Perhaps you’re the kind of gal who hangs around dog parks just ’cause. Or your Instagram feed is mostly crazy cute pups. And you definitely can’t help but pet every single dog that you encounter on your midday walk. You’re dog obsessed (and we can’t blame you). We can’t resist those smiling mugs and waggy tails either. With National Mutt Day coming up on July 31, it might be time to adopt a best friend who will give you a warm fuzzy feeling, knowing that you’ve helped him or her find the perfect home. Before you bring Fido home, our animal shelter expert Ana Bustilloz from spcaLA shares some expert tips on how to pick out the perfect pal for you.

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1. Ask yourself important questions. Before heading to your local animal shelter, think about what type of dog you’d like to adopt. Are you the active type who wants a four-legged running buddy? Or do you live in a teeny tiny apartment and probably can’t squish a big mutt into your studio? Who will watch your pup while you’re at work? Can you afford dog training classes for basic obedience, or will you take the time to learn some simple tricks to teach your dog? “Adoption is a commitment for the life of your pet,” says Ana. For a full list of Qs to prepare yourself, check out spcaLA’s adoption FAQ page.

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2. Research the right place to adopt. Ana suggests learning about your local shelters and rescue groups before you attend an adoption event or pop into a shelter. “Do your research beforehand to see if they are reputable. You should also be allowed to see where the animals are kept,” says Ana.

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3. Be open-minded. You might have your heart set on adopting a wiener dog, but there all sorts of adorable mixed-breed dogs waiting for loving homes. Plus, mutts tend to live longer, be healthier and are often better behaved than purebred pups. Bonus: You’re saving a life, and that’s worth all the puppy kisses you’ll get from your new-to-you dog.

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4. Bring the fam with you to the shelter. If you have a pup or little kids at home, be sure to bring them along. “This is the best way to make sure everyone will get along,” says Ana.

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5. Discuss your potential pet’s personality and past life with your adoption counselor. “Ask the adoption counselor questions about personality, activity level and temperament. Find out as much as you can about health history, or if they know where the dog came from. Sometimes pets are relinquished and the previous owner will provide info before doing so,” says Ana. Knowing this info will help you guide your pup through a safe and comfortable transition.

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6. Understand the adoption process. It’s always best to be prepared. “Most reputable shelters and rescues will ask you to fill out an application and an adoption counselor will go over it with you. Some do a home check, so be prepared for that. Some can also be much more stringent than others, and fees vary, so if you find the process too overbearing, or if you are denied, try another group. There are so many places to adopt, you can find a group that works best for you,” says Ana.

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7. If now isn’t the best time to adopt, donate or volunteer at your local animal shelter. If it’s not in the cards to take home a furry friend, you can donate “gently used towels and blankets, and dog and cat toys,” says Ana. She also recommends offering things like cameras, office equipment and office supplies to your shelter. Most shelters have a needs list online so you can know exactly what to bring. Or you could volunteer your time to walk some dogs, clean cages or even bottle feed kittens (!!). There are endless ways to help. “Volunteers are the life blood of most nonprofits,” says Ana.

Have you adopted your best friend from a shelter or rescue group? If so, share your adoption story in the comments!

(Photos via spcaLA)