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Things to Consider Before Adopting a Dog

Several months ago, someone in one of the online Facebook groups that I’m part of asked what we pet professionals thought a potential dog owner should consider before adopting a new family member. The following are some of the suggestions including a few of my own ideas.

1. Do your research.

What are you looking for in a dog? Do you want a couch potato or a dog that would enjoy hiking the mountains on the weekends?

Do you want a puppy or an older dog that’s already house trained? What type of personality do you want? Do you want to take part in dog sports or just want a friend to cuddle with?

Look at specific breeds and their needs. For instance, a high-energy dog such as an Australian Shepherd or Border Collie might have a hard time living in a small apartment with an owner that’s at work 14 hours a day.

2. Get all family members onboard.

Make sure everyone wants a dog and agrees about the type of dog they want. Who will be taking care of it? Will everyone share in the responsibilities? Too many parents get a dog “for their kids” but then end up taking care of him because the kids are too busy playing video games. Remember, a dog is a 10 to 14 year commitment or longer.

Do you already have other animals? Consider their welfare before getting a dog. Do you have an elderly pet and a new addition will cause it stress? Do you have another dog who just wants a buddy to play with? See if you can take your current pet(s) with you to meet the dog before adopting him to see if they get along.

3. Get your dog from a reputable source.

Just as important as researching breeds is researching places where you might obtain your dog. Will you be adopting from a shelter or breed-specific rescue or will you go to a breeder?

Ask if you can talk to some adopters or buyers to see if they are happy with the process and their dog. Just because someone has a website doesn’t mean they’re a responsible breeder. There are too many “breeders” in Pennsylvania and Ohio specifically that are puppy mills in disguise. While you may feel fortunate for “rescuing” a dog from such a breeder for a lower price, the payoff may be physical or psychological problems that aren’t apparent when you pick up the dog.

4. Give the dog time to decompress.

A dog that’s been in a shelter for awhile could take as much as three months to decompress from that environment and realize he’s in his forever home. Each dog is an individual and the adjustment period to your home could be just a day or two or it could take months. Be patient while he finds his way and begins to comfortable.

For instance, when someone contacts me for training, I won’t start lessons until the dog has been in his new home for at least two weeks. I don’t want to add more stress to the dog, any other pets in the home, or the humans because everyone is trying to figure out the “new normal” of an additional family member.

5. Consider foster to adopt.

Many shelters have foster-to-adopt programs and I know of many foster fails. The dog fits right in, the family falls in love and decides to adopt him. That way if the dog doesn’t work out, you’ll be able to return him right away and not have the pressure of possibly rehoming him later.

6. Look for a trainer.

Some potential dog owners will look for a trainer as part of their research while searching for a dog. A trainer can talk to you about your lifestyle and might have leads on breed-specific dogs. If you’re adopting a puppy, you’ll want a trainer to get started with potty training and the basics such as loose leash walking. I advocate looking for someone who uses positive training methods.

These are just a few tips to help you find the right family member that everyone can enjoy for years to come.

***If you’d like help training your new dog, click here, and sign up for a free consultation. We’d love to hear all about your new family member!


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