Now for the fun part… meeting dogs in the fur!
A litter of puppies
If you are looking at puppies, look for one that responds to you without throwing himself at you, and that seems able to calm down after a sudden noise or movement.
Be sure to meet the mother dog. (The father may not live on-site. (In fact, the “father” may be frozen sperm from a dog who has since passed on.) The mother will lose some of her coat’s thickness and luster because her body funnels many of her nutrients to her milk supply. To get an idea of her health, look closely at her eyes. They should be clear and bright. The mother dog should be happy to meet you and not show any signs of nervousness, fear, or aggression. You will also get an idea of how your puppy will look as an adult.
At the shelter
Squat sideways to the kennel and do not look directly at the dog. See if the dog watches you quietly or comes over to greet you. Both are good signs! If you have children, see how the dogs responds to them. Ask the shelter staff to visit with the dog outside and take a little walk together.
At an adoption show
Rescues often have adoption shows at local pet stores. This is a great way to meet multiple dogs and get a feel for their personalities. Often, the person handling the dog is the foster parent, so you can ask all the questions you may have about the dog. Don’t be afraid to ask to walk with the dog a bit away from the rest of the group. (The handler will come with you.) Some dogs are stressed by the adoption show environment and can look a bit antsy, but are perfectly sweet when away from the hustle and bustle. If you are interested in a dog, put in an application and try to arrange a private meeting to get to know the dog better.
A private meeting
Lucky you, a private meetup! Some fosters will do this at their house, or come to your house, or maybe at a local park. This is a great time to see how the dog behaves in a more natural environment. If you are adding a second (or third) dog to your household, this is also the time to introduce the pups and see if they get along. It is often easier to add a dog of the opposite gender. Both dogs should be spayed/neutered.
Consider Your Kids
Your children should not have the final word in your choice of dog. There are characteristics of different dogs that only an adult can understand, so the “cute factor” will only go so far in picking the right fit for your family.
Toy breeds are too delicate for children to hug or carry. Small dogs are more likely to bite if provoked or chased into a corner. Herding breeds may herd children and nip at their heels. Large dogs can scratch or knock over a small child by accident. Dogs bred to be guardians may be great with your kids, but not nice to their friends who come over.
Is your home ready for a dog? Click here to continue the adventure.