When you bring a new dog into your home, you don't want to bark up the wrong tree in terms of adoption.
Make sure you and the whole family are prepared for your new, furry member of the family through dog selection, correct training and setting boundaries.
The first thing to do is research what breed of dog would be best for your family.
"Know first of all what kind of dog you want, and then figure out what breeds fit that," Mackenzie "Kitty" Walker said. "Then learn about that breed before you decide to bring a dog into your home that you may or may not be prepared for."
Walker runs Kitty's Critter Care, a doggy day care center in Jefferson City and she owns two daschunds. She said different breeds often have different personality traits.
For example, some breeds are more energetic. They'll catch the Frisbee, join you on the hike and run around with seemingly boundless energy. Other breeds are more relaxed, preferring to chill alongside you on the couch.
Researching these traits will help you determine which type of dog is best for you, Walker explained. That way, people are less likely to return their new pet to the shelter after finding out their lifestyle doesn't match the dog.
"We can press to not be impulsive, but that's just human nature sometimes," veterinary assistant Chelsea Braun said. "That's where a lot of people get in trouble. They see a cute dog and they just want it for that reason, not thinking about everything that goes into pet ownership."
Braun works at the Jefferson City Animal Shelter and also owns her own foster-based rescue program, Yadi's Pitbull Pals. The program is named after her own pitbull, Yadi, who died last November.
This is where the next step comes in: Meet the dog and make sure their personality meshes well with your family.
Braun explained all dogs have their own personality, which sometimes even clashes with stereotypes of their breed.
"I have always kind of been a type of person for the underdog, and pitbulls definitely have a bad rap," Braun said. "You really need to get to know the dog regardless of breed. Treat them just like an individual dog, looking at their individual personalities."
Any children in the home should meet the dog before adoption as well. You can do this through the animal shelter and most rescue centers. Foster-based rescues like Yadi's Pitbull Pals also allow you to learn how a dog will behave in a home.
After you find the right dog for you, it's time to bring it home. Walker recommends doing this when you have a few days to stay at home and supervise your new pet. Doing this allows you and your dog to get to know each other and set boundaries.
"That will eventually help them learn that they have certain spaces where they can be and relax," Walker said, "and then, there are certain spaces where they're supposed to have more structure."
One way to do this is through crate training. Walker describes a crate as a safe space similar to a den. Instead of using the crate as punishment, she said you should give your dog treats in the crate so they associate it with a positive feeling. This helps them with separation anxiety when you're not at home.
"If you came to my house right now, you would see my dogs enjoy the crate," dog trainer Steve Matulevich said.
Matulevich co-owns Smokin Guns Working Dog Club in Jefferson City. It offers group lessons and two week board and train sessions.
The owner should be directly involved with the training process. Matulevich said owners need to know how to communicate clearly with their dog.
"We want them to build that bond together," Matulevich said. "By far, humans are harder to train."
It can take three months or longer for a dog to settle into a new environment. Because of this, Braun agrees investing in training for you and your dog is a necessary step in adoption.
"By going to training in the beginning and kind of working ahead, that's putting you 10 steps ahead on it," Braun said. "It might kind of help get some of the behavioral problems out of the way and not even have to become an issue."
You should also bring your children along to training so they know how to interact with the dog. The dog will start to recognize them as someone with authority.
"The dog sees them as someone who's part of their pack, who they can listen to," Walker said. "The kid in turn gains more confidence and gets to bond with an animal, which is awesome."
By following these tips, inviting a dog into your home can be much less stressful.
You're ultimately gaining a loving companion and helping your community.
"You're helping save not only one animal but possibly two," Braun said. "By adopting from a shelter, you're making room for another one to come in."