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Looking for a Puppy at a Shelter

Going to a shelter to look for your puppy is a noble deed. Even though you’ll feel the temptation to take several puppies home, you can’t. You’ve come for one puppy — your ideal puppy — and if you don’t find him that first day, plan to come back.

Shelter puppies come from all walks of life. Some of the pups’ situations are known, although others aren’t. Many shelters and animal welfare organizations rescue puppies from dire situations and care for them until they’re adopted. Some of these puppies are removed from their mother at an early age (before 8 weeks old) and need special care before they can be put up for adoption. Other puppies are brought in with or without their mom and left at a shelter.

When looking for your pup, talk to the staff. These employees and volunteers all have one thing in common: They love dogs! Here are some questions you can ask:

  • Do you know anything about the puppy’s history?

  • Have you spent time with the puppy? If so, what do you think of his personality?

  • Has the puppy been introduced to children or cats? If so, what was his reaction?

  • Has the puppy been “vetted”; that is, does he have a health clearance from a veterinarian?

  • Has the puppy been neutered? Many shelters routinely alter puppies at a young age or offer you a discount at their clinic.

If you have other pets or kids, you may want to arrange a meeting in order to gauge a potential puppy’s reaction to them. You don’t want to have to bring the puppy back.

Most of the puppies found at a shelter are mixed breeds. A staff member can give you his opinion of the breed, but if you have a friend who knows breeds, you may want to bring him along for a second opinion.

Consider how each breed in the mix will fit into your lifestyle. For instance, if you’re looking for a low-shedding, small- to medium-size dog who will sally up to anyone, pass on the Chow-Akita mix, no matter how cute he looks sitting there in the cage. As an adult, he’ll be large and aloof to strangers and will have heavy shedding seasons.

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