Source: Canadian Pet Connection, by Vanessa

You’ve come to a point in your life where you’ve decided that you want to add a dog to your household. You’ve determined that you want to take the adoption route but that’s as far as you’ve gotten.

The good news is there are many different avenues that will allow you to find your paw-sitively perfect companion. The bad news is there are many different avenues!

At first it might seem daunting to figure out whether to turn left at the Labrador Retriever or right at the Rottweiler cross. But I’ve put together a list of Do’s and Don’ts to help guide you through.

The Do’s

1. Do your research on breeds:

I cannot stress how important this is! You might think that Border Collie’s are the cutest breed you’ve ever seen, but if you’re a very low energy family this probably won’t be the breed for you. When looking at breeds it’s important take into consideration what the breed of your choice was originally bred for and what “group” it falls into under the Canadian Kennel Club guidelines.

So back to that Border Collie that you have your heart set on. Border Collie’s fall into the Herding Group (along with Australian Shepherds, Australian Cattledogs, German Shepherds, and Collies – to name a few.) These dogs were (and still are) bred for herding cattle, sheep and other livestock. Because it is in their instinct to herd you could end up with a dog that will nip at your heels when you walk (as if you were livestock), or a dog that tries to herd people into small groups. And while they are incredibly intelligent and loving, they are also fairly high energy.

For many people they are the perfect type of dog, however if this is not something that you’re prepared to work with then you might want to rethink a herding breed. Do the research for the breed you’re interested in. Find out what it was originally bred for and then assess whether or not that breed will fit in with your family and lifestyle.

Before I move on, I feel as though I should mention that I do in fact have a herding breed. Buster is a two year old Collie/ Shepherd cross. Despite the fact that he nips at my heels, and tries to herd groups of people, I wouldn’t trade him for the world. He’s athletic, smart, and has the most even disposition I could ever ask for!

2. Have a family meeting

Make sure your decision to adopt is something that every member of the family is on board with. Sometimes we get the urge to surprise a member of the family with a new pet, but it’s always better to make sure it’s something that everyone wants to take on. You can make it a family activity by allowing everyone to take part in searching for the new addition!

3. Decide which route you want to take – shelter or rescue

The two most reliable routs of adoption are to head to your local animal shelter or to contact a rescue group.  Go online and take a look at the dogs they have available for adoption. Now that you have a better idea of what breed(s) you might be looking for it will narrow down your search.

It’s important to make sure you’re contacting legitimate shelters or rescues. You’ll know you’ve found a safe organization to adopt from if they can confirm that they have given the dog a health check, have spayed or neutered the dog, and have ensured that the dog is up to date on vaccines and de-wormings. Microchipping is another thing that legitimate rescues and shelters will perform.

Don’t be afraid to ask about their assessment policies. These organizations typically have requirements for the dogs in their care. Often you’ll see that a dog is not suitable for a child under a certain age, of that the dog shouldn’t live with cats. These requirements are the results of a behaviour assessment and are designed to protect your family and the dog.

4. Make an appointment for a ‘new pet exam’ with your veterinarian

Setting up this appointment will give you a chance to introduce your dog to your vet, and allows you to hand over the vet records supplied to you by the rescue group or shelter so that they can create a file for Fido. This visit also gives your vet a chance to make sure the dog is in fact in good health and will give you peace of mind that you have adopted a healthy dog.

5. Find a training school

Taking your newly adopted dog to training school regardless of the age of the dog is a great idea and I recommend it to everyone. Not only will it help you form a bond with your dog but it will give your dog much needed socialization to new situations, dogs and new people. Of course it’s always nice when your dog finishes class and has a new set of commands! I would also like to point out that training classes are just as much about training the owner as they are about training the dog. Trust me – you’ll learn something new every class!


The Don’Ts

1. Don’t expect to take the dog home the day you see it

Shelters and rescues have adoptions policies and procedures that they have to adhere to. It will usually involve filling out a questionnaire and having an interview and can also include providing vet records and being available to have someone from the organization perform a home visit.

This process can take anywhere from 3-7 days. It’s designed to give the shelter or rescue group a chance to determine if you and the dog of your choice would be a good match, and it gives the potential family a chance to process the information given to them by the adoption counsellor. It always gives the organization a chance to get the medical records ready to be sent to your vet.

2. Don’t expect the pet to be adjusted the day after you bring it home

It can take a dog anywhere from two weeks to four months to adjust to his or her new home. This period if commonly referred to as the honeymoon period. In this time frame the dog might not act the way it normally would.  It’s a new house, new rules, a new family… it’s very overwhelming! Give your new friend some air to breathe and to take in his or her new surroundings.

Some things that you might notice right away include excessive shedding, decreased appetite, barking, excessive drinking, yawning when not tired (this is referred to as a stress yawn), and sweating (you’ll mostly see this on the pads of their feet.)

I know how exciting it is to adopt a new dog, it’s an experience you want your friends and neighbours to be a part of. Try to refrain from inviting your entire street over on the first day to meet the new family member. Give your new dog some time to get used to you and your house before introducing a whole new group.

3. Don’t expect a perfectly trained dog

It’s important to keep your expectations at a realistic level. There really is no such thing as the perfect dog. Take the time to work with your dog. Regardless of your dogs age there will be times when he/she does something that you don’t like. Think of it like a marriage and learn when to pick your battles. Practice patience when needed and remember that as smart as your dog is, you cannot reason with an animal!

Happy dog searching!

About the author: Vanessa currently works with The Dog Rescuers Inc., an Oakville based all-breed rescue group. For more information on The Dog Rescuers Inc., visit their website at


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