Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Choosing the Best Shelter Dog for You

Adopting a dog from a shelter has a common checklist for different families. Your home, children’s ages, time and energy may all be considered. With so many choices at dog rescues, choosing the right shelter dog is challenging.

Thankfully, you can make an informed decision with some due diligence.

Here are things to consider:

Your Experience Level: 

Some rescue dogs may require unique handling or medical needs. Dogs with a history of physical or verbal abuse need time to acclimate. Neglected dogs may be despondent or very shy.

You should consider how the dog’s history may affect care. Do you have experience handling a dog with temperament issues? Will you have the time and patience to work with a dog reluctant to go on walks? Each shelter dog has vast potential in the right environment.

Hounds for Heroes is an organization that trains many shelter dogs to be valuable companions. Los Angeles Investor Elliott Broidy started the non-profit to match wounded veterans with shelter dogs. Similarly, matching your capacity and time with a rescue dog’s needs is a best practice.

If you simply want a ‘ready to go’ dog, work with the rescue to find a best fit. Many shelter dogs come from good homes. First time dog owners may consider these canines to start with. You can build dog handling skills and perhaps return in the future to adopt a pooch with more complex needs.

Your Activity Level: 

Ripped furniture, barking and anxiety. These are all symptoms of a bored dog. Much like us, dogs have different personalities. While all dogs deserve some fun time, some require more extended activity.

Are you an active person? Determine how much you’re willing to increase or decrease activity levels for the new dog. Ask the shelter staff about what they’ve observed. You will avoid frustration by picking a dog that matches your energy level.

Your Family: 

Children and dogs are often best friends. Cute baby and dog photos draw raves on the internet. However, young children may tug a dog’s ears or innocently antagonize a pooch. This behavior should be cautioned with any dog and some education may be needed.

Sit down with your children BEFORE bringing a dog home. Set firm rules on what is acceptable.

Tip: Framing rules in a child’s perspective is helpful. Ask ‘Would you like it if someone pulled your ears?’ This helps children understand what is being asked of them.


Dogs enrich our lives in many ways. You will provide a loving home for the right dog with simple preparation.

A How to Guide on Fun Ways to Bond with Your Dog

Spending time with our dogs is a highlight of the day. Being greeted by wagging tails and wet noses melts away stress. However, the routine joy our pups bring us does not have to be standard.

There are fun and easy ways to increase the bonds with our dogs. Changing up our activities has benefits on several levels. These include:
  • More Effective Training 
  • Home Health Checkups 
  • Increased energy and happiness for both of you 
Here are some tips to add variety and fun to your dog’s life. (After all, it’s all about them!)

Walk Different Locations and Routes:

The daily walk is a staple dog activity. Walks provide valuable exercise and the chance to socialize in ways home life does not offer.

You can maximize these benefits by walking different places. Consider parks or outdoor malls where the sights and sound are new. Go for a ride and roll down the windows in route to a new location. Your dog’s keen senses will anticipate the fun, as he gets anxious to see what lies ahead.

At minimum, walk a different route in your neighborhood from time to time. This could be simply going left out of the driveway instead of right. You will likely notice increased alertness and energy. The benefits often carry over back at home.

Many dogs are more calm and attentive after a unique spot has been explored. The mental stimulation is also an effective training tool. Hounds for Heroes trains service dogs using similar techniques. Founded by Philanthropist Elliott Broidy, the non-profit matches wounded vets with service animals.

Tip: Walking in new places may overcome walk reluctance. This varies from dog to dog, but a change of scenery could motivate your pup to walk more (or simply get started)

Credit: Humphrey the English Bulldog (Writer’s Dog)

‘Let’s try a new place. I’m sick of the same old bench.’

Dog Massage: 

Massages are an easy way to improve your dog’s health and increase pet/owner bonds. The benefits of massaging your dog include: 
  • Reduced Joint Stiffness: This may also encourage you dog to walk more. 
  • Improved Circulation: Tied to joint stifness with similar benefits. 
  • Strenghtens Bonds: Massage is an interactive activity.
  • Home Health Check Up: In a relaxed state, you can examine the coat, skin, mouth, eyes and ears in ways usally not possible. You will also become familiar with how the dog feels to your touch. This helps you notice if subtle changes take place. 
Each dog/owner duo has different schedules. The key is to pick a time where your dog is calm and accepting. For instance, immediately before or after a walk is not preferred in most cases. Some ideal times for doggie massage could be:
  • Before or after sleep 
  • Cool down periods after walks. About an hour or so when the adrenaline rush is dropping. 
  • Before potty breaks. Your dog can expel toxins released by the massage afterwards. 
Make sure to overestimate your strength during the massage. DO NOT apply any pressure or touch your dog’s spine. Avoid using treats to lure your dog for a massage. He or she will simply expect more treats instead of sitting calmly!

Here’s a checklist for effective dog massage:
  • Softly rub under the chin and rub the cheeks with small circular strokes. 
  • Gently rub fingertips up and down 2 inches AWAY from either side of the spine. 
  • Rub between the paw pads. 
  • Gently flex front and back paws. 

Increasing the health and happiness of our dogs doesn’t have to be expensive. We can simply invest a bit of time for much stronger bonds.

So, You Taught Your Dog to Roll Over

If you taught your pet to roll over, shake hands or play dead, don't go spraining your shoulder patting yourself on the back.

Check out what this guy did!