Adopting a dog is one of the finer things you can do in life and it is a truly rewarding achievement. Getting a new pooch from a breeder is all well and good, but dog shelters are usually crawling with abandoned dogs in desperate need of a new home. The bond between an owner and his adopted pet is really something special, and the love an adopted dog can develop for their caretaker can really go to new depths. However, if the experience is to be pleasant and healthy for all involved, you must take note of a few crucial questions to ask when adopting a dog. These are questions you will raise with yourself above all else.
- First and foremost, you must consider whether or not you can afford adopting a dog. While it’s true that adoption is usually cheaper than buying a certified purebred, this may not always be the case. The adoption fee can vary a fair amount or be non-existent, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Sometimes, very little is known about the background of shelter dogs, which also means medical history, and there could be unforeseen expenses when a lurking health issue comes into play sooner or later. And, of course, you must consider the usual expenses associated with having any dog. Veterinarians, quality food, toys, accessories and possibly sitters are all definitely costs to be considered further down the road.
- Are you ready to commit time, energy, and patience? Having a dog is much, much more than just keeping a docile animal that sits around on couches all day waiting for that one fifteen-minute walk in the afternoon. Certainly, some breeds are less demanding than others, but the vast majority of dogs are a serious commitment in all regards. Adopting a dog can be a commitment that extends to fifteen or more years, which is a quarter of some people’s lives. Your dog must play a real, tangible role in your life, which means consistent training, regular playtime, fulfilling and sufficient interaction, as well as time spent outdoors.
- It’s also paramount to evaluate your own lifestyle, other commitments and future prospects. Dogs can fare just fine with having to move, but you should be able to predict where and when you might have to move. Making a change from living in a house with a fenced-off yard to an apartment a few years after adopting a dog can be a difficult adjustment for both of you. In situations like this, many owners have found themselves compelled to give up on their furry companion, which is how a lot of those dogs in the shelters ended up there in the first place. Be on the lookout for potential work-related changes too. You may not plan to move or drastically change your lifestyle, but a sudden promotion or change in employment can suddenly force your hand.
- Make sure that the other occupants of your residence, human or animal, are also fully ready to adopt a dog. This doesn’t just mean getting your family’s blessing. It is necessary that your whole family adopts the same mindset as you and is looking forward to the experience of adopting a dog. You must make sure that they are willing to make some changes of their own and that they understand the importance of training the new pet. You must all be on the same page, well-acquainted with a program of training, treatment, and house rules. Needless to say, you must make absolutely sure that any and all animals you might already have are compatible with a dog. For tips on how to introduce a new dog to your current family dog(s), check out Mav4Life's E-Book on Puppy Break-In.
- Are you prepared to put someone else ahead of yourself? This is easier said than done, and you could end up surprised by how hard of a change this is for many people. That’s especially true for people who are very used to living alone and not having to care for anyone but themselves. Having all the time in the world for yourself and the activities that you want to take up is often taken for granted when living alone for a long time, and adopting a dog can be quite a shock to the order of things. Sometimes, you will have to forgo your plans in order to cater to your dog’s needs.
Bringing Home a Rescue Dog
Some unfortunate rescue dogs in shelters have heartbreaking stories behind them, which can entail abuse, neglect, life on the street and all manner of misfortune. Dogs that are rescued from such conditions are subject to further stress in most shelters, especially if they are overcrowded. Their lives are an intense rollercoaster, and bringing home a rescue dog is yet another drastic change in that life. You must be prepared to have even more patience in order to help your rescue dog through an adjustment period, no matter how pleasant and loving your home environment may be.
Some rescue dogs are just not used to being loved and it can take a while for them to get used to the idea, just like people with a tough upbringing. Either way, you should always assume these dogs to be completely untrained, regardless of their age. Take special steps to train your rescue dog and be particularly sensitive and compassionate. Some dogs were rescued from places so terrible that you should also consider obedience training classes with personal trainers or groups. Rescue dogs especially can be more shy than other dogs, so understanding and working on this with them is vital.
To learn more about getting your shy dog acquainted with groups of people, check out our E-Book on shy dogs!