Sometimes, when we walk into a pet shelter or a rescue home looking for a new friend to take home, we secretly hope that the right dog will “choose” us, or that we will have some inner voice telling us which cat to pick. Life doesn’t always work that way, and while some of us might struggle to settle on a specific fur-baby, others might fall in love with 4 or 5 and not be sure which to take home! Here are some great tips on how to prepare for pet adoption, and how to keep your cool when you start shopping for a dog or a cat.

What to Do Before You Adopt a Pet

Be resolved before you’re involved: Remind yourself that you are just choosing ONE pet. It doesn’t matter if a couple of brothers were rescued together, or if there are three albino kittens for sale; know your limits and stick to your guns so you won’t be swayed in the moment to take on more pets than you can handle.

Decide what kind of pet you want. Are you prepared to raise and train a rambunctious puppy who will go the distance with you, or would a reliable and steady senior be a better match? Think though the implications of what age dog you adopt before you fall in love with a furry companion.

Before you even go near any of the pets, observe them. See which pets seems to be in charge, and which hold back. Watch how the animals interact with each other to get an idea of their personalities before you see if which kitty or puppy you have a connection with.

Take note of some key behavioral indication: Does the cat or dog seem jumpy and nervous when approached by others? How does the pet respond to movement and sounds? When you speak or make a loud noise, does the pet regard you? How will the animal’s reactivity level mesh with your lifestyle?

Engage with the pet and see how he reacts to you: Watch to see if the cat or dog is playful, if he crosses any boundaries with biting and scratching, or if he is too forceful. Is he overly eager or aggressive in a way that might require extensive training, or restraint? Does the animal seem too lifeless, too mellow, or disinterested in you? Watch out for pets that show signs of extremes, whether in defensive or aggressive behaviors, nervousness, tirelessness neediness, possessiveness, etc. Some trainers encourage people to run quick temperament tests on animals, to help gauge their personalities or to tell if they may have negative traits.

When in doubt, if you are not 100% convinced an animal is the right fit for you, go home and take 24 hours to reconsider. You might wake up the next morning feeling very relieved that you dodged a canine bullet the day before! And if you do feel positive about the right animal to choose, you can rest assured that the decision was made with plenty of conviction, rather than just a momentary feeling.

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