interested in. Ask lots of questions, so you can learn as much about the dogs as possible before you take one of them home.

How long has the been there?

How did this dog arrive at the shelter? Was he a stray, or was he given to them by an owner who could no longer care for him?

If the owner took the dog to the shelter, why did she have to do this? Keep in mind that some owners may not be completely honest about this; they may not be comfortable sharing the real reason with the shelter staff.

Did the dog appear to be abused? Were there any unexplained scars, or was he extremely timid?

Has he already been adopted and brought back to the shelter because he didn’t fit in? If so, do they know why?

Have the shelter staff noticed any behavior problems, such as aggression to other animals or being over protective of his food?

Has the dog met any children, and how does he react to them? What about cats? How does he get on with other dogs?

How is his health? When was his last checkup and were any problems found? What is his vaccination status, is he on heartworm prevention and has been neutered?

The answers to these questions may narrow down your choice, so it’s easier to pick the right dog for your family and at the least you want to make an informed choice. Sometimes more than one dog or none of the dogs is perfect for you, and under these circumstances, it’s a good idea to go home for the night and think it through. It’s quite okay not to take a dog on your first visit to the shelter, and it may even take several visits before you feel confident you’ve made the right choice.

This all seems like a lot of effort, but it’s critical that you do this to make sure both you and your dog end up happy with each other. It is much easier to spend a little extra time finding the right dog for your situation, than spending a lot of time trying to retrain the “wrong” dog so they fit into your situation.

Choosing Your Dog

The hard work has been done, and you’re now the proud owner of a dog who is a great match for your family lifestyle.

There will be a fee associated with his adoption; this is to help cover his feeding and medical care while he was in the shelter. You should receive a pile of paperwork: vaccination records, neutering certificate if he has been neutered, adoption agreement, and microchip records. If you’re not clear about any of the paperwork, ask the shelter staff to explain it to you.

After this has been done, it’s time to take him home!

Many people who adopt a dog from a shelter make their decision based on emotion and cuteness, rather than on research and forethought. This is fraught with danger. Do your homework, take your time and you’ll end up owning the very best for you.

Adopting a Rescue Dog – The First Seven Days
By: Dr. Susan Wright & Misty Weaver

Preparing Your Home For a Rescue Dog

If you have never owned a dog before, or it has been some time since you had a dog in your life, you may need to make some modifications to your home and yard to keep your new pet safe. You may also need to buy a few items so you have everything your new family member needs, before he arrives.

Modifying Your Home

Dogs are great company, and it’s lovely to have them relaxing in your home with you. But, it can be stressful in those early days and weeks until your new dogs becomes familiar with his new environment and learns the ropes. Until then you want to be especially careful to make the house as safe as possible for your dog. The process is very similar to childproofing your home. You want to carefully examine your home for potential hazards for your dog. To make things easier for both of you, here are some guidelines you may wish to follow:

Window Coverings. Look at your window coverings, and take stock of any potential hazards. Long cords may be a strangulation risk, and I know from personal experience that dogs can get tangled in vertical blinds. Those ornate tassels that look so good on your curtains are just asking to be played with!

Furniture. If your dog is going to be welcomed on the furniture, you may want to use a throw or slipcover to protect the fabric. Make sure the throw is made of a washable fabric so it’s easy to launder. Long toenails can scratch leather or vinyl furniture, so keep your dog’s nails well manicured. On the other hand, if your dog won’t be allowed on the couch with you, give him a soft bed that he can call his own. It too should be machine washable.

Floor Covering. Give some thought to purchasing some inexpensive rugs for the floor until your new dog is toilet trained. They may not match your decor, but they can protect your carpet from soiling. You can throw the rugs away when you don’t need them.

Children. If you have young children, keep their toys well out of reach of your dog. Small toys can cause intestinal obstructions if they are swallowed. I have known many teddy bears that have lost and eye when left within reach of an enthusiastic dog. Start reminding your children that they need to be tidy, for the sake of the dog and their toys.

Chemicals. Make sure any household chemicals such as cleaning products, fertilizers, and mouse baits are well out of reach. Some dogs like to chew, and if they decide to chew on these, they may become very sick. Also beware that some foods such as chocolate can be dangerous to dogs, so you want to remove all those candy bowls you have around the house. Your dog and your waist line will thank you.

Preparing Your Yard

Even indoors dogs enjoy a romp in the yard, and the most important thing to check is that your fence is secure. The fence should be high enough so that your new dog won’t be able to jump over it. Make sure that you also walk around the fence and repair any sports where the dog may dig underneath and escape. It’s a good idea to put some chicken wire around the bottom of your fence, and bury the edge inwards. This can help prevent any attempts at escape. If possible also secure the front yard, some dogs have a tendency to bold whenever that front door is opened.

Gather Your Supplies

There are some things your dog can’t do without, and it’s important that you plan ahead and have these ready for him when he comes home. Here are the essentials you should purchase for your new dog.

Leash. A six foot leash is a good size. It should be soft and flexible, and comfortable in your hand. Make sure the clip is secure and easy for you to open and close. Don’t get me started on flexileashes, if you don’t understand why it is a bad idea you may want to think about adopting a gold fish.

Collard and ID Tag. You don’t be able to purchase a collar and tag for your until you have chosen your new pet. However, do plan on buying both before you pick him up from the shelter.

Bowls for Food and Water. Metal bowls and plastic bowls are the most popular, and are very durable. Ceramic bowls are available in many designs and are often more attractive. The drawbacks are that they are usually more expensive, and they break easily.

Bed. There are so many options when it comes to choosing a bed for your dog. If your dog lives indoors, you may prefer a soft comfortable beanbag or a fluffy cushion for his bed. Outdoor beds need to be more weatherproof, so they may not be as luxurious. A metal frame bed with vinyl will last better in sunshine and rain, and still keep your dog off the hard ground.

Crate. Create training is a great way to create a secure spot for your dogs and ease them into home life. Their crate will become the dog’s den, a place where he can have a break from the hustle and bustle of a busy household. It’s also very helpful in toilet training him. When you choose a crate, make sure it’s not too heavy, so you can easily move it to clean underneath. Also, the tray in the bottom should be removable for the same reason. It should be large enough so your dog can comfortably stand up, turn around and lie down. Put a soft bed in the crate so your dog is comfortable.

Brush and shampoo. How much grooming your dog will need depends on the length of his coat. Even the shortest coat will look better after being brushed. At the very least, buy a brush that will remove any loose or dead hair. If your dog has a longer coat, you may need a coat stripper as well. Choose a shampoo that is mild and soap free, so it doesn’t strip the oils from your dog’s coat.

Food. You may have a preferred food you’d like to feed your dog, but make sure you also have the same food that he is being fed in the shelter. Initially, feed him just the shelter food and each day, reduce the amount of shelter food in his bowl and increase the amount of the new food. It should take a week or so completely change his diet. This will prevent diarrhea associated with suddenly feeding him a different food.

Toys. Whether it be tug toys, balls or squeaky animals, dogs love to play with toys. Choose a variety, because until you have him home, you won’t know his preferences. Make sure the toys you choose are strong enough to resist being played with; your choice will depend on the size and strength of your new dog. Also take a look at some puzzle-type toys that will mentally engage your dog. A toys that will exercise the brain is a great distraction if you need to leave the dog alone at home unsupervised for extended periods of time.

Health Care

If you don’t already take your pets to a veterinary clinic, spend some time choosing a veterinarian for your dog. Ask for referrals from friends and neighbors, and make arrangements to go and meet the staff. Remember, this is the person you are trusting with the care of your best friend, and you have to be totally comfortable with your choice.

Make an appointment for your new dog to visit your veterinarian within a week of him coming home. She will make sure that your dog is in good health, and discuss any needed vaccinations, flea medications or worm treatment. Take this opportunity to ask any questions you may have about dog care.

Learn the route to your vet and nearest 24 hour emergency clinic. Program both numbers and addresses into your cell phone, and your GPS. If you are ever unfortunate enough to have an emergency you will be glad that all that information is available at your fingertips. Make sure all family member have this information.

Care and Training

Dogs learn best by repetition and consistency. They need to know their boundaries, it makes them feel secure. Sit down with your family before you bring your dog home, and lay out the ground rules. You must agree on whether any parts of the house are out of bounds, if your dog is allowed on the furniture, and if he can be given food scraps from the table. If he’s not allowed on the couch, but Mom sneaks him up when nobody is looking, he will up feeling confused.

Work out who is responsible for feeding, bathing and exercising your new dog. Find out where and when the local obedience classes are, so you can start training your new dog as soon as he has settled in. You’re much more likely to enjoy your dog if he’s well mannered, and regular training is the best way to achieve this.

It will be a busy and exiting time when your new dog comes home fro the first time. If you are well prepared, you can fully enjoy his arrival, knowing he will have everything he needs to be healthy and happy.

Adopting a Rescue Dog – The First Seven Days
By: Dr. Susan Wright & Misty Weaver

What Kind of Rescue Dog Should You Get?

When you have reached the decision that yes, you are going to adopt a dog, you need to think about what type of dog would be best for your family. By taking time to work out a list of preferences, you’ll reduce the risk of choosing the wrong dog for you. If you adopt a dog that isn’t a good fit for your lifestyle, both you and your dog will be miserable.

The factor to consider is age. Many people adopt a puppy, and enjoy the challenge of raising him to be well behaved, well adjusted adult. They need more frequent meals than an adult dog, they need to be toilet trained and they also need to learn basic obedience commands. This does take time and patience, and if your day is already full, a puppy may not be for you.

You may be better off adopting a young adult. Although you don’t know what sort of training they have had, they are usually not as high maintenance as a pup. Don’t think that there’s no work involved with an adult dog; he will still have to learn to fit in with your family’s lifestyle, and he’ll still need feeding, grooming and exercise.

There are often many “golden oldies” available for adoption. These are dogs who are elderly, and would just love someone to care for them in senior years. They can still offer affection and companionship, but they may only be with you for a short while. Don’t forget that older dogs may have more medical expense, for example pain relief for arthritis, so if you do adopt one of these old souls, make sure you can afford to keep them comfortable.

Here are some other factors to consider when you’re choosing the type of dog you’d like to adopt.

How much yard space do you have? If you life in an apartment, it makes sense to choose a smaller breed. Certainly large breeds may be happy in a smaller home, particularly if they get the exercise they need, but will take up a lot of space. It can be hard to maneuver around a Great Dane all the time if you live in a one bedroom apartment!

How much can you afford to spend on a dog? As we’ve mentioned, large dogs cost more than small dogs. They eat more, and they cost more in worming tablets and flea control products. They’re also more expensive to neuter. Choose a dog that you know can afford to take care of, for the rest of his life.

Do you have children, and how old are they? Children can love a dog to death, and can often hurt them by poking eyes and pulling tails. Most breeds will get on well with children, particularly if they’ve been raised with them from puppyhood. However, some breeds are more protective, and others like to herd and will chase running children. Although these dogs can live happily enough with children, it takes extra commitment and training on your part. You may be better off with a more relaxed dog while your children are young. While we’re on the subject of children and dogs, don’t ever leave a child unsupervised with a dog, and don’t let your child tease or torment an animal. It can lead to tragedy.

How much time do you want to spend grooming your dog? A busy household is much better off with a dog with a short, low maintenance coat. However, there’s no reason not to choose a dog that has a longer coat, providing you’re prepared to invest the time and money into looking after it. A long coat that isn’t cared for can become matted and knotted, and this can be painful. Short coated dogs are also easier to check for ticks and fleas, quicker to brush, and dry faster a bath.

Are you an active person? Some dogs are real couch potatoes, and only need a short walk every day. Other dogs will run for 10 miles with you, then want to play ball. Be realistic about how much time you have to exercise a dog, and choose an appropriate breed. A high energy dog that doesn’t have the opportunity to burn off that energy will be bored, and that’s when you’ll have problems with him digging, barking and even escaping from your yard.

What about temperament and intelligence? Smart dogs, such as those in the herding group, need more than just physical exercise. They also need something to do with their minds, or they can develop behavior problems. Don’t take on one of these breeds unless you can commit to training him, and perhaps participating in a dog sport such as agility. He will be very unhappy, and so will you. A mixed breed which is part herding dog is likely to be just as high maintenance as a purebred.

Pure breed or crossbreed? Either will make a great pet. The advantage of adopting a purebred dog is that you’ll have a better idea of his temperament, trainability and size as an adult. If you’re considering a crossbreed, try and work out what breeds may be in his family tree. That may help give you an idea of what he will grow into, but you may still get a surprise when he grows up.

Male or female dog? If you’re adopting a shelter dog, he will probably already be neutered, so it doesn’t really matter what sex you choose. Both male and female dogs make great companions.

Just as you didn’t rush the decision to adopt a dog, don’t hurry through these questions. Take your time, there really is no rush. The right dog is out there for you.

Adopting a Rescue Dog – The First Seven Days
By: Dr. Susan Wright & Misty Weaver

Should You Get a Rescue Dog?

There are so many good things about owning a dog: companion-ship, protection and unconditional love. Dogs are also good for our health, with research indicating that people who own dogs have lower blood pressure and lower levels of stress hormones in their blood. But owning a dog is also a tremendous responsibility.

If you’re considering sharing your life with a dog, it’s important that you stop and think before you leap into this commitment. A dog should never be an impulse buy, even though it’s hard to resist those soft brown eyes and wet nose, you are adding a living being to your family, a family member that relies on you for their every need. The average lifespan for an American dog is 12 years, and you will need to meet your dog’s every physical, mental and emotional need for his entire life.

Use the month before adoption to consider what you comfortably offer a dog that joins your life. Spending a bit of time to figure out what kind of lifestyle commitments you can make will help you decide whether a dog is right for you at this time of your life, and will help you make better decisions on what type of dogs make sense for your family.

Time Commitment

The first step in deciding whether or not you can care for a dog is to review your time commitments. Do you have a very young children, elderly parents, a needy boss, or some combination therein that take up your every living moment? If so, perhaps it would be better to wait until you have a little more time that you can devote to caring for a dog before you on the extra responsibility.

You need a minimum of an hour a day to provide basic care for a dog. That’s an hour every day, not just on weekends! And remember that figure is a minimum, some dogs will require much more time.

Exercise – there is truth in the old adage, a tired dog is a good dog. A dog with too much energy and not enough to do will find them to do. A medium energy dog will need at least a half hour brisk walk once a day. Higher energy dogs will need longer and more frequent exercise to stay happy.

Training – one of the most common reasons for dogs being euthanized is a “behavior problem”. Most behavior problems can be prevented by appropriate socialization and training, under the guidance of a qualified trainer. This takes a heavy investment of time, particularly if you own a puppy. You cannot let your dog raise himself, be proactive and teach him how you’d like him to behave, and he’s much less likely to develop behavior problems that are difficult to resolve. Training also helps establish leadership with your dog and gives your dog the mental exercise that they need to thrive. Plan on training a puppy for at least half an hour each day, once you have established the basics you can reduce the amount of time spent training or move on to more advanced exercises.

Grooming – the beautiful coat on many long hair dogs requires extensive and regular grooming to avoid knotting and to keep clean. As well as frequent visits to the groomer, you will need to establish a daily routine of brushing you dog’s coat to keep it shiny and tangle free. In some breeds this can take a full hour every day.

Socializing – dogs are social creatures and need interaction to thrive. For most dogs a few moments throughout the day where you share a pat and a few kind words, plus a few longer sessions spent just laying at your feet are crucial to create a deep bond with your dog. Be prepared to spend a lot more time with the dog in the first few weeks as you establish a relationship.

Lifestyle Commitment

If it looks like time is not going to be a problem, think about whether a dog complements your current lifestyle. Think about what you are willing to compromise and what changes would not work with your lifestyle.

Home – is your home one that can accommodate a dog? You will need to understand your neighborhood’s rules regarding the type of dogs you are permitted to keep. If you rent, look through your rental agreement, many leases specifically forbid pets and having to keep your dog hidden away like is no fun and can be stressful. If the dog is going spend time outside, you are also going to want to make sure you have a yard that is securely fenced.

Allergies – do you have any family members who suffer from allergies? A dog may make them itch, sneeze or worse! Consult with your physician to find out if you can comfortably have any breed of dog, and to get some recommendation on the types of dogs that are least likely to trigger your allergies.

Routine – dogs need to be exercised, and fed every day. That means you need to think about whether your family’s routine is conducive to having a dog. Can someone get home every day in time to feed and exercise the dog?

Activity – all dogs need exercise, some more so than others. Are you a marathon runner or a channel surfer? Think about what kind of activity level makes sense for your family. Many people get a dog hoping that will become more active. What this is a good aspiration, it is generally more advisable to become more active before getting the dog!

Keep in mind that your lifestyle may change over the years. You may move to a different home, a different state, or a different country that might make it difficult for you to have a dog. You may have a family. Every dog deserves a forever home, so plan ahead for such changes, so you can be sure that you are able to keep your dog no matter what happens.

Cost of Owning a Dog

Rescuing a dog from a shelter is a wonderful thing to do for you, your family and the dog. But, one big misconception is that adopting a shelter dog is cheap.

Most shelters charge a modest fee for adoption. This fee covers only a small percentage of their costs for food, healthcare, facilities rehabilitation, and care giving. Adoption feeds also help shelters find new owners that are more responsible and prepared for the commitment of adoption a dog. The dogs that are in animal shelters have been examined to make sure they’re in good health before being made available for adoption. The dogs are usually vaccinated, wormed and neutered. In many cases. their temperament has been assessed so that staff can make sure they’re a good fit for a prospective new owner. I know of no breeder in the country that does that! All that is routine and for a fraction of the price you would expect to pay a reputable breeder.

But, the cost of adoption is only a small fraction of the total cost of ownership. According to a 2008 survey by the APPA the average dog owner spent $2,185 per year on dog related expenses.

Here are some of the most significant costs:

Food and Treats ($323) – you will want to feed your dog a good quality dog food in a quantity appropriate for their size and activity level. Costs are of course lower for smaller dogs and higher for larger dogs. In addition you will want to supplement their food with bones, rawhide, and the occasional treat.

Travel and Boarding ($495) – when you vacation you are either going to want to take your dog with you or have someone take care of them for you. If you don’t have the luxury of having a trusted friend or family member nearby that will take care of your dog, a good boarding facility will be a godsend. But, costs add up quickly with daily rates running from $30-$60 per night.

Medications ($137) – most dogs are on medication to protect them against internal and external parasites like worms and fleas. Most of these products are usually dosed according to your dog’s bodyweight and will be more expensive for bigger dogs.

Routine Veterinary ($225) – a yearly checkup along with vaccinations are important preventative care measures to ensure your dog stays healthy and to catch small problems before they become big.

Non-routine Veterinary ($532) – the biggest surprise in these statistics for most dog owners is the cost of non-routine procedures. When illness or accidents strike the costs can add up very quickly. A few x-rays and treatment for a broken leg or your dog swallowing an object can quickly surpass $1,000. You won’t get these costs every year but when these costs strike they can be very sizeable. Non-routine veterinary costs tend to be higher for older dogs. A good health insurance policy will help you absorb some of these expenses, but all policies have caps and deductibles so you still need an emergency fund for health care.

Grooming ($87) – costs associated with caring for you dog’s coat vary significantly by breed. Some short hair dogs need nothing more than an occasional brushing, while some long hair breeds need a standing appointment with the groomer.

Non Consumables ($370) – you dog needs a few basics like a leash, collar, crate, bed, and two bowls. But, are you going to be one of those dog owners that needs to splurge on their dog. This is definitely one place where dog owners could save. And old comforter is just as good as a $200 memory foam mattress from the dog’s perspective. But, if your reality is going to be that buying your dog a new winter coat every season brings you happiness, then budget it in.

Training ($35) – this is one place where we think most new dog owners would be a lot happier if they spent a little more time and money. Especially if your are a first time dog owner, having someone with a bit more experience help you work through the trouble spots will make life together a whole lot more fun.

Rescue Dog Considerations

Finally think about whether you want a rescue dog. Taking a dog from an animal shelter saves a life. Adoption a dog that is a little older and trained will be easier to transition to your home than a new puppy. But, there are some disadvantages that you should be aware of:

First, adopted dogs can come with behavioral problems. A good shelter will do their best to identify dogs with problems, but sometimes they will be apparent when you bring the dog home. For example, a somewhat common problem among abused dogs is a fear of men. Working with your dog to overcome these problems is rewarding, but very challenging.

Second, some dogs will have physical problems. Again the shelter will identify most problems, but often they will latent and you will only discover them when you the dog home or even several years later when the condition becomes visible.

Finally, expect the unexpected. A purebred puppy from a reputable breeder will show variation but will tend to have a body and temperament that are true to type. Shelter dogs have a lot more variation. Ass a veterinarian, I have observed that shelter puppies like nothing more than to mock the predictions of both owners and veterinarians. That little puppy that everyone thought was going to be 30 pounds will be 50. Even grown dogs will surprise you, acting in a very different way once they get settled in at home than they did at the shelter. That shy little lab mix can come out of her shell a become a fiercely protective dog once she establishes her own territory:

So take these few weeks before you make the decision to adopt to think through whether a dog fits with your situation. If you have room in your life for a dog, do consider adopting a dog from your local shelter. You’ll have a loyal companion for life and you will feel good, knowing you may have saved his life.

One place to avoid getting a dog is at a pet store. Some pet stores obtain their pups from puppy mills, where dogs are basically farmed, to obtain pups for sale. In many cases, the dogs are kept in poor conditions and don’t receive adequate veterinary care. Dogs are also often bred with less care to avoid genetic abnormalities that may manifest later in life such as hip dysplasia, a painful condition that occurs in larger dog breeds.

Adopting a Rescue Dog – The First Seven Days
By: Dr. Susan Wright & Misty Weaver