Every family should have a dog. In a perfect world, that statement would all be true. Why shouldn’t you adopt a dog? Why should you skip out on the unconditional love of a new pet? Adopting a dog is a great fit for many families, but there is a very good reason why more people should think twice before they adopt a dog. Each year, 5 in 10 dogs left in shelters and animal controls don’t make it out alive…that’s the ultimate price to pay for jumping the gun too soon to add a dog to the family.
October is adopt a shelter dog month. That means for the next month, there will be many campaigns promoting dog adoption. Before you take the plunge, you should take the time to find out if adding a dog at this point in your life is the smartest move. Here are some tips to consider before you make that commitment to adopt a dog.
What is your work and travel schedule? If you work long hours and travel a lot, consider how much time, if any, you may have to devote to a dog. Dogs need time for training and companionship to be at their best. While good dog walking services and doggy day care can be a godsend, you still need to have enough available quality time to spend with your new pet after you adopt a dog.
What are your expectations for a new pet? Are you looking for a lap dog, a work out partner or something in between? Thinking out these type of expectations will help you make a better match if you decide to move forward.
What are your non-negotiable issues of a dog? Some dogs bark more than others (and some breeds are prone to more barking) and some dogs shed. Will you want your dog on the sofa, bed or other furniture? Figure out what you just can’t take and use that as a benchmark when looking at adding a dog to the family. The great thing about working with rescues is that dogs have been in a home and the foster family can answer those questions and let you know what is workable behavior for that dog and what isn't.
I’ve never had a dog, is there a way to find out in advance if a dog is a good fit? There are a couple of options. Many organizations need foster homes and fostering a new puppy or adult dog is a good way to find out how a dog fits into your lifestyle without it being a permanent commitment. You can also pet sit in your home or at a friends home to see what it’s like to live with a dog for an extended period of time. Shelters and rescues also need volunteers to help with dogs. Volunteering is a good way to learn more about dogs and the type of fit that may be best for you.
Where does a pet fit into your budget? Take the time to do the math first to see if you are able to afford a dog. Your new dog will need a crate or carrier, collar and leash, bedding, food bowls, toys and other items before you bring them home. All dogs should see the vet at least once a year, so check out costs and see how that fits into your budget. There is also dog training, grooming and ongoing supplies after adoption.
Are you ready for a long-term commitment? Many dogs will live from 12-15-years-old. Think before you get a dog where that dog will fit in your life with future life changes like marriage, kids, moves and career changes. If you don’t want to commit to a pet for that length of time, consider adopting an older dog or waiting until you have a better perspective on what your life may be like in the long term.
What breed is a good fit? You can research a lot about breeds online but the best place to really learn about the ins and outs of breed is through breed rescues and breed meet up groups. Those organizations will be able to tell you what they love about their breed and what breed specific issues make the dogs end up in rescues. That will help you be better prepared in general before you add that breed to your home.
Is your timing right for adding a dog? Pets of any age are settling into a new situation and the calmer your home can be to start, the better. Young puppies are adapting to being away from their mothers and you need to make sure you’re not adding them to a chaotic environment.
Where should you look for a dog? Do not purchase from pet stores or online pet sellers– these dogs come from puppy mills. There are a variety of shelters and rescues that cater to a wide range of animals. Check them out on Petfinder, Adopt-A-Pet or Petango and then talk to the people at the rescue. Find out how long animals are in isolation after being rescued, have they been vetted, vaccinated, spayed or neutered, have they spent time in foster home and have they socialized with volunteers so you know more about their behavior.
What else should I look for in a rescue? There are many great shelters and rescues that look at adopters as life time relationships. A shelter or rescue should take a dog back if your dog adoption doesn't work out. Many groups have training plans and suggested trainers in the loop to help with smooth transition and will also continue to work with families after they adopt a dog to ensure success. Some groups offer some veterinary or vaccination assistance and other services as well.
Should the whole family be involved in the process? Some animals handle commotion and kids better than others. If your whole family takes the trip to the shelter or rescue to meet the new prospective family member, it will be easier to determine which animals react best around your family before you sign the adoption papers. Share some of the information you’ve determined from this checklist with the adoption counselors at the shelter and rescue. They are trained to help families make selections that fit best with their lifestyle.
Before adopting a dog read Five Minutes to Heartbreak. Tomorrow, we'll look at services - from food pantries to temporary fosters - aimed at keeping pets and families together in tough times.
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