With the overpopulation in shelters around North America and the high numbers of euthanization–over 4.5 million pets a year according to the Humane Society–adopting a dog is one of the best things you can do to help this problem.
But, before you jump out and adopt a dog, there are some important steps you need to take and vital questions to ask yourself to make sure you/your family are truly ready. From knowing how to choose the right dog to what kind of possible and likely costs do you have to consider, to being equipped with the information you need to develop a peaceful, enjoyable relationship with your new dog, these tips will help prepare you to step up as the pack leader from day one!
- Take your partner’s/family and childrens’ feelings about adopting a dog into consideration. Kids likely have a structured school routine. The environment we bring a dog into is very important. Who is going to be doing the dog walking, feeding him, taking him to the vet? Is everyone on board with bringing a dog into the home? If not, trust me, your new dog will know and sense the resentment.
- Are you honestly ready for the responsibility of a dog? Open your mind and determine where your state of mind is and at what stage of life you are in. Do you know what if feels like to be calm and assertive? Why do you want to adopt a dog? Be honest! Your own behavior will be a direct reflection in the dog’s behavior, so look at clues in your life that tell you where your head is. For example, take a look at your closet. Is it neat and organized? Does that have any clues as to how you live your life? Your actions tell a story.
- Figure out how well you can schedule your dog into your life. What is your work life like? How punctual are you? Be honest with yourself. If you are not reliable or a good manager of time or if you make excuses for always being late, you might be one of those people who makes excuses for why they didn’t go on a dog walk that day or didn’t make time to go to the park. It might seem like a small minor detail, but when it comes to fulfilling your new dog and keeping him healthy abd balanced, these oversights matter.
- Check out how dog-friendly your neighborhood is.How are the dogs that live near you? Is there a park or hiking trails nearby? Where’s the closest vet and 24-hour emergency clinic? Do you have relationships with your neighbors? How socialized your neighbors’ dogs are is an indication of how your own may be – of course, this is up to you as the pack leader, and if your neighborhood doesn’t provide socialization opportunities, you will need to find other ways to properly socialize your new dog.
- Choose a dog with an energy level equal to or lower than your own.Never adopt a dog with higher energy. Consider their age and your own. A 12 month old puppy and a 68 year old sedate person likely wouldn’t work. Make sure you evaluate the dog when he’s been out of the cage for some time and has had a walk. Take him out and see how he behaves. A dog in a cage is not going to give you the reality of their natural energy. And certainly not in 5 minutes.
- Don’t generalize based on a dog’s breed, but do consider the characteristics of that breed and what that specific dog has been through.Just because you loved German Shepherds as a child doesn’t mean you are at a stage or place in your life to properly care for, stimulate, and exercise such a smart and powerful dog.
- Consider Fostering a Dog First. If you’re unsure of whether the new dog you’ve chosen is right for your family and lifestyle, consider fostering before making a commitment. Fostering is an incredibly important part of rescuing a dog. It’s also a responsible way to know whether you’re ready to take on a new dog in your life and properly care for it. Plus, fostering takes them out of the shelter and if you are armed with the proper information, you can help transition the dog from shelter life to home life. Even if you decide that this particular dog isn’t a match for you, he may be the perfect dog for someone else who better matches his energy level or lack thereof. If you have a cat, fostering is a great way to test the waters to see if the cat is ready or able to live happily with a dog in the home. Tread lightly and take baby steps in the beginning.
- Don’t overlook the senior dogs. Senior dogs need homes just as badly as the cute little puppies. They may not be suited to a home with very young children, as they’re not as accustomed to being around kids’ high energy. But they are wonderful companions for homes that are not as active. They may need less exercise and more health care, but the love they give in return is the reward.
- Don’t make an emotional decision when choosing a dog. When you decide the time is right, leave your emotions at the door. Going into a shelter is devastating and sad. But if you let your weaker emotions control your brain and feel sorry for the dog, you may end up adopting a dog that isn’t right for you, your family, or your environment. Save yourself the heartache and struggles later by being methodical and aware now. Ask lots of questions – the dogs health history and behavior lately. What kind of food and treats does he like/dislike, any serious injuries, illnesses etc.
- Know what it means to be your dog’s pack leader.From day one, establish the relationship and bond with your new dog. Knowledge is power, so do your homework.
- Enjoy the Process of Adopting a Dog. Dogs have brought people more gifts and taught more than most people could have ever dreamed of. Balanced dogs bring us calm, peace, joy, and love, as much as we bring them. So get started on the right foot and you can look forward to a lifetime of happiness, love and fulfillment with them.