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A puppy dog behind a metal fence

If you are going to your local shelter to pick out the latest member of your happy family, you are headed in the right direction. When you choose to take home a dog from an animal rescue or shelter, you save the life of a precious animal that needs you. There will never be a shortage of shelter dogs that need a forever home.

Now all you need to do is pick out the dog that is right for you. To begin with, first decide what age of dog would best compliment your family. Think about the differences between a puppy, adolescent dog, and a senior dog.


Even puppies have different energy and excitement levels, and varying desires for human interaction. Choosing the right puppy may be more difficult than you think. Consider how big the dog is going to get when it becomes full-grown. Think about what type of coat it is going to have, and how much grooming it is going to require. Consider how much time you have in your schedule to take care of a puppy. If you decide on taking home a puppy, just remember that you are taking a gamble on what the dog is going to be like in the future, no matter how cute and cuddly they are right now.

Adolescent Dog

Many dogs who are brought to shelters fall within this age group. Between 7 and 11 months of age, these dogs are not technically cute and cuddly puppies anymore. These preteens are often full of energy, spirit and enthusiasm. They often become confused due to the fact that they have been abandoned suddenly. Many of these dogs are on their worst behavior in the shelter. If you fall in love with one of them, their life is only going to get better!

Mature Dog

Whether you choose and adult dog or a senior dog, there are many advantages to doing so. Most are already housebroken and know basic obedience commands. Older dogs are generally calm and pleasant to be around. As opposed to a puppy, with an adult dog, what you see is what you get. Their personality, behavior and temperament have already blossomed. Most senior dogs easily adjust to their new homes. An adult or senior dog is often an ideal choice for a senior citizen who is just looking for a calm companion to love. There is no shortage of mature dogs who need to be adopted.

Temperament Testing a Dog

Now that you have an idea of what age of dog would be right for your lifestyle, it is time to see what type of temperament they have. Before we begin, consider this. Animal shelters often have a loud and chaotic environment. This can cause dogs of any age to be distracted. However, this will allow you to get a true, yet exaggerated reading on how the dog is likely to act when they are in your home. When you first meet the dog, is he hyper, shy, defensive or afraid?

If the shelter will allow you to, take the dog to a separate area where you are able to interact with him or her and do a little temperament testing.

  1. After letting the dog or puppy sniff around the area for a few minutes, call out to him and see how he reacts. Then, take a toy or treat in your hand and walk several feet away. Does the dog follow you?
  2. Take a set of keys and begin to shake them behind your back. Then, drop the keys on the floor about 5 feet away from the dog to see how he reacts. Does he remain calm or what exactly happens?
  3. Happily skip around the area. Then all of a sudden, drop to the floor as if you have tripped. Shout out “Ouch!” How does the dog react?
  4. If the dog has passed these tests so far, it is time to see how he enjoys being loved by humans. Begin by kneeling down and petting the dog. If the dog is little or is a puppy, gently cradle him in your arms or hold him gently. If the dog stiffens up, or growls even softly, let go of him. This dog may not be used to being handled by humans.
  5. Next, try restraining the dog with a leash or collar. If he seems surprised or uncomfortable, offer treats or toys. Does he settle down at this point? If he is older than 12 weeks, try leading him on the leash to see if he is already accustomed to it.

Logically, a dog will act more stable when he is in a loving home, but these five tests will give you a good idea of how the dog sees the world around him. Once you find the dog that will compliment your lifestyle the most, it is time to take him home, surround him with stability and love and let your relationship blossom together.