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One of the kindest, most responsible ways to get a dog is to adopt a dog that’s unwanted. Adopting a dog today is quite easy.

Many people don’t want to adopt a dog from a rescue or animal shelter because they think of a used dog like a used car. After all, who wants someone else’s mistake and problem? Not true – when you adopt a dogs life improves immeasureably.

Truth is, most dogs at shelters are wonderful pets just waiting for someone to love them. They’ve ended up at the shelter because of their owners’ divorce or allergies, the owner becoming ill or unable to care for them or moving, a poor match with their owner (for example, a relaxed dog that only wants to hang out on the couch, matched with an owner who wants a running companion), or a hundred other reasons that are not the dog’s fault.

Adopting a dog or puppy can save a life, as many humane societies euthanize dogs that aren’t adopted within a specific period of time. These organizations have a wide range of animals for adoption.

You can adopt a puppy or an older dog, a friendly, active dog or shyer, more relaxed pups. Humane societies and shelters often have purebred dogs and mixed breeds. When you adopt a dogs life is often saved.

How do I adopt a dog?
How to adopt a dog is easy. It’s as easy as going down to your local rescue or shelter, and asking them about their policies on how to adopt a dog. It’s especially easy to adopt a dog in the .com age. You can probably find your local shelter with a quick Google search.

Shelter dogs make some of the most wonderful family pets. At the same time, some shelter dogs end up in shelter or rescue because of serious behavioral problems, such as aggression or biting.

Be prepared to ask a lot of questions, do some homework, and make a carefully considered decision to ensure that you pick the right dog from a shelter or rescue organization.

Questions to ask at a shelter
When you adopt a puppy or dog from a rescue or shelter, be well armed with questions. While most of the dogs for adoption are wonderful pets that are there only out of bad luck (and irresponsible owners), there are a few problem dogs to watch out for. You also need to be able to ask questions to make sure a specific dog is right for you, including questions about activity level and aggression.

What is the dog’s background? You need to find if the dog was a stray roaming the streets, if it was turned in by the owner, if it was abused, or if the dog came their through some other circumstances. Stray dogs may come with problems such as wanting to roam, or not being used to living with people. Abused or rescued dogs may come with some trust issues. They may be fearful or overly submissive or dominant.

Abused dogs can have specific trust issues
I once rescued a wonderful Border Collie (Oreo) from a neglectful, abusive, older man with large glasses and a beard. Oreo was a delightful dog, and friendly with both children and adults, but would bark and try to hide behind me when we’d see an older man with large glasses and a beard. It took a lot of work and almost inexhaustible patience to get her comfortable with men who looked like her old owner. In Oreo’s case, I adopted a dogs fears, along with her wonderful, gentle, nature.

Why is the dog up for adoption?
This is especially important for dogs that have been surrendered by their owners. These dogs may have been too active or aggressive for their old owners or chewed shoes and destroyed furniture. You’ll need to carefully assess if these are issues that you have the skill, patience, and time to adjust.

Always ask the people at the shelter their opinion — they’re well experienced and interested in finding a good fit for both you and the dog. Be especially careful with dogs that are reported to have aggression problems, as you adopt a dogs behavioral problems as part of the package.

Is the dog healthy? Most shelters will not adopt a dog that is not in good health, but you should ask about a veterinarian check-up anyway. Also ask about other health issues, such as hip dysplasia, cataracts, diabetes, or thyroid issues.

You should also ask if the dog is spayed or neutered. If the dog is not spayed or neutered, the shelter or rescue will probably require that you spay or neuter the dog. Don’t automatically disregard a dog with a medical issue that can be easily treated. Such a dog may be a wonderful pet. However, make sure that you can take care of a dog that has specific medical needs.

Is the dog good with children and other pets? This is crucial if you happen to have kids and another dog or cat. You should also ask this question if you don’t have kids or another pet. Your dog will probably see other dogs on a regular basis, and kids are well known for running up and petting strange dogs. The last thing you want is for your dog to be aggressive toward other dogs, or nip at a child.

Rescue organizations Rescue organizations can be excellent places to adopt a dog, whether you’re in the market for a purebred or a mutt. Rescues are often for specific breeds; there are Pug rescue societies, Border Collie rescues, Chihuahua rescues, and so on.

Workers at these organizations often work for free, purely out of love for the animals, so you know they have the dogs’ best interests at heart. If you’re adopting a puppy through a rescue, workers may ask you questions to ensure the dog is getting a good home.

Humane societies and shelters 
Dogs at humane societies are often seen as problem dogs that someone’s dumped off because of bad behavior. Most of the time, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Many of the dogs at these organizations are there through no fault of their own — their families may have been neglectful, someone may have developed allergies, or the family may have had to move. Remember, though, that you adopt a dogs entire history when you adopt the dog, so try to eliminate surprises.

Adopt a dog the .com way
Adopting a dog online is pretty darn easy. Google will lead the way. If you adopt a dog in the .com world, just try to make sure it’s a local adoption. This way, you can see the dog in person before making the choice.

Want more ideas on how to adopt a puppy? My book lists some of the best methods in acquiring either a new puppy or even an older dog.

How to Adopt a Dog
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