Be ready to find out everything you can about your potential new dog. Before you hit the shelters, make up a list of possible questions, including:

• Why is he available for adoption?
• Do you know anything about his history?
• Is he housebroken?
• Was he ever returned after an adoption? If so, why?
• What's his temperament like?
• Does he have any behavioural problems?
• How is he with children, cats, and other dogs?
• Is he neutered; is she spayed?
• Are his vaccinations up-to-date?
• Does he have, or has he had, any illnesses?
• Is he on any medication?
• What's his approximate age?
• What are his grooming requirements?
• What are his exercise requirements?
• What commands does he know?
• Does he walk well on his leash?

Take notes while you're at the shelter. It can only take one wrong answer to make him the wrong dog for you; and you the wrong owner for him. Again, if you're not 100% sold, go home and ponder your notes until you're absolutely sure if he's the one.