Choosing Your Next Dog From A Shelter Part 4


Test 6 –How excited does the dog get by activity and play?

Throw a toy, is the dog:
• interested in it only while it is moving?
• willing to pick it up but won’t give it back?
• willing to bring it back and give it to you?

Have a large tug rope and initiate a game. Is the dog:

• very interested – almost obsessed with the toy?
• mildly interested but happy to swap it for a treat?
• not at all interested?
Dogs who are easily excited by play and movement often make great working dogs but may not be the best choice for a family with young children. A laid back dog who would rather have someone else retrieve his toys is less likely to interfere with children’s games and toys or to become possessive of them. A dog who happily retrieves and SURRENDERS a toy is the best of both worlds.

Test 7 – Reaction to other dogs.

Walk the dog past other dogs on lead and watch his reaction does he:
• ignore the other dogs?
• stares at them briefly but takes no other notice?
• drags you over toward the other dogs as if to play?
• barks/lunges toward them in an aggressive ‘keep away’ attitude?
You will get far more enjoyment from your dog if you can safely take him to areas where there may be other dogs not only to off- leash parks but any public places where there may be other people and their dogs.

Test 8 – Reaction to other animals/prey

Walk the dog, if possible past cats, guinea pigs, fowl, horses, goats, or any other animal which may be available at the shelter. Many animals will show an interest however dogs with a high prey drive may seem ‘obsessed’ , unable to turn their heads away. This could lead to problems with neighbourhood cats or other pets. In some cases a high prey drive will be triggered by fast running small dogs, or crying , squealing children making such a dog a poor choice for a family pet.
Well that’s it! Though no test can guarantee you the perfect family pet, an adult dog who has passed with flying colours is probably a safer bet then the ‘blank slate’ puppy.
Good dogs, adult and puppy, pure bred and cross bred are available at rescue centres if you just know how to look. How do I know? Because twelve happy years ago I got one! (see picture of my Suzy) So please how about recycling a little love this Christmas?
Reference: ‘Sue Sternberg Presents a Guide to Choosing Your Next Dog from the Shelter’ by Sue Sternberg ( © Sue Sternberg 1999)

The Kid Factor

If you have children, especially young children, you need to choose a dog from any source with extra care. Here are a few points to consider:
• dogs and young children should ALWAYS be supervised
• no child can be responsible for the care and training of a dog an adult will always need to be involved
• do not get a dog that is overly protective of your children unless you never want to have friends come to visit
• terriers that were bred to shake and kill rodents and other vermin may react aggressively to the fast movement and squealing noises that young children make.
• Herding dogs are likely to nip at the heels of young children in an attempt to ‘round them up’ – just as their ‘nature’ intended.
• A larger, slower moving dog , physically robust dog may be better suited to young children then a small dog.
• Puppies and young children together are a lot of hard work an older adolescent or a mature dog that’s been raised with children may be a better choice.


Some people mistakenly want to buy a poorly socialised large dog to ‘protect’ their family. This situation is a recipe for disaster. The number of legitimate visitors to your home that will be at risk from such a dog including tradesmen, friends and children far outweighs any benefits. Most well socialized dogs will bark at and deter intruders without putting you at risk of serious litigation.

Article courtesy of Karin Larsen Bridge, partner of Get S.M.A.R.T. Dog Training, Sydney.
You can also follow this and other articles at my publishing site publishing site.


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