At The Shelter

Getting a dog from a shelter is a noble act, but prepare yourself for what can be a sad experience. Decide ahead of time the age range you're looking for and call to see if the shelter has a dog to fit that description. When you go to the shelter, speak to the staff and let them know what physical and personality traits you're looking for—they often know each dog well and can guide you to a dog who fits your description. Here are some other things to do:

1. Find out your candidate's history. If the dog has been abused or neglected, he'll have behavior problems that you'll need to be prepared to work with.

2. If you have or plan to have children or other pets, determine if the dog likes them before bringing him home.

3. Ask about the dog's health. Are there any conditions you should know about?

4. Walk the dog. Try to brush her. Feed her treats. Give her a toy: can you take it from her or does she protect it? If she won't release it or if she growls at you, don't get that dog. These are signs of dominance and aggression that may get worse without professional help.

What is the best age to bring a dog home?

The best age to bring a dog home depends on one thing: whether you're getting a dog or a puppy. A puppy should come home between 8 and12 weeks. If you're getting a dog, you may have a few behavior problems to correct; younger is better.

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