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Evaluating a Pug at a Shelter

Ask if you can take the dog out of the kennel. The way a dog behaves in his kennel is likely to be different from the way he behaves in a less restricted situation. Most shelters have a yard or room where you can spend time with the dog you're considering. Talk to the dog, walk with him on leash, and play with him. Remember that a dog in a shelter is probably frightened, and that may affect his attitude. This may be his first time away from its canine or human family, and that's upsetting for anyone, let alone a sensitive dog that lands in a noisy, unfamiliar place such as a public shelter! A pug separated from his previous owner may go through a period of mourning, so he may seem depressed or withdrawn. Once he's in a less stressful environment, such as a visitation room or an outdoor exercise area, he may perk up. In terms of health, look for the same things you would in a puppy: clear eyes, clean ears, easy breathing, good skin condition, and so on.

Notice whether the dog makes eye contact with you, whether he seems glad to be in your company, and whether he responds when you speak to or move toward him. Any sign that a dog wants to interact with you is positive. Choose a dog that seems to enjoy being with you.

Most people go into shelters hoping to find a puppy, but don't pass up a grown pug or even one of advanced age. Giving a home to an older dog can be a wonderful experience. Although he may not be with you for as many years as a puppy, the rewards of taking him into your home can far outweigh the pain of the eventual loss.

People who work at the shelter see the dogs every day, and it will be helpful to have their opinion on the dog's temperament as well. Shelter personnel may be able to tell you something about the pug's background, such as how old he is, whether he came from a home with children or other pets, and why he was given up. Questions to ask include whether the dog has a good appetite and whether he came with any health records or other paperwork.

If possible, bring everyone in the family to meet the dog. Many shelters require this before they'll complete an adoption. That's because the way a dog interacts with adults may be different from how he interacts with children. If you have another dog in the home, it can even be a good idea to bring her with you so you can make sure the two of them will get along. (Call to arrange this beforehand.) The neutral setting of the shelter is a great place to introduce them.

Give the dog time to adjust to his new surroundings and provide him with firm, consistent rules and lots of love. Soon, you'll wonder how you ever enjoyed life without Pugsley.

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