What is unconditional love? It means that you’ll be loved even if you go to work. You’ll be loved if you have to take a phone call. You’ll also be loved if you forget the pickup treats at the grocery store. All that love can come from a pup. Anyone who is a dog owner knows that dogs just want to make us happy and they can do that by just taking a nap in our laps. Right now, there is a perfect pooch waiting to send all the unconditional love your way. That doggo is at your local shelter. These aren’t “broken” dogs but dogs who are just looking for a forever home. Here’s how to choose a dog at a shelter:

Observe from a Distance

As you go through the shelter, you’re going to generate a lot of excitement in the dogs. If you zero in on a particular pup, then try to observe them from a distance. Do they seem calm or are they excitedly pacing? Are they timid? How do they react when someone approaches them? These can all be clues to their personalities.

Approach in Neutral

You want to approach the kennel and stand sideways in a neutral position. Don’t make eye contact and look for their reaction. Does the dog come around to face you and wag his tail or are they barking aggressively? Do they avoid eye contact?

Make Contact

Now you can make contact by turning and looking him in the eye. Don’t smile but see how they react. Are they remaining friendly and waiting for your “signal?” Then you can kneel down and have a happy talk. Does that make them more friendly or aggressive?

Watch the Dog Walk

Have a kennel worker walk the dog to a private area (all shelters will have one). As they walk, take note if they are walking with confidence or have to be pulled through the door. They might also be pulling ahead on the leash. A lot of these walking behaviors can be corrected but you should know what you’re getting into.

Be Alone with the Dog

You should have a chance to be alone with the dog away from all the barking dogs. Take off the leash and let them explore the room. Is he curious and confident or tentative and cautious? Does he try to leave? Try calling him over to you. Does he come easily? And see if he knows any commands like sit or paw.

You’re looking for a dog that is friendly and attentive. A nervous dog can be made to feel better but it becomes an investment in training. The idea dog is someone you bond with. You’ll know it when it happens!