Considering adopting a dog?
Please remember that a dog is a lifetime commitment!
Submitted by: Your Dog’s Friend, a non-profit that supports and educates dog owners
Choose a dog whose temperament — not looks — fits your lifestyle
Think about how a dog will fit into your lifestyle. Young, active dogs need a lot of exercise. Do you have time for long walks and play? Dominant dogs may prove challenging for first time owners. Is the dog you’re considering more than you can handle? Check the evaluation of any dog you want to adopt and if you apply for a dog and an evaluation hasn’t been done yet, request one. Keep in mind that knowing a dog’s breed or breed mix can only HELP you predict a dog’s temperament and behavior; each dog is an individual. For both your happiness and the welfare of your pet, it’s important to carefully consider your decision.
Keep in mind that puppies are a lot of work
Puppies chew, nip, jump, and have accidents. They need to be house trained, exercised, socialized, trained and supervised. Their bladders are not fully developed; they have to go out often, and it takes patience and commitment to house train them. Just like an infant, a young puppy comes home with constant needs, but no prior training. Remember that puppies grow up. Be sure that you’re prepared to support the full-size, adult version of that adorable puppy. Despite what most people think, adult dogs, regardless of age, can be trained. And you already know the size and temperament of an adult dog.
Don’t let your child choose your dog
Children naturally gravitate toward smaller dogs. Toy breeds are very popular these days, but too delicate for young children to hug and carry. Smaller dogs can easily suffer broken bones, and when a child chases, hovers, or corners them, they are more likely than other dogs to snap or bite. Small dogs are also notoriously difficult to house train because their bladders are so small; they simply can’t hold it!
Don’t get a dog for your child
As a parent, you must be ultimately responsible for your dog’s welfare. Dogs are similar in brain development to small children. Would you leave a six year-old in charge of feeding, grooming, and walking a toddler? More practically, is your child strong enough to handle your dog darting after a squirrel during a walk? Your child may also treat your dog like a new toy, something that’s exciting in the beginning, but ignored later. As your children age, they will go off to friends’ houses, sports teams, camps, or college. The adults in the household have to want and be willing to care for the dog. Unlike children’s toys, dogs are not disposable. They are living, breathing creatures with feelings and needs.
It costs over $2,400 annually (without emergencies or surgery) to care for a dog
Food, treats, toys, bones, collars, leashes, tags, licensing, vaccinations, annual check-ups, heartworm, tick and flea treatment … the list goes on. You will find that a dog’s companionship is worth it, but know ahead of time what you’re getting into. Make sure that you can financially handle this commitment. If not, you may want to consider a small mammal that costs less, such as a guinea pig or hamster.
When you look at dogs in a shelter, use calming signals
Most dogs living in shelters are already stressed. So, you don’t want to do anything that might increase their anxiety. Put out your hand for the dog to smell as a way of introducing yourself. Without looking at him directly, squat sideways, bending at the knees, not the waist, so you aren’t looming over the dog. Pet him under his chin or on his belly, rather than reaching over his head to pet him. A dog may interpret a stranger staring as a challenge, and his body or hand reaching over his head as a threatening gesture. Don’t let your child squeal, run, hug, or corner the dog. This could scare the dog, and he might react.
Multi-dog homes: consider the personality of your resident dog before deciding to get a second dog
Dogs of opposite gender tend to live together more harmoniously than dogs of the same gender. Two dogs with dominant traits are more likely to fight than a dominant and submissive pairing. Although each dog is an individual, there are tendencies in breeds toward living in groups or alone, depending on the job they were bred to do. Some older or calmer dogs may be happier with another adult than with a young puppy that has tons of energy but hasn’t yet learned dog communication, particularly “Leave me alone!”
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This page last updated 11-13-08