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THINKING ABOUT GETTING A DOG OR CAT > LOOKING FOR A COMPANION ANIMAL > EVALUATING

Evaluating the Animals You Meet

Once you have a good idea of what your perfect companion should be like, you can begin to evaluate the dogs and cats you meet, at the breeders or in a shelter.
You should select an animal with the behavior and temperament that is right for you. Emotional issues and activity levels are very hard to change. An animal who is frightened of children, for example, might learn to tolerate children, but will probably never be easy around them. Training issues (housetraining or litter box training, destructiveness, rambunctiousness), on the other hand, are easy to change with training and management.
Watch the body language of the animal around you, your children, and your other pets.

If it’s a dog:
• does it pant heavily or lick its lips continually?
• does it yawn? (yawning can be a sign of stress)
• does the animal approach each of you readily?
• Does it accept touches happily?
• Is its body loose and wiggly or stiff and tense?
• Does it try to put distance between you, stiffen up, watch you warily?

A wagging tail is not necessarily the sign of a friendly dog!

If it’s a cat:
• does it hiss, growl, swat or bite?
• A super-friendly, confident cat will approach you and even invite a petting. However, it’s not unusual for any cat to hide from you at first.

Watch the body language of your children or other animals around the cat or dog. Do they seem comfortable and respectful around the animal?
   
  With care and education, you can find a lifelong, loving companion for yourself and your family. Good luck!

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