Four-legged friends will impact your brood for the better if you choose them wisely.

By Lynya Floyd

In celebration of DOGust the First, the universal August 1st birthday for shelter dogs, our friends from the North Shore Animal League and Bounty stopped by our office with three adorable puppies in tow. Over the August 1st weekend, NSALA’s Port Washington branch will offer free (yes, we said free!) adoptions. If you’re considering rescuing a pup—and we hope you are—here are five things you should know before adding a furry friend to your family, shared by shelter director Christina Travalja.

1. Puppies Aren’t Always Best

Yes, nothing makes a heart melt like the tiny pink paws and big saucer eyes of a dog that’s just a few months old. But adult dogs are adorable too—and probably already trained. “There’s a misconception that a puppy is always the best idea for kids,” says Travalja. “But with dogs over 6 months, we get to know their personalities and do behavioral evaluations. As a result, we know more about them and how they’ll behave around children. So keep an open mind.”

2. The Right Breed Can Make a Big Difference

“People with children might not want to get a herding dog, for example, because it may try to herd the kids,” explains Travalja. Read up on the different breeds available for adoption to figure out which fits your family’s home, activity level and budget best.

3. It Shouldn’t Be a Surprise

Few things are cuter than a dog with a big bow around its neck, but don’t let an animal be an unexpected Christmas or birthday gift. “People should bring the whole family to the shelter to pick out a pet,” says Travalja, who notes that you want everyone on the same page.

4. Fido Isn’t Just Your Responsibility

“As the parent, you’re the main caretaker for the pet,” affirms Travalja. “But helping with the family dog can give kids a sense of purpose and fosters accountability.” Tweens can take on brushing the dog’s coat or putting down its food. If they’re capable and it’s safe, teenagers can walk the dog or take it to vet check-ups.

5. Each Adoption Saves Two Dogs

If you decide to bring a pup home from a shelter, Travalja says, you’ll actually be doing much more. “When you adopt a dog, you’re saving two lives—the one of the dog you adopt and the one of the stray who now gets that cage your pup left behind,” she explains.