When visiting a shelter dog to adopt question

arkansas_girlAugust 1, 2012

I am trying to adopt a dog either from a shelter or an individual trying to get rid of a dog. I'm wanting to save an unwanted adult dog if I can...there are so many out there!

What I'm finding is that each dog I visit with just doesn't seem to pay any attention of me or acknowledge me at all. Maybe I'm expecting too much but I was really excited about this one dog, he was a very nice dog with ZERO aggression issues which is a big plus for me after owning a dog for 14 years that had aggression issues caused by something that happened to him (presumably) before we got him. *He hated all men and large dogs* I just don't feel a connection from him at all after going and visiting with him 3 rather lengthy visits of walking and petting.

Can someone that is experienced in this please tell me what is normal. Can I even expect an adult dog to pay any attention to me at visits? I just always felt like I'd know it when I found the right dog. OR maybe I just need to keep looking but it's getting frustrating.

Thanks in advance!

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Shelter dogs are often traumatized due to the reasons they are there. And many have learned humans are not always nice to them.

That means they are often very different than if they were in a stable home.

I have two rescues---one because he was so aggressive and uncontrolled he was dangerous. I had him over 6 months before I developed any feelings of companionship for him.

The other is his total opposite---literally the most miserable example of a traumatized, scared, starved animal I have even seen---and I worked for a vet for several years. I never would have picked her---but he did, so home she came.

It took six months to get her rehabilitated to the point she would respond positively to us---and three years later, she is a valued family member.

Other dogs I have had were love at first sight.

So, keep looking and consider the possibilities.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 11:06AM
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I have 2 cockatiels, the male came to us after I had lost another bird that I just adored. He was at a bird store and the way they housed and handled him completely traumatized him. When I was considering on whether I should take him home or not, the store owner flat out told me, "this one won't make for a good pet, he's too aggressive" Well the reason he was like that was because of THEM! I wasn't thrilled with the prospect of an aggressive bird, but decided to rescue the little fella from an uncertain future and I brought him home that day. It surely took a couple of years to get him to the point where we trusted each other, but the nurturing and attention has paid off. He's a fun addition to our family and all though he can still be a bit timid, he's never bit me and he lets me handle him.

My point is, if you like this dog enough to visit it on several occasions, accept him for who he is now and trust that with some kindness, training and a secure environment, a bond will grow. As Handymac says, you may not know what trauma he's been through but it sounds like you could offer the little guy a soft place to land. It may take time, but with patience and consistency, animals can be very forgiving.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 11:24AM
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OK.......I have mixed feelings on this one. Yes, some rescues come with issues of one sort or another and it should not make them unadoptable. They can also come wonderfully house-broken, and with tricks and often are a mixed bag of both sides of the fence. Other than a dog gifted to us, all of my dogs over the course of the last 35 years have been either rescued from the pound, found abandoned and then unclaimed (likely dumped) or rescued from a shelter. A few of them have been the best, most wonderful dogs I have ever owned. Two of them, although I loved them and they loved us, would have been returned or euthanised had we not kept them and dealt with their baggage for their entire lives to some extent.

Here's the thing.....I think you need to question your needs honestly concerning the next dog. I have two suggestions. One would be to go to the link below and consider a cell dog. You would indeed be accomplishing saving an adult dog, but you would also receive a dog who has been worked with, trained, and brought to the point of trust and would be more easily integrated into a forever home. It's a win/win for the dog, the adopter and the inmate who put his/her best side forward for something really meaningful. The next suggesting is that you find a rescue who uses foster families. Nothing is better than having a dog in your millieu to see if a bond forms. If it does, adopt it. I know you can miss some very worthwhile possibilities waiting for a connection to happen, but I did wait.......two years.......for find the cat(s) who connected and they worked out perfectly. I also did the same thing with my dog. I got him sooner than planned after the death of our dog of 16 years, but knew he was the right one when I saw him and got him when the getting was good.

Here is a link that might be useful: cell dogs

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 1:16PM
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I personally have seen amazing personality changes in animals that I have adopted. Some take longer than others depending on what, if any, damage has been done to the animal, but it is often surprisingly short in light of the abuse, neglect or trauma that they've been through. I think animals are amazingly resilient. Given enough time and love, the many that I have had have always learned to trust again. And it's a really, really magical feeling to see that trust develop.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 6:18PM
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As I think back over all the shelter dogs I've owned, I can't remember any of them being excited over seeing me or having me around when I met them. The last three were very aloof and wouldn't even acknowledge me, but I knew in my heart each one was the dog for me. My last dog warily approached me in the greeting room, wouldn't let me touch him and sniffed my foot (I was sitting on the floor), then he started searching for a way out of the room. That dog is now the biggest 'momma's baby' I've ever owned!

What is the breed of the dog you're considering? Is he in a foster home or in a shelter? If he's in a shelter, keep in mind that at this time nothing is normal for him and he's under a lot of stress, so don't expect him to react as tho you're someone to be trusted. Research each breed you're looking at and you may find that some of the responses you're seeing is due to their breed and its temperament.

I never chose a dog by how it reacted to me. There was just something that made me stop at its cage, and then circle back for that second look. If you feel in your heart this is the right dog.......then it probably is.

BTW, have you considered becoming a foster parent? That may be a way to find the dog that is the perfect fit.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 7:36PM
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I believe this dog(black lab mix cute as can be) will make a great dog for the right person but I am going to go with my gut and continue to look more. I believe he is too high energy for us at our OLD AGE. I told my husband we need a toy poodle...HA! I'm afraid my days of owning a big dog are past me...UGH!

Thanks for all the advice!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2012 at 10:08PM
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I downsized too these last times. I went from an Afghan Hound and a rescued greyhound to two 23 pound dogs I got on Petfinder. The Boston mix was very submissive and rolled on his back. He was young, six months old and wasn't abused. I think it was health issue with the first owner. ..Second dog, the pure bred Dachshund, was in a kill shelter in WVA. He was aloof when we met him. He had no visible reaction to the other dog..didn't bark or growl but didn't play. He remained aloof for quite awhile but now is a sweetheart since he knows he's staying.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 2:20AM
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I think that my biggest problem is I just want to save him from being in a cage, my heart tells me to get him but my brain is throwing up too many red flags. He came into the pound as a stray but you don't know really when someone brings a dog in if they are really the owner and just saying "Oh he was a stray" or if he really was a stray and then why...did the owner just move and leave him? He doesn't really have any manners or training although I was told that one of the voluneers had him doing tricks but he wouldn't even sit for me even pushing his rear down. He really needs a good home though so if anyone in youngstown, OH needs a precious dog ;) and is willing to train, he's waiting for his forever home. OH and he LOOOOOVES to go to the walking/bike trail and is good when meeting strange dogs and people. He's about 60# black with a white chest, in perfect health. I touched him all over his body and he just laid there perfectly still and didn't seem like there is any place he didn't want touched.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 7:15AM
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If by some miracle of miracles someone here would be interested in more information about him, I'd be happy to connect you to his guardian. He is not in the pound, he's at a boarding kennel. I forgot to mention he's about 5 or 6 years old, just a vet guess, he's up to date on all his shots and he's neutered. You could email me through the GW site as I've permitted emails. The lady that has taken over his care is an experienced volunteer at the pound and would be very picky about who adopts him :)

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 8:57AM
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My current female, Lily, was left in a fenced in area at a pound in the middle of the night, so they knew nothing about her background. I got her because she and my elderly male dog bonded, though she was almost indifferent to me.

Fast forward and I got another male dog after my old guy passed, the new one (Rocky) is a lover that spins and gets so excited when I walk in the door ... Lily has absolutely changed in the past 2 years since Rocky joined the household.

She now greets me at the door, instead of me going to look for her, and multiple times a day asks for hugs and pets. She is such a different dog, it's just great.

I would agree with the posters that said many of the pets in shelters are traumitized over being in a shelter. I really don't think the amount of time you are permitted to take a dog out of the building to "get to know" it is enough time to actually gage their personality.

Interesting site from calliope ... I'll have to see if there is such a site for NY.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 2:00PM
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spedigrees z4VT

The two dogs I adopted as rescues took 6 mos to a year before they bonded fully with me. Neither was used to living in a house, my current little dog I believe had never been in a house and probably lived on the end of a chain until the rescue took him in, and then he was in a kennel for 3 years. He really had no notion at all of what it meant to belong to a household. I do not believe he would ever fit in most other households. He has post traumatic stress from being abused on a regular basis by a short heavy-set man (he's told me exactly what his abuser looked like by barking the alarm at two unrelated repair men of the same description who came to my house over the past year) and he will sometimes suddenly snap at or bite my husband and myself. We understand that the ghosts in his past cause him to do this, and we understand. We are so happy that he came to live with us and I know he feels the same, but it has been a long road.

I agree that a foster home could give you a better picture of a rescue dog in their care, and also the dog would have been given a crash course in socialization and be further ahead. Still I think that a rescue dog is likely to be feeling lost with the upset in homes, and take some time to bond with you.

An exception might be a dog who has been in a stable home and suddenly lost their owner due to death or serious illness. Even then such a dog may well be in mourning for his previous beloved owner and take time to bond with a new owner.

Even a puppy from a breeder takes awhile to recognize a new owner as his special person. Looking back I think that all my dogs, and cats too, over the years looked upon me merely as a friendly stranger for the first month or so.

Adopting a rescue pet is not instant gratification, but it is a wonderfully gratifying experience to have earned his love and trust over time, and to know what a difference you made in his life.

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 4:46PM
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Please just go to Google and key in cell dogs, prison dogs, etc. There are so many good videos on Youtube. Link to one below to explain the program. My shelter uses this program, and the least likely to be adopted dogs are the ones who go 'to prison'. By they time they get through the programs, they are likely the most adoptable ones as far as obedience, social stimulation, and trust. It's just an excellent option on so many levels. My little Iggy/JR mix was just about to be sent to jail, and would have been a cell dog had I not seen the potential in him and gobbled him up and taken him home.

Here is a link that might be useful: cell dogs

    Bookmark   August 2, 2012 at 4:53PM
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I also wanted to add that if you do decide on a certain breed that you'd prefer, I don't know if you are aware of it, but there are many breed-specific rescues these days. You'd have to do some searching, but they're out there and often will even travel to get the dog to you, or will arrange to have it brought to them by a network of volunteers that do this sort of thing. One of my piggies, Rudy, was in such a bad situation and time was of the essence, so a network of wonderful people brought him to me via a chain that would meet up at various spots along his route from several hours away.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 11:15AM
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Thanks everyone, the cell dog program is incredible!

I've been taking the little guy walking everyday and he is quite a handful but he does so love his walk, loves to meet new people! He is so full of energy after being cooped up all night. He does not want to go back in the pen and tries every trick in the book to keep out of it.

    Bookmark   August 4, 2012 at 7:15PM
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I work at a shelter and can tell you it is very common for them to ignore you in the beginning. A few you'll find are very big attention getters and will be all over you. But most won't give you that kind of affection until you get them home and establish a bond with them by being the primary feeder/walker/giver of all things. Don't get discouraged, when you find the one thats meant to be that lil tug at your heart will let you know. And ask the shelter folks questions, they're there to help! If it was an owner relinquished pet they might even have additional information on how the pet will react in a home setting. Our pet profiles even include a spot for owners to leave their phone numbers incase you have further questions for them.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2012 at 7:00AM
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Thanks Ellusionz, I am just now seeing your post. I did give up on the one dog because I just didn't feel any sort of connection to him. He is now in foster to permanent home so I think he'll be fine. I think mostly I was just so bothered that he was in a cage and the poor guy absolutely hates being in a cage which also makes me fear he would not crate train and he's a chewer too, he chewed up his blanket while there. Though he was a sweet little guy, there were just too many red flags for me and my gut was telling me "NO"! I can't expect to find the right dog on the first visit I suppose.

If you don't mind me asking you since you work at a shelter, is it uncommon for people to come multiple times before finding a dog? In my mind I feel like they are thinking "what's wrong with that woman, can't she just take a dog and save his life?" or something like that...HA!

    Bookmark   August 16, 2012 at 9:40AM
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