Adopting a Shelter Puppy

State-of-the-art facilities and progressive policies help make it easier to adopt a dog or puppy.

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"All our questions are aimed at making a match with the right person," England says. If its a Great Dane puppy and you're in an apartment, its not a good match. If you like to sit and watch television all the time, an active Jack Russell Terrier isn't right for you. You may feel like the counselors are grilling you, but it's an attempt to learn about you so they can help you pick the right puppy.

The Puppies
When you walk into the area of the shelter where the dogs are held, you may be surprised to hear so much barking. "Barking is completely normal," Bunker says. Dogs bark when they see new people, they bark at other dogs, it may be close to feeding time, or there may have been a dog walked through the kennel.

However, the barking can be frightening, especially for kids. "We love for kids to be here," England says. "But barking dogs can be intimidating. If you bring your kids and they're intimidated by all that barking, maybe one adult can wait in the lobby with the kids while the other adult checks out the dogs in the kennel."

Likewise, if you have a particularly sensitive nose, some shelters may have a pungent odor that comes from housing many dogs in a relatively small area. This isn't necessarily a reflection of the care taken at the shelter-some facilities may be older, and despite vigorous cleaning, its sometimes difficult to completely mask the odors. However, the animals shouldn't look sickly or dirty, or have diarrhea, vomiting or weepy eyes.

But how do you decide what puppy is best for you? As well as assessing the puppy's personality (is it active and outgoing, or shy and calm?), also look for one that's healthy. The puppy should be happy and alert with clear eyes and a clean, shiny coat. It should have good muscle mass (you shouldn't be able to see its ribs) and act like a puppy-playful and eager.

If kennel cough is going around, a puppy may have goopy eyes and runny nose, but the shelter should be treating the puppy, so be sure to ask. Kennel cough is a highly contagious upper-respiratory infection that is spread through the air, and is common wherever dogs are housed closely together. 

The Paperwork
Many shelters require potential adopters to show identification and proof of residence. If you rent, the shelter wants to be sure that your landlord will allow a dog of the breed or size you plan to adopt. You'll need to show a copy of your lease agreement or have written permission and contact information from your landlord.

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