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Adding a new pet to your family 

It’s time. You have a great job, a pet-friendly housing situation, and you’re tired of coming home to an empty house. Or perhaps your current pet seems lonely, bored and might like a friend. (We have two dogs, two cats, and assorted fosters and visitors. It is absolutely never boring!) But how do you choose the right pet for your household?

1. Shelters

Many people, including me, choose to adopt our pets from shelters. You get that feel-good vibe of saving a life. And I believe a dog or cat coming from a tough situation often bonds especially strongly with the person giving her/him a great life.  How do you choose, though?

Many folks want to support the “no-kill” shelter movement, and there are certainly lots of great pets in those facilities. But please remember municipal animal control facilities and other animal welfare groups in your area. Many have a high turnover of animals, so you may have a wider choice of pets. They may also have fewer adoption hoops to jump through.

Pro tip: volunteering or fostering for a shelter can let you see the most desirable pets before they’re up for adoption. And you may discover a type of pet you’d never considered before. I discovered this when a Doberman adopted me!

2. Rescue groups

If you prefer a specific breed of dog or cat, there is probably a breed rescue that adopts them out. There are also all-breed or cat-only rescues to choose from. Search sites like Petfinder to see what’s available in your area.Volunteering or fostering lets you ‘test drive’ a pet. Click To Tweet

Each rescue group has its own adoption policies and procedures will vary widely, from friendly and accessible to invasive and judgmental. (As a renter, I’m not eligible to adopt from a number of them, even though I’m a professional trainer.) But if one group appears unwelcoming, don’t give up – try another one.

Pro tip: fostering for a rescue group can get you in their good graces, and will let you “test drive” a number of animals to ensure a match.

3. Breeders

Buying my first dog from a breeder 25 years ago was like enduring a job interview. But I got to meet my dog’s mom, grandma, aunt and uncle, and got a thorough background in that breed’s special needs, plus a “phone a friend” for all those puppy questions I had. Ethical breeders often lose money on every litter, because of all they do for their dogs.

There is a lot of unethical and haphazard breeding out there, though, and the internet makes it really easy for commercial puppy mills to hide the horrible conditions their adult dogs live in. If you can’t see where your purebred puppy or kitten is raised, or can’t meet their mom, go elsewhere. Be prepared to wait on a waiting list.

Pro tip: Breeders sometimes retire show animals with a small flaw, or after they reach a certain age. Many of these animals are well-socialized, well-traveled and make excellent pets. Plus you don’t have to go through the energetic, often destructive puppy and kitten stages!

Before getting your new pet, do your research and do your best to ensure they’re a good fit for your family. If you’re getting a puppy, please sign up for puppy classes, and socialize the little one well to the things they’re going to see in their life. And remember, if you’re faced with behavior issues, there are trainers and behavior consultants waiting to help you live in harmony again.

Trish McMillan Loehr, MSc, CDBC, ACCBC, CPDT-KA owns Loehr Animal Behavior in Weaverville, NC.

photo credit: cuatrok77 Cats via photopin (license)

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