PetChat Q & A: Adopting a Shelter Dog

DogtimeMedia : Welcome to PetChat’s first hosted event. Leslie Smith is DogTime’s Senior Editor and is the star of the radio show “Road to Rescue” ,which airs on Animal Radio. As the parent of two adoptive pets, Leslie is here to answer your questions about adopting a dog or cat from a shelter or rescue organization.

LeslieSmith : Hello, pet chatters!

Valentine : Hi Leslie! Thanks for giving us your time to chat

LeslieSmith : My pleasure.

LeslieSmith : The adoption of my own shelter dog, Uno, changed my life.

LeslieSmith : So I’m thrilled to share my experience and knowledge with others…

Dogtimemedia : How did adopting Uno change your life?

LeslieSmith : Well, before Uno, I worked in the corporate retail world. But…

LeslieSmith : After a few months with Uno, I realized I needed to pursue animal welfare full time.

Maggie : Wow, that’s cool

LeslieSmith :I started volunteering at a shelter 2 days a week and then eventually began writing about rescue.

Maggie : How do dogs end up in shelters?

LeslieSmith : So many reasons dogs end up in shelters.Lately, the housing foreclosure crisis has forced many people to give up their pets as they move into apartments or just can’t afford them any longer.But many times these are loving, friendly animals.

Speeeeeeeed : Leslie, you mentioned you adopted your dog, what attributes should one look for in a shelter dog?

Maggie : I was wondering the same thing, how do you know what to look for?

LeslieSmith : The main thing to look for is friendliness.Does the dog come to the front of the kennel when you approach, wag his tail, that sort of thing.

todddog1 : Hi Leslie, can you recommend a dog breed that is good for a small apartment and a big city like New York?

LeslieSmith : Hi Todd. Yes…

LeslieSmith : A greyhound actually makes a terrific apartment dog

todddog1 : Really??? Wow! Why is that?

Maggie : I read the Obama girls want to get a Westie, I bet that would make a good apt dog

LeslieSmith : But there are plenty, check out this list: l

LeslieSmith : Well, greyhounds are actually great big snugglers

LeslieSmith : Even though they’re fast runners, they’re very mellow, calm dogs actually.

todddog1 : Wow! Who knew? Do they need daily running?

LeslieSmith : They do need daily exercise, but even if you’re not an avid runner, you can still ensure yours gets enough through walks, hikes, fetch, etc.

todddog1 : Are there concerns I should have or look for considering that they were bred for speed racing?

LeslieSmith : I would give the same advice… I tell anyone looking to rescue a dog if it’s your first; my advice is to go for a friendly dog as opposed to a shy one.Not that the shy ones are bad, per se, just more work.

Maggie : How do you tell if they’re unfriendly?

Dog fun 45 : Hello

LeslieSmith : Signs that a dog is friendly include readily approaching the front of the cage or kennel, making eye contact, though not prolonged eye contact, tail wagging that is neither frantic nor tucked.

Valentine : Why not prolonged eye contact?

LeslieSmith : Usually prolonged eye contact is a sign of fear and sometimes even aggression.

Valentine : Ahhhh, I see, makes perfect sense

LeslieSmith : It’s a subjective call, and it’s important to look at the dog’s entire body language.

LeslieSmith : If you’re adopting from a shelte r…the adoption counselors can be great resources and may be able to help you “read” a particular dog.

Valentine : Leslie, how long do you think it takes for a rescued dog to fully adjust to home life after adoption?

LeslieSmith : Great question, Valentine

LeslieSmith : Of course, it varies. But I would say that complete adjustment takes about 6 months.Unless the dog is very young, like 14 weeks or younger and then the adjustment period will be quicker.

Valentine : What are some things I can do to help a rescued pet adjust better/faster?

LeslieSmith : Another great question

LeslieSmith : Make sure s/he feels safe in the environment, and by this I mean…establish a routine early on, use positive reinforcement training methods, set boundaries and stick to them and don’t be stingy with praise and affection.

Valentine : I never am!

todddog1 : Hi Leslie, this is Todd, I have a question about adopting cats.

LeslieSmith : Fire away, Todd.

todddog1 : Is there a rule of thumb to look for when considering a cat for adoption?How do I know what their personality will be like?

LeslieSmith : Cats are tougher.This is really when you need to rely on the knowledge of the shelter worker.But, of course you can garner some very rudimentary information from the cat’s initial behavior.

LeslieSmith : Basic stuff. Is she fearful? Does she hide when you approach? Hiss?

todddog1 : Are those all bad signs?

LeslieSmith : Well, if you’re looking for a friendly cat a hider or hisser may not be the cat for you!

LeslieSmith : Again, this is very subjective and shelter workers can give you a more well-rounded assessment.

todddog1 : Any tips I should know for introducing an adopted cat to my current dog and cat?

LeslieSmith : Yes!

LeslieSmith : The main thing is…making sure your cat feels like s/he has an escape route.

LeslieSmith : that is, if she’s frightened or feeling threatened, she knows she can climb to the top of her scratching post

LeslieSmith : a great article, Todd:

Valentine : Leslie, I’ve never adopted before, could you briefly go over the process such as costs, and what I need to bring to the shelter?

LeslieSmith : Usually there’s an adoption fee ranging from $30-$200 a tenth of the cost of buying from a breeder, by the way!

LeslieSmith : And as far as paperwork, many shelters require proof that you own your home OR that you have written permission from your landlord that pets are allowed in your building.

LeslieSmith : If you already have a pet, some shelters require proof that they’re up to date on their shots.

LeslieSmith : No one’s going to ask you for your SAT scores or your high school GPA 🙂

Maggie : what about if I have another pet?

todddog1 : Leslie, I have heard that some shelters pay your home a visit to determine if your home is suitable. Is this normal??

LeslieSmith : You definitely need to bring your current dog to meet and greet any dog you’re considering bringing home.

LeslieSmith : Good question, Todd

LeslieSmith : I wouldn’t say that it’s common but it’s not completely unheard of

Maggie : Wow that’s intense, but I can see why

LeslieSmith : Many agencies…simply want to make sure their animals are going to permanent homes and the animal is not going to be returned after a month or two.

LeslieSmith : Every shelter and rescue group…has their own policy.But the goal is the same: getting as many animals into good homes as possible.

todddog1 : Leslie, do all shelters automatically spay and neuter the pets for adoption?

Speeeeeeeed : When looking into adoption, what cost is associated with it?

Maggie : What if you have a specific breed in mind that you want to get?

LeslieSmith : Good question, Maggie

LeslieSmith : There are specific breed rescue groups for nearly every breed you can imagine

LeslieSmith : You can check DogTime’s breed profiles… rescue groups are always listed at the end of the profile

LeslieSmith : For common breeds, like labs, shelters are usually full of them.

LeslieSmith : Hey Speed…Adoption fees usually run between $30 and $200.$100 to $150 is the average.

Maggie : Will they have all their shots for that amount?

LeslieSmith : Yes, usually. And they should be spayed and neutered as well.They may require more shots as they get older.

Speeeeeeeed : Do rescue/shelter dogs need any additional vet care after they are adopted?

LeslieSmith : Sometimes. But, any responsible shelter or rescue org will let you know of any medical issues in advance.

LeslieSmith : Other than that, you’ll just have to be prepared for the normal medical ups and downs of owning a dog

Speeeeeeeed : Doesn’t sound too bad. Thanks

LeslieSmith : I was just saying that you can expect upset stomachs, ear infections, etc. every once in a while.Diarrhea happens, after all.

LeslieSmith : Thanks for chatting, everyone!

DogtimeMedia : Thank you for participating in our hosted event about adopting a pet with Leslie Smith, Dogtime’s Senior Editor and star of the radio show Road to Rescue