by Mark Asher
Adopting a dog that’s a good fit for you and your lifestyle takes patience, thoughtfulness, and planning. But before that, you need to make sure you have the time to commit to a dog. Being a dog owner might look fun and easy but adding a new member to your family is a huge responsibility. For the sake of the dog you adopt and for yourself, it’s important to weigh things like cost, a dog’s need for exercise and socialization, and training before you take the leap. Once you’re ready to move forward, this article will give you pet adoption tips as well as things to consider in your criteria for adopting a dog that best fits your circumstances.
Choosing the Right Dog Type for You
Size, hair coats, breed traits and behaviors are extremely diverse in dogs. In fact, dogs are more diverse than any other animal. Let’s look at each of these factors.
Puppies are cute and irresistible but depending on the breed you adopt they can grow to be large dogs. If they grow too large to manage or work with your lifestyle, and you’ve already become attached to the dog, you’ve made a mistake.
All too often the reality in dealing with a large dog erodes over time due to the additional time and cost associated with large breeds. Limited space, time or resources may make it an unwise decision for the long term. Just as adopting a small toy breed when you have young children may not be practical or best for the dog. Select a dog with their full-grown size in mind prior to adoption and your choice will sustain a long pet relationship.
While hair coat may not seem important, it will become a factor over time. Long-haired dogs require more brushing and grooming. For some people, brushing and grooming are enjoyable and a good way to bond with their pet. Others are too busy or do not enjoy the process. Left uncared for, many long-haired dogs will become matted with tangled hair which can lead to infections of the skin under the matted hair. It can also lead to knots or tangles which can only be removed with sedation and professional grooming. With any dog you adopt, regular professional grooming and bathing should be accounted for in your monthly pet care budget. Shedding is another factor new dog owners should expect. Regular brushing will help reduce unwanted hair around the house, but except for certain breeds, shedding is part of pet ownership.
The activity level that a dog requires varies by breed. Some breeds are inactive and prefer to lie around most of the day; other breeds seem to be in constant motion. Breeds that require a lot of exercise will resort to barking, jumping, digging, chewing, or other destructive behaviors if they don’t have an outlet for their energy. Don’t adopt a dog that requires a lot of exercise and interaction if you are gone from your home for long periods during the day unless you’re willing to bring your dog to a daycare facility.
Size is not always a good indicator of activity levels, as some small to medium breed dogs are quite active. Some breeds are not good for highly active families if they are inclined to include them in activities, such as jogging.
Of course, you should make allowances that puppies require more activity than adult dogs. But some breeds can remain active right up to old age. Also, understand that chewing is natural and important. This is especially true for puppies as they mature and their temporary puppy teeth are replaced with permanent teeth. Chewing in addition to being important for healthy gums and teeth provides an outlet for excess energy and boredom.
Observe the Dog Before You Adopt
For some people, it can be hard to walk through a shelter and not want to take home every dog. Focusing on the ones that meet your criteria, however, is the key to making a choice that will lead to a long-lasting relationship. A spontaneous, emotional decision can lead you down a path of a bad pet relationship and eventually returning the pet. Remember, your selection will be one you live with for many years to come.
Observe the dog in their surroundings before selecting which dog to adopt. Watch how they play and interact with other dogs. Watch what happens when you approach them? Do they eagerly come up and want to be petted? Or do they cower away into a corner? The one that cowers away will require much more work and understanding of behavior to overcome. Are they unruly, jumping up on you and everyone? If so, an obedience class is a necessity and possibly some home training in-between classes. Make sure you are willing to make this commitment.
A dog’s history is also important to consider. Find out if any behavioral or medical issues exist. By knowing the facts, you can make an informed decision and prepare to deal with the circumstances. Some behavioral issues are easily corrected, others aren’t. Likewise, some medical problems can be remedied, and others are continuous and costly. Be honest with yourself about what you can and can’t take on.
There is nothing wrong with adopting an older pet, you just need to understand the parameters. There can be medical issues with older pets, and older pets are oftentimes set in their ways and may take special accommodations. An older pet with arthritis, for instance, is not good with young children who lean, push, prod, and lay on pets. Someone who likes to take long walks should not adopt an older dog with arthritis or a heart condition. Certainly, the veterinary care will be more costly with older pets, but the upside is you don’t have to endure puppy problems.
Preparing Your Environment for An Adopted Dog
If you’re looking to adopt a large dog, it’s a good idea to have a fenced backyard. Your fence needs to be in good shape with no holes where your pup can escape and high enough to prevent him from jumping over it.
If your dog is outdoors frequently, he will need a warm dry doghouse to get out of the weather. He will also need a cool place when the temperatures get warmer. Summer can be more deadly than winter for large, long-haired dogs, which are not suited for hot weather. Be sure your backyard has shade or a cool place with a nice breeze, and always provide your dog with plenty of fresh water.
If you live in an apartment, it’s best not to adopt a large or active breed that requires space, unless you can commit to long walks at least twice a day. Different breeds have different requirements for space, activity, and companionship. Adopt a breed that is more suitable for an apartment and you’ll avoid a huge, future problem.
Family dynamics are also important to consider when choosing a new pet. If you have children, you need to research and evaluate which dog breeds are best suited for little ones. Ask families with dogs in your neighborhood for their input and recommendations. Be aware that a dog in a new environment may panic and bolt with noises, strangers, or the smallest provocations. In most cases, it will take a while for your dog to understand that he has found his new home.
Once you’ve successfully found a new four-legged companion to enrich your life, it’s a wise decision to consider purchasing pet insurance. Dogs are like children and they are always getting into one thing or another. While you acclimate, socialize, and train your new edition, it’s a huge benefit knowing that your pet is covered in the case of an emergency.
by Mark Asher