JoAnna Lou
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How We Choose Our Pups
Study looks at how adopters decide a dog is “the one”
Nemo and his cute freckles.

The first thing I noticed about my oldest dog, Nemo, was the cluster of cute freckles on his nose. But I knew he was “the one” as soon as I held him in my arms and he licked my face.

The ASPCA wants to understand more about how we pick our pets so they can better help homeless animals find new homes. They conducted a study of 1,500 prospective adopters at five animal shelters across the nation on how they decided on their pet.

The research found that people are most likely to choose adult dogs based on their behavior, but are most likely to choose puppies based on physical appearance. Not surprisingly, age was more important for puppies than adult dogs.

However, despite behavior and looks, having some sort of connection, like the way Nemo licked my face, was the deciding factor that convinced people that a particular animal was “the one.”

How did you know that your pup had to be a part of your life?

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.
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Submitted by Mindy | April 20 2012 |

Our dogs have always picked us out. When I went to the shelter looking for our very first dog I was sure I wanted a medium-sized, female puppy. As I walked past the kennels I saw many dogs who fit that bill, but none of them seemed to be the ONE. Then I walked past a small, dirty, flea infested adult male who came racing to the bars, licked my hand and stole my heart. A few days later Max became an important part of our family, and now that he is gone we miss him every day.

When we adopted one of our current dogs, Rocky, we knew we wanted a puppy as a second dog. We saw lots of incredibly cute puppies. We picked out a couple to meet outside of the kennel. They were both very sweet and friendly, but Rocky was the one who immediately untied my husband's shoes and climbed all over us. We both said "this dog is trouble...he's the one for us". His big sister Miss Nicky agreed, and they've been happy together for the last five years.

Submitted by Anonymous | April 20 2012 |

He kept following me around and sitting on top of my foot every time I stood still while I was checking out the litter of pups. So I knew he was the one for us.

Submitted by Suzanne | April 20 2012 |

I agree with Mindy, my dogs choose me. I seldom get a dog "on purpose" but when I do it is all about that deep unknown in our heart that says "this is THE ONE". I had this experience once even through a photograph. I was looking for a completely different puppy and a friend who worked with rescue groups sent a photo of a litter she was helping. One puppy stood out as if there were a golden halo around his fat little self. He was THE ONE, my now eight year old ACD, Blueberry. The other dogs I have now all were found in horrible situations and needed rescuing. I feel like we were guided to them by fate, or a force stronger than fate, pulling us to that very location, that very moment where we had to step in. In one case it was $2,000 plus in vet bills for the rag of bones we found who turned out to be our beautiful and beloved Kelpie, now with only three legs, Zoney. The other two lost, abused, alone, our Mesa, now 12, and little Leo who was living in a field at 8 weeks old, and so wild he was 12 weeks old before my husband caught him. In the process we found life long friends I can't imagine being in this world without.

Submitted by Anonymous | April 20 2012 |

My family was looking at a litter of Shelties at a breed rescue, wanting to adopt the most beautiful puppy there. I was looking for a puppy to train as a therapy dog, and knew that looks are a factor in doing the job. We narrowed our choice by temperament, hoping to find a dog who was going to be friendly yet calm. When it came down to two of the seven pups, one was a female with a beautiful face, symmetrical and lovely. The other was a male with a lopsided face, with far too much white on one side of his very wide white blaze. He looked like a clownish Phantom of the Opera. The female was a live-wire, who paid more attention to our adult dog than she did to people, and jumped straight up in the air like a kangaroo quite often. We liked the funny face pup's personality better, but were worried that his face would always make him look odd. We finally decided that personality was really more important than looks for a good therapy dog, and took home little Trooper, the male with the lopsided visage. We didn't know at the time that the brown would grow, and the white patches would narrow. Trooper is now quite a handsome boy at 16 months, with a much narrower blaze, and a rakish look caused by uneven brown patches on either side of his face. He makes us laugh until we cry with his antics and silly looks. It was a tough call, but we know we made the right decision with our little Trooper. He will take his therapy dog test in a few months, and go out into the world -- including the Veterans hospital -- with confidence (and humor!).

Submitted by Anonymous | April 21 2012 |

My gorgeous boy Merlin chose me (or maybe I chose him BECAUSE he chose me). When I went to the shelter to meet him, he looked into my face for 2-3 seconds, that amazing border collie stare, then he simply walked over and climbed into my lap and put his head over my shoulder. I knew immediately that he was my new son. The appeal of that deep look, followed by the total acceptance/trust he showed me - I knew and he knew.

Submitted by Susan | April 21 2012 |

I've adopted or been gifted with 7 dogs over the last dozen years. Either the vet has called me with one that needs a home, or someone I work with has needed to find a place for their own dog. They have been events. The vet does gift by need, temperament, and size for my existing crew, my coworkers have asked in desperation. It has all worked out, by the Grace of Dog. From pit mix (x2) to Corgi, and everything in between.

Submitted by Linda | April 22 2012 |

I have never chosen a dog. All of our dogs chose us.Charliebear started as a foster, but I knew instantly he would be staying with me.
Chica literally jumped a fence right into my arms and heart. Our Nibbler was an adorable puppy who is now the size of a Tank, and my Chief who is my heart dog- it was love at first sight.

Submitted by Laura | April 23 2012 |

I rescued a litter of 5 5-week old pit bull pups from a bad situation about 6 years ago. My plan was to keep one of them, Dora, the one with the giant white head and black ears and body, and find responsible owners for the rest once they got a little older and I had them fixed. The more I spent time with them, the more I realized that the little all-black one seemed to like me more than the rest of them did. They would go running around, exploring things and getting into trouble as all puppies do, but this one would sit under my chair and want to hang out with me instead of them. I felt so special! I knew I had to keep him, too. So now I have both Dora and Peabrain (affectionately named because although he's completely loveable, he's not the brightest crayon in the box), and George (who I have a result of my being a foster failure...lol). In my experience, I have found that I don't often get to choose my pets. They choose me!

Submitted by Dess | April 23 2012 |

We just adopted two elderly dogs from a Sheltie rescue. We didn't rescue them; they adopted us.

We had just lost 2 prior rescue shelties, both passed less than 6 months apart. We were very lonely and needing attention, and were actually looking for a young dog to fill the large hole our two elder dogs left in our lives. The two dogs that rescued us were sent to the rescue from a home that could no longer keep the two of them. They had spent their whole lives together and were not happy apart.

When we met, we knew that we couldn't leave them behind. They made sure we knew we were taking them home, by climbing in our laps and insisting on play time and petting. Our first day home was just like they had always been a part of our family.Kip and Kammie are quite the twosome. They are very gentle and loving to each other - and us. We were quite lucky to have them find us.

Submitted by Anonymous | June 23 2012 |

I never went looking for any of my dogs. They just found me. My oldest was left in an abandoned house with her puppies when the owners moved. My middle dog was attacked by a dog at 8 weeks and needed care her owner couldn't afford. My youngest was the runt of the liter that I bottle raised. Her mom was not producing milk and was segregating her from her siblings. Her owner didn't think she was going to make it, so sucker that I am, I took her.

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