Adopting a New Dog – Things to Think About

 October is Adopt a Shelter Dog Month!

Now, before you all rush out and adopt a new dog, there are some things to think about before introducing a new member to your family. Of course, adoption is wonderful and can enhance and even save the life of a dog, but adopting a dog has real consequences on you, your family, and the dog that you are bringing into your home. Please think about the things I discuss below before deciding to adopt. If you find that you are not ready right now, this will give you an idea of the things you can work on so that you will be able to adopt a dog in the future.

To me, while it may not be the most popular or romantic advice, the number one thing you should think about before adopting a dog is: can I afford it? Pets can be a lot of money. If you choose to go the purebred route, you can pay hundreds if not thousands of dollars to get the breed you’ve always dreamed of. But that’s just the beginning. There are plenty of cheap, if not free, dogs at your local shelter, craigslist, etc., but there are many other costs that go into a dog as well. If you adopt a puppy, be prepared to pay for spaying/neutering and vaccinations. For all dogs, be prepared for at least yearly routine veterinary care. This includes check ups, teeth cleaning, and for older dogs, often much more. Emergency care often cost upwards of $500. Also, high-quality food is important to your pet’s health (stay tuned for a future blog post about nutrition).

Then of course there is training. Training is just as important for you as it is for your dog. If your dog is easy going or young, you can probably get away with a good group basic obedience class. (Make sure to get a trainer who knows about behavior, as this is what will shape your dog for the rest of their life.) However, if you get a dog that wants to be in charge and is constantly testing limits, you may need more serious training. It is often hard to tell when you bring home a dog what their temperament will truly be after they settle into your home, so keep in mind that what you’re seeing when you pick out your dog may not be exactly what you get when you come home. Please contact By the Bay Dog Training if you find that your dog has dog aggression, human aggression or separation anxiety, so we can get a handle on this before you reach the “last straw” so to speak.

In addition to everything I talked about above, there are the little things, like toys, a crate, leashes, collars, Tags, grooming, clothes, bowls, brushes, Flea/Tick/Heartworm meds, etc. that really start to add up after a while. Also, remember that the bigger the dog, the more they eat, and the more damage they can do. And different types of dogs have different needs, such as clothing, health issues, and exercise. Think about what you are prepared to do for these types of needs. Finally, if you are very busy, you may need to pay for a dog walker or doggy daycare for your pooch during the day while you are away.

If you decide that you can afford a dog, the next thing to think about is what kind of dog you’d like to get. There is no right or wrong answer here. What you consider a “perfect” dog may be another person’s nightmare, so just keep that in mind when shopping around. Whether you choose to get your dog at a shelter or a breeder in Germany, make sure you have thought about what you and your family can handle before jumping the gun. I will now discuss some things to think about before adopting. Do you have children? If so, and they are young, you probably don’t want to get a puppy. Both children and puppies haven’t developed boundaries yet, so the chance of either one hurting the other is greater. Who will be taking primary care of the dog? Make sure that person has plenty of time to help the dog adjust to their new surroundings. New dogs should not just be thrown into a new house and expect to thrive. It takes time (stay tuned for future blog post about introducing your new dog to your home). Does that person have a lot of mobility? If they do not, you DO NOT want to get a highly active dog unless you can afford a dog walker (and even then it’s risky). If that dog is very strong, without proper training they could pull excessively when walked and cause unintentional injury to their person.

Where do you expect to be in 5 years? 10 years? 15 years? Dogs live a long time. Are you prepared to take care of them for the rest of their lives? If you don’t know where you’ll be in 10 years, but your life is stable right now, maybe an older dog is right for you. Is the whole family on board? If the whole family is not consistent, the dog may develop behavioral issues that will require a good behavior modification trainer to intervene and teach the family how to be consistent with their dog. Do you have other animals in the home? Some breeds have a ton of prey drive, which is fine if they are trained and have appropriate outlets for this (such as chasing a ball or frisbee), but if they are not, it could lead to disastrous results.

Remember that the most important thing when adopting a dog is to find the RIGHT dog for your family. Don’t rush into anything. Carefully evaluate what your family can handle, what your family can afford and what types of traits you are looking for in a dog. You can save a dog by adopting from the shelter, but there is nothing wrong with buying a puppy from a reputable breeder if you have put sufficient thought into it and are looking for something specific.

If you’re unsure about any of these things, wait a little while. There will be plenty of dogs to adopt in a month, a year, or ten years. This is a big decision that should not be made lightly. If you decide you are ready, good luck finding your new pooch!