Ask Kathy About Adopting A Dog From The Shelter

By Kathy Santo | Updated: Feb 13 2019

Student’s Question:

“I want to adopt a dog from the shelter. What’s the most important quality to look for?

Kathy’s Answer:

Temperament, which, ironically, isn’t always easy to see. To shed some light on the subject, enlist the help of an adoption counselor at the shelter, or hire a trainer to go with you to assess the dogs you’re considering adopting. Ultimately (especially for families with children) what you’re looking for is a friendly, happy, outgoing, dog who can’t get enough of you petting him (or her). Making friendly eye contact with you is a big plus, too. When properly evaluated, this type of dog can be less at risk for aggression issues, because a dog who asks you for physical contact is going to be much more likely to be ok when you have to handle him in a way he wishes you wouldn’t (ear cleaning, nail clipping, etc), than one who doesn’t enjoy or seek pleasant physical interaction.

Remember, too, that temperament is genetic! As with people, so, to some extent, it is with dogs. They are who they are. Your mom probably had this talk with you at some point when you were dating someone you were incompatible with. The old expression “You can’t ask a tiger to change his stripes,” comes to mind.

It’s imperative that you remember this lesson during your dog/puppy search. If your dream dog is a snuggle bug, then when you’re told by an adoption counselor or trainer that the puppy you’re considering is independent – i.e., likes to play by himself, is off wandering around the room, thinks a squeaky toy is more fun than any human he’s ever met  – DO NOT think to yourself,  “That’s fine. When I take him home he’ll see how much fun I am and what great games we can play and he’ll become bonded to me.” Maybe, but more likely not. Remember the tiger.

Kathy Santo has spent her entire career as a dog trainer and handler, training dogs and winning over 500 obedience, agility and Canine Good Citizenship titles. Working with her own dogs, she has achieved every competitive obedience title the American Kennel Club (AKC) has offered and earned the prestigious AKC “Obedience Trial Champion” title (OTCh) multiple times.

In Waldwick, Kathy teaches classes, private lessons, and oversees the training of her student’s dogs using her extensive knowledge, experience and intuition to handle problems from the benign to the serious. Her engaging personality has won her the respect and friendship of her many students, who now consider themselves part of her extended family.


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