Iams Taking Your Child to a Dog Animal Shelter

What you need to know before you go

Probably the only sight harder for parents than gazing into their child's pleading, puppy-dog eyes is looking into a puppy's eyes begging to go home with the child. But some advanced planning before visiting the shelter can help thwart ocular blackmail.

Visit the animal shelter alone first. "Some can be very sad places, so you want to know how you'll react. Your comfort level will impact your child's," warns Krissy Whittington of the Association for a Pet Adoption Center in Temple, Texas.

Manage expectations. Before taking your child, gently explain that if you don't find the right dog, you'll leave without one and keep looking. Just because your kid loved the movie about a heroic Saint Bernard and wants one "that looks just like it!" doesn't mean that breed is right for your family.

Go together. After your initial visit, bring all your children to the shelter to ensure that the animal gets along with everyone and vice versa. If you need help controlling and protecting your brood, take along another adult.

Find a family-oriented dog. Kid-friendly dogs don't mind sharing their stuff; they won't growl and snap if a child drops a cookie and then reaches for it. These pups also display a high tolerance for child handling, which - depending on the child's age - ranges from hugs and hair tugs to pinches and pony rides. "Parents need to select a dog who loves children more than she loves adults," advises Trish McMillan, director of animal behavior at ASPCA Animal Placement in New York City. "Don't pick the frightened puppy growling at the back of the kennel because you feel sorry for her."

Don't rule out an older dog. It's hard to resist a puppy. Older animals, though, may already be trained, and calmer, and may do better with youngsters.

Commit for the long term. Once you bring a dog home, if your child's interest wanes, the animal's needs cannot be neglected. Don't get a pet for your child unless you're willing to pinch-hit as the primary caregiver.