How to Pick Your New Best Friend (Part Two)

Adopting a Dog and Avoiding Disaster Part Two of Two

Temperament testing

Performing a temperament test is not difficult. I highly recommend you take the time for this.

In the last post we discussed some of the steps toward avoiding mistakes when picking a dog from a shelter. Here is the next step.

Once you have found a dog that you are interested in there are a series of tests you can preform that will let you know if this dog may truly be right for you.

Approach the kennel:

You are looking for a dog that greets you in a friendly, outgoing manner. Avoid any signs of aggression, shyness or a dog that ignores you.

Next ask the shelter staff for a quiet area to take the dog. If you have a choice of an indoor area this would be preferred.

Ignore the dog

Once there, ignore the dog for a minute or two and watch his behavior. What you are looking for is a dog that approaches you. Jumping can be corrected later. Dogs that ignore you are of concern. A dog that shows any signs of shyness may be a dog that you want to avoid. At this stage a dog that shows any sign of aggression would definitely be avoided considering you are doing nothing at this point to provoke or intimidate the dog.

Make eye contact

After a couple of minutes bend down slightly in front of the dog and make eye contact. What you are looking for is a dog that approaches you. What you are concerned with is a dog that moves away or shows any signs of aggression including barking at you.

Pet the dog

Approach the dog if he is not already near you and grasp his collar. Gently pet the dog several times on the back beginning at his neck all the way to his tail. Pause a few seconds in between. Does he enjoy this or does he become uncomfortable? This test will show you how much physical contact the dog has had and how much he will tolerate.

Kneel next to the dog

Crouch down next to the dog and continue petting. Does he become uncomfortable or overly excited? Unless the dog shows aggression at this point all other actions can be modified with training.

Important Tip: Any time you are near a dog’s head that you are not familiar with always keep your face slightly turned away. This will avoid being bitten in case the dog lashes out for any reason.

Touch the feet

While bending next to the dog reach down and handle the dog’s feet for a couple of seconds. This will tell you how much the dog has been handled and what you are in for trimming nails and removes stickers.

Walk the dog

Hopefully the shelter staff will allow this. Any signs of pulling on the leash again can be corrected with training. What you are looking for here is how the dog reacts to distractions. Does he shy away from cars or perhaps he shows you he would rather chase cars? How does he handle outside noises?

Prey drive or ball drive

Bring out a tennis ball. First, act excited and attempt to motivate the dog. We are trying to see if he will show interest. Once he sees the ball, toss it. Not too far. If he goes after the ball and brings it back this is a very good sign for future training. If he goes after the ball and attempts to possess it, you may be concerned with object aggression. This too can be corrected with training however if you have small children I would consider this a red flag for adoption.

Treats

Take a treat like a piece of hot dog and hold if above the dogs head and ask him to “sit”. If he doesn’t take the treat it may be because he is stressed. If he shows interest in the treat this is a great sign because you know the dog has food motivation and will be much easier to train.

Introduce the dog to your children

If all has gone well to this point now bring in your children. They should sit quietly and let the dog approach them. The best possible scenario is the dog showing interest and approaches the children for affection. Again, we are looking for any signs of aggression. Be sure the children do not pursue the dog. The dog is allowed to approach the children for attention.

I know that this is a lot of work but please consider that you are adding this dog to your family for hopefully years and years to come. It’s nice knowing what you are in for right from the beginning. You will feel much better about your decision if you take the time from the start to ensure this is the dog for you.

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