The 10 Most Important Things to Know Before Adopting a Dog
November 21, 2016
Guest writer: Diane Rose-Solomon, CHES (Founder, Pets People Planet Connection and Team Kindness)
(Diane with her beloved dogs, Gonzo and Ninja)
Adopting a new dog into your home is a whole lot of fun, but it’s also a big responsibility. Much of the fun is the day-to-day unfolding of your relationship and the wonderful surprises that this connection brings. Yet this sentient being also has needs, quirks, possibly some issues, and as a result, depending on your experience and patience level, a little extra support might be in order.
While there are many things one might want to know before adopting a dog, or immediately after, here are 10 that stand out.
1. Adopting a dog as a gift for someone before the recipient is ready can be a recipe for disaster.
Even if the whole family has agreed on a new dog, there’s something special about choosing one together. Everyone might not be totally in love in the beginning, but a consensus prior to adoption is a good idea. Bringing home a dog as a gift can be problematic especially if the recipient is totally surprised. Perhaps the recipient likes the idea but doesn’t feel ready for the responsibility. Or maybe they are ready but wanted to have a say in meeting the dog before committing.
Seven years ago we went to the adoption center in search of a Boxer that had been red-listed in the city shelter. That Boxer was adopted just moments before we arrived. We didn’t see any other dogs at the rescue center that felt like a match and I wasn’t interested in the puppies because I knew that I would end up taking care of the puppy. But the agency opened the door to the puppy room and out bounded a 6-month-old puppy and my kids and husband shrieked gleefully “A Puppy!”. Reluctantly I agreed and ultimately fell madly in love with the pup (now our dog, Gonzo). But we were all there making the decision together.
2. Before adopting the cutest dog you see, consider your lifestyle and his or her needs. Don’t overlook the dog that steals your heart even if he’s not the exact breed, shape or age you initially envisioned.
My ideal dog was a Golden Retriever. It never occurred to me to consider another breed or a mixed breed. My heart was set on a Golden. It was quite by accident that a friend found a mixed breed puppy on a soccer field one evening and asked if we would take him since he lived in an apartment that didn’t allow dogs. Saying yes to this dog changed my life in so many ways. I still love Golden Retrievers but equally love the uniqueness of mixed breeds. Most importantly, through adopting JJ I learned how many adoptable pets need homes and resolved to make a difference to as many as I could.
3. Be sure to properly prepare your home (fences, gates, crates, put away toxic chemicals, electrical wires that could get chewed) for everyone’s safety and comfort.
Do a basic safety check and make sure that your fences are high enough for big dogs etc. There are so many other factors to consider, and the onus falls on the new pet parent. Fences should be well constructed, high enough and there should be neither gaps nor holes below that a smaller dog could escape from (or a larger dog dig his way through).
Fences are just the beginning. It may seem silly, but if you get down on your hands and knees you’ll have the same perspective as your dog and will notice more potential dangers than when you are standing upright. Do you use toxic chemicals in your lawn? Time to reconsider that (not just for your dog but for you too!). Are there electrical wires that a dog- especially a puppy or a new dog with separation anxiety could chew?
Do you have areas in your house that are off-limits to your new dog? If so, consider a baby gate. And I love crates. Most dogs love the comfort and safety they feel enclosed in a crate. You never want to use the crate as punishment. Be sure to speak with a professional about crate training.
And preparing your home not only also means preparing for the dog’s safety, but for the people in your home as well. If you have children, now is a great time to instruct them on how to behave around dogs. The people from The Family Dog have incredible videos that will engage and train your whole family- furry and human alike.
(Ninja on patrol!)
4. No matter how much your children promise to care for your new pup, expect that adults will do the majority of the work.
Remember how my kids squealed with delight when they saw the puppy at the dog adoption center? They were 9 and 7 years old and they crossed their hearts that they would help out. Well guess who is home all day and took the puppy out for potty breaks and to training class every week? Seven years later, it’s my daughter’s job to feed the dogs but she is 16 and how often are teenagers even home? I rest my case.
5. Sign up for training class or hire a trainer immediately upon adoption, especially if he’s a younger dog. Be patient and tolerant of minor “poor behaviors” as they can likely be helped with professional help, diligence and love.
The first few days with a new dog are usually interesting, and yes they can be challenging. If your preferred trainer won’t be starting a new group class for a while, ask if they can come to your home for a few private classes to get you started. The training helps you not only teach your new dog what you expect of him, but it allows for bonding time as well. Some of my dogs have exhibited separation anxiety and there is professional help for that!
6. Do not expect perfect behavior and an immediate bond at first.
Often we don’t know the past of a newly adopted dog. Even if we do, they don’t know your rules. That’s why I recommend the trainer, a crate and most of all patience! It may be trial, error and time until you hit your stride, but most likely you’ll fall in love with Fido and not be able to remember a time when he wasn’t part of your family.
7. Plan for expenses over and above the adoption fee.
Pets can be expensive. Even just basic care- food, veterinary visits and training classes add up. Factor in funds for medical emergencies, perhaps having to find a more expensive home or apartment that accepts pets, or doggie day care if you work outside the home or travel are just a few common examples. As long as you enter this precious relationship with your eyes wide open, you will be prepared for the financial twists and turns that pop up.
8. Accept that a dog might not be a good fit or that it might not be the right time for you. (There are other ways you can help animals in need!)
Perhaps you’ve wanted a dog for a long time and there’s a part of you that feels ready, but you are preparing to move, or have a new baby and realize that the time isn’t right. Or maybe you love dogs but prefer the ease of care of a cat. Good for you for making a responsible decision. Parenting a dog is a big responsibility and knowing your limitations is wise. You can always volunteer at a shelter or rescue organization, foster a dog to see if could be a good fit, or donate much needed funds to a local organization. Even if the timing isn’t right now, it could be down the road!
9. Consider doggie daycare if you work out of the home.
I do believe that it’s important to consider your lifestyle and willingness to care for a dog before committing. Many people however, are ready for the responsibility yet they have a job outside of the home, or they travel frequently. If you are willing to find quality doggie daycare, or hire a dog walker for work days, and then a doggie hotel and/or pet sitter while you travel, then now could be the perfect time to invite that loving fur ball into your life. Consider how much happier a dog will be living in your home than at a shelter even if you aren’t home during the week day. If they are properly stimulated, get plenty of exercise and socialization, potty breaks and love, even if it’s not always from you, then they are likely happier in your home than living in a shelter. Ultimately, the question is how much love are you willing to offer? If the answer is “a lot” and you have reliable pet care for the times you are gone, then it sounds like you are starting off the relationship responsibly.
10. It is easy to educate yourself about all of the ways you can be a successful pet parent
There are so many resources available on the Internet, as well as organizations to join and videos to help you be the best pet parent possible. Learning on the job is the best way to learn because you get to give and receive love- the best kind of currency- for your effort. If you want to make the process a little easier and more joyful, pick up a copy of What to Expect When Adopting a Dog: A Guide to Successful Dog Adoption for Every Family.
Thank you Diane for being a Guest Writer on The Pet Blog Lady blog!
Diane is also the Bestselling Author of JJ The American Street Dog & JJ Goes to Puppy Class. You can follow her on Twitter, Facebook and Pinterest. Her website is www.dianerosesolomon.com
Want to win your very own copy? Easy! Just enter below (USA residents) and a winner will be chosen randomly On December 13, 2016.