This spring I finally got the dog of my dreams when I was able to adopt Sabor, a full-blood German Shepherd Dog. While I’ve wanted a GSD for many years, I was hesitant to get a puppy because they are very high-drive pups, with needle-sharp teeth and not always suitable for a small house with five little kids in it too. So I had put my dream on hold indefinitely until a chance pin on Pinterest led me to a local shelter (find one local to you here!) that had German Shepherd Dogs.
I emailed the shelter owner, explained the unique challenges of our household, and asked her opinion. She worked with us very closely, eventually leading us to another shelter for the best fit for our household (cats, chickens, kids, excitement and so on). That one of the things I really love about working with a shelter to adopt an older dog – you know a lot about the dog’s temperament and tolerance levels BEFORE making them part of your family. A puppy is a lot more work and you don’t always see their full personality until they have matured – 18 months down the road!
So we had not one, but two shelter coordinators working with us to find the right dog and within a week we were driving down to meet Sabor at OK Save a Dog Non-Profit Shelter. Sabor is athletic and strong, fits our family like a glove, tolerant of the loud noises and unpredictable movements that come with the children-in-this-house territory, is energetic without being obnoxious, and best of all is already housebroken and well past the nibble-on-all-the-things puppy phase. It’s like we special ordered a dog for our family.
Bringing an older dog into your home does require some special considerations. Work with the shelter and find out everything you can about the dogs temperament. Ask about their tolerance of other dogs, cats, etc. if that is relevant to your household. Ask about the dog’s tolerance of children and what level of training the dog already has.
Once you find the dog you think you’re going to adopt, I highly recommend crate training your dog. Have one family member (a grown up or older child) be the primary one in charge of feeding, grooming, and working with the dog at the beginning to minimize the amount of “new” the dog has to adapt to at any one time. Once the dog has adjusted to the new home and seems to be responding and respecting the boundaries you’ve set in your home, you can begin to introduce him to other situations and the other members of the family. The dog transitions to out-of-the-crate-but-on-a-leash time, and then eventually off leash time. In total this transition with Sabor took about a month.
Almost 3 million animals die each year in shelters because of a lack of willing home to adopt them. That’s far too many.
For Sabor, this was his third chance – his original owners who were surely glad to have a brand new puppy, gave him up because of his high energy level. (Note – ALL puppies have high energy levels and WILL chew children, toys, couches, etc. Puppies do NOT automatically make good gifts for children there is an introduction process people skip.)Then he was adopted out to a family that moved, and turned him loose on the streets instead of rehoming him when they moved. Thankfully the city shelter called the no-kill shelter we found him through to take him and give him another chance, or we wouldn’t have this amazing new member of our family.
Sabor’s story had a happy ending. Not so for every dog. If you are considering adding a new member to your family, I highly recommend skipping the crazy puppy phase and working with your local shelter (find one near you here!) to find the right match for your home.